All 32 NFL Offensive Lines Ranked, and Why It Matters for Bettors
Jason Miller/Getty Images. Pictured: Jack Conklin.
As the 2021 NFL season approaches, the focus is on the QBs, skill players and flashy defenders. But the game is still won in the trenches, and no position group is more important than the five men up front on the offensive line.
Every NFL team starts five linemen on an 11-man offense. That’s almost half of the offense up front on the line. They may never touch the ball, other than snapping it, but the line is what makes everything else go.
Offensive lines are more multiplicative than additive. A great line makes things easier on everyone, giving the QB a clean pocket and getting downfield to block for runners. Conversely, a bad line brings down an entire offense. Great lines multiply an offense’s greatness; poor lines can mute them entirely.
Let’s rank all 32 offensive lines from best to worst as we head into the new season. What implications does it all have for NFL bettors?
Tier I — The Elite Trenches
If you’re wondering how the Browns turned things around so quickly last season, look no further than the offensive line. Rookie Jedrick Wills and new signing Jack Conklin bookended things at tackle, and O-line coach Bill Callahan worked wonders with this unit. Cleveland ranked top two in the NFL in both pass and run blocking per Pro Football Focus, and they return all five starters, along with Callahan. That line opens everything up for Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and it could make Baker Mayfield a chic MVP candidate.
The Saints return all five starters, and that’s great news. Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk are one of the league’s best tackle pairs, and New Orleans has ranked top four in the NFL in run-blocking five consecutive seasons, per Football Outsiders. They weren’t quite as dominant in pass blocking and may have been helped by Drew Brees’s quick release and decisions, so we’ll see how things hold up with a new QB.
The Patriots don’t return all five starters, but that’s a good thing after a tough season when the team’s pass protection plummeted to bottom-five. They went out and added Trent Brown, and he and Isaiah Wynn will make this line great again. Would you believe that the Patriots have ranked top 10 in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ run blocking metric an incredible 14 straight years? That’s insane, just more proof that Bill Belichick is one of the best ever.
Tier II — Ready for a Deep Playoff Run
The Bucs return all but one starter from the Super Bowl, including all five O-linemen. Tristan Wirfs was awesome as a rookie, and Tom Brady’s presence improved Tampa’s sack rate from below average to third best. This unit took a big leap after ranking bottom 10 in run blocking the previous two years, and LT Donovan Smith is still up and down. As loaded as Tampa is around the offense, the line might be the one area with some slight questions still.
Thankfully, the Chiefs don’t return their Super Bowl starters. Kansas City’s line fell apart at the worst time, and the Chiefs learned their lesson. They spent huge money and draft capital remaking the line, trading for Orlando Brown to play left tackle and signing Joe Thuney away from New England. Only one starter returns, so it could be a little rocky early in the season, but the line should be terrific once it gels.
The 49ers added Trent Williams last season at LT, and he was outstanding. Now they need RT Mike McGlinchey and new C Alex Mack to return to the top form they’ve shown before, and the upside is huge if they do. This could be one of the league’s best run blocking lines in particular, and they should benefit from more continuity if the team stays healthier in 2021.
Tier III — Health Uncertainties
The teams in this section have the talent to be rank at the very top of the offensive lines, but the huge injury question marks could leave them broken and struggling too.
If they get healthy, the Colts should be a top-three line, but right now Indianapolis is missing the best three-fifths of its line. Future Hall of Fame LG Quenton Nelson will miss the start of the season, and C Eric Kelly is out. LT Eric Fisher is still recovering from a torn Achilles after coming over to replace the retired Anthony Castonzo. The healthy version of this line should be awesome, but it could be awhile before we see it.
The Eagles might be the most unpredictable line on the list. Philadelphia’s line was absolutely decimated by injuries last year to Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Isaac Seumalo and Andre Dillard, and a couple of those starters are older so a return to health may not be guaranteed. This unit finished second to last in pass protection in 2020. A healthy Eagles line could rank top five, but they could also finish near the bottom if last year repeats itself.
The Ravens line dominated the NFL two seasons ago, but that was before Marshall Yanda retired, and now the team traded away Orlando Brown. Baltimore also lost star LT Ronnie Stanley for much of last season, but he’s back now, and Kevin Zeitler is a big addition at right guard while new RT Alejandro Villanueva will be an improvement as a run blocker. Baltimore needs a big bounce-back year from the line with its strong run game.
The anchor of the Rams line is still 39-year-old LT Andrew Whitworth, but the man gets the job done. He led the league in pass block win rate in 2021 per Pro Football Focus, and the Rams have ranked top 10 in pass blocking four straight seasons and top seven in run blocking all but one of those seasons. This unit is getting old but still gets the job done when healthy.
Tier IV — The Wild Cards
The health and performance of the Dallas offensive line could be the biggest X-factor in the NFC East race. The Cowboys ranked top eight in run blocking seven straight seasons until slipping last year, and the pass blocking fell off entirely as injuries mounted. RG Zack Martin is still awesome, but we need to see if Tyron Smith and La’el Collins are ready to look like star tackles again. Connor Williams and Tyler Biadasz are young and should improve on a more stable line too. The best version of this line might be best in the entire league, especially with Joe Philbin coaching them up.
If you’re looking for this year’s Browns, a team that makes a big leap after improving their offensive line, the Chargers could be the pick. LA returns only one starter but that’s RT Bryan Bulaga who is always great when he can stay on the field. C Corey Lindsey is a huge addition who should stabilize Justin Herbert, and rookie LT Rashawn Slater was the most pro-ready lineman in the draft. The Chargers had one of the worst lines in the league last year and ranked second to last in pass block win rate. If everything fits, this unit could leap into the top 10 and take the Chargers with them.
Tier V — Above Average for Now
The Packers line could take a step back this season. Stud LT David Bakhtiari is still recovering from a torn ACL and won’t be ready to start the season, and the team will start a rookie center and a downgraded right tackle. Green Bay’s line ranked in the top seven in run blocking each of the past four years but is more of a question mark this year. If the Packers take a step back this season, the popular narrative will likely be to blame Aaron Rodgers drama, but the truth is that this line could give Green Bay some problems.
A couple years ago, the Cardinals had one of the worst lines in the league. They’re improving slowly but surely, though they’re still much better pass blocking than run. C Rodney Hudson could be a seriously stabilizing addition. There’s no star on Arizona’s line, but there’s also no real weakness.
Coach Dan Campbell brings a new attitude to the Lions, and it’s clear he and the team will prioritize line play. Detroit spent its top pick on Penei Sewell and will start him at right tackle opposite LT Taylor Decker, and C Frank Ragnow is terrific too. If Sewell is good right away, the Lions could have one of the best young lines in the league.
The Titans line could be really good — at least on run blocking. This O-line ranked top four in run blocking the past two seasons but also ranked bottom four in pass blocking two seasons before a leap last year. Will this unit hold up without Arthur Smith’s offensive schemes optimizing things?
Tier VI — Fine, Thanks for Asking
The Bills line rates much better pass blocking than run, probably buoyed by Josh Allen and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. It’s not the best run blocking unit but is mostly fine overall.
That’s the case for Washington too. The lines in this section won’t win the day but shouldn’t hurt their teams either. The Football Team line improved significantly last year as Washington took a step forward and made the playoffs.
The Broncos are something of a one-man line. LT Garrett Bolles is one of the best linemen in the league, but he’s not getting enough help yet. Denver’s run blocking fell off last year and needs to bounce back since the team still won’t get much at quarterback.
Tier VII — Heading in the Right Direction
The Seahawks line still gets poor marks on pass blocking, but that’s in part because Russell Wilson