I know how this works. Everybody loves rankings until their team is ranked lower than they think they should be.
I broke down all 32 offensive lines into five different categories to give you a better sense of where each team stacks up. Tiers are always better in terms of analysis than straight rankings.
Individual talent of the starting five is a critical factor, but continuity, chemistry and depth were heavily weighed. Every evaluator has an inherent bias, and mine is towards offensive linemen who play with a nasty edge, constantly trying to finish plays and physically punish the defense. I genuinely believe that impacts the rest of the offense and the entire team.
While there are several stats I look at, there are so many factors involved, including play caller, offensive scheme and quarterback. So, this can’t simply be a mathematical exercise.
Things can and often do change upfront during a season. Some players get better, some players get worse, and unfortunately, many players get injured. Let’s dive into the rankings.
Three groups made the top tier. Elite offensive lines have no significant question marks and have at least a few difference-makers.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles have four returning starters who got Pro Bowl or All-Pro recognition, but they do have a question mark at right guard. Departed starter Isaac Seumalo was much better than people realized, and presumptive starter Cam Jurgens has only ever played center before, so that is something to watch.
2. Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions have emphasized the trenches on both sides of the ball, and it has paid off. Those units are a big reason why the team had a winning record last season and has high expectations for 2023. Getting Halapoulivaati Vaitai back at right guard between studs Frank Ragnow and Penei Sewell should help this unit be even better.
3. Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns employ the best pair of guards in the NFL in Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller. The big surprise is how well center Ethan Pocic played after the team moved on from J.C. Tretter and lost presumptive starter Nick Harris to injury.
Above Average Tier
Above-average lines have a chance to be elite but may have a question, such as whether a position is still up in the air or the health of a critical component or two.
4. Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs have had a good line in recent years, and right tackle Jawaan Taylor should be an upgrade over Andrew Wylie. The real question will be how much of a drop-off they see at left tackle from Orlando Brown Jr. to Donovan Smith.
5. Baltimore Ravens
The question for the Baltimore Ravens is more about scheme than personnel. This group has significantly benefited from the quarterback-centric run schemes employed in recent years by former offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Will the Ravens be as effective when asked to pass protect more in new offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s spread offense?
6. Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys could have an elite offensive line if left tackle Tyron Smith stays healthy all year and right tackle Terence Steele returns to form after suffering a severe injury last season. Those represent big “ifs,” and the Cowboys’ depth took a hit with the loss of Connor McGovern in free agency.
7. Atlanta Falcons
Like the Lions, the Atlanta Falcons have invested in the offensive line quite a bit in recent years. It has started to pay off, especially with how the right side of Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary performed a year ago. Now, they add another bruiser in rookie left guard Matthew Bergeron to the mix. We know coach Arthur Smith will continue to pound the rock in Atlanta.
8. Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings’ ascension in my rankings is largely based on the play of their offensive tackles. Left tackle Christian Darrisaw and right tackle Brian O’Neill are studs who lift the performance of an interior trio that is just OK.
9. Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers have a chance to be good up front, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they are considered an elite group by the end of the year. Getting Rashawn Slater back at left tackle allows them to move Jamaree Salyer inside. That solidifies this unit that got much-improved play at right tackle from Trey Pipkins last year.
10. Green Bay Packers
It feels like the third year in a row where the Green Bay Packers’ line comes down primarily to the health of left tackle David Bakhtiari. If he can stay healthy and play at a high level, this should be one of the better units in the league, especially with the emergence of Zach Tom at right tackle.
Average offensive lines are really just that — average. They aren’t typically a big reason why teams win games, but they also aren’t going to be a significant factor in a loss. Usually, they will have three guys I feel good about but a couple of question marks who hold them back.
11. Denver Broncos
New Denver Broncos coach Sean Payton knows how important it is for an undersized quarterback to feel protected and able to step up in the pocket. That’s why the team signed left guard Ben Powers and right tackle Mike McGlinchey early in free agency.
12. New England Patriots
The New England Patriots lost a couple of starters a year ago, as well as longtime line coach Dante Scarnecchia, which showed in their performance. The hope this year is that the Patriots can get good enough play out of Riley Reiff at right tackle and that the unit will benefit from Bill O’Brien as offensive coordinator.
13. Houston Texans
The Houston Texans love their offensive tackles. Plus, they should get solid play out of Shaq Mason at right guard. The question marks are at center and left guard, where rookie second-round center Juice Scruggs will be counted next to last year’s first-rounder, Kenyon Green, who needs to make that Year 2 leap.
14. New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints’ offensive line is all about last year’s first-round pick, Trevor Penning. If he becomes the Kyle Turley enforcer New Orleans was looking for, the Saints’ line could be close to an elite group, but that’s a big question.
15. Carolina Panthers
Speaking of second-year leaps, the Carolina Panthers are hoping their first-round pick, Ikem Ekwonu, can be a dominating player. That would help raise the entire Carolina line to new heights as it protects rookie starting quarterback Bryce Young.
16. Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals made a surprise splash in free agency by signing Brown Jr. to a big contract to protect Joe Burrow’s blindside. Now, the question is how well will former left tackle Jonah Williams fare on the right side? He at least seems committed to that transition.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line got better last year. Then it got better again this offseason with the addition of Seumalo and rookie left tackle Broderick Jones. If Seumalo can help Jones grow quickly, the Steelers could have their best line in years.
18. Chicago Bears
Last year, the Chicago Bears had the potential to have one of the worst lines in NFL history. To their credit, they didn’t. Left tackle Braxton Jones and tackle-turned-guard Teven Jenkins look like solid starters on the left side. The additions of free agent Nate Davis and rookie right tackle Darnell Wright on the right side give Chicago a chance to be beastly up front.
19. Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts are a strange group. It was weird to see former Pro Bowlers such as Ryan Kelly and Quenton Nelson take a step back last year. The play from rookie left tackle Bernhard Raimann didn’t help, either. If they all perform better, it could be a huge bounce-back year.
20. Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders need their young offensive guards to get better. Fast.
21. Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills’ offensive line was a disappointment a year ago. Hence why the team invested even more resources into it, adding guards Connor McGovern in free agency and O’Cyrus Torrence in the draft. Those two give the Bills a chance to be more physical and stout, but they still need Spencer Brown to play better at right tackle, as well.
22. Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins have a loaded roster; they just need their offensive line to keep pace. Terron Armstead’s health at left tackle is of the utmost importance, as is finding a right tackle who can give them consistent play.
23. San Francisco 49ers
Below Average Tier
Below-average offensive lines have more questions than answers but have the potential to be an average or even above-average line if those questions are answered affirmatively.
24. New York Jets
Can Mekhi Becton stay healthy and play well at left tackle for the New York Jets? If not, how much does Duane Brown have left? Can Joe Tippmann beat out Connor McGovern for the starting center job? Finally, who will be the right tackle?
25. New York Giants
The New York Giants hope to get better center and right tackle play. Rookie John Michael Schmitz should be an upgrade at center, and the expectation is Evan Neal will make an Andrew Thomas–like improvement at right tackle.
26. Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks started a pair of rookie offensive tackles a year ago, which was scary, but Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas held it down. If they can take their games to another level this season, Seattle’s line could become a strength for this ascending team.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
28. Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals’ offensive tackles certainly have the pedigree, but the interior trio is subpar, just like most of this Cardinals’ team, unfortunately.
Poor offensive lines have many question marks. That is a scary proposition for a position group only behind the quarterback in terms of importance to team success. They might end up being fine, but I wouldn’t count on it.
29. Washington Commanders
30. Los Angeles Rams
I thought the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive line would take a bit of a step back after the retirement of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and the free agency departure of Austin Corbett. Unfortunately, that step back was much bigger than anybody, myself included, anticipated.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
Losing Taylor to the Chiefs in free agency was challenging for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Plus, left tackle Cam Robinson’s four-game suspension added insult to injury. If anything holds the Jaguars’ offense back this year, it’ll be this group.
32. Tennessee Titans
Man, the NFL comes at you fast. Just a year or two ago, the Tennessee Titans had a top-five line in football. They had players such as Taylor Lewan, Rodger Saffold, Ben Jones, Davis and Jack Conklin. Now, they are gone — all of them. Andre Dillard playing well at left tackle would help the rest of the group have a chance to be competent.
Ross Tucker is a former NFL offensive lineman who played seven seasons for the Cowboys, Bills, Patriots and Washington after graduating from Princeton University in 2001. He works as a color commentator for both CBS Sports and Westwood One in addition to hosting a number of podcasts, including the popular Ross Tucker Football Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @RossTuckerNFL.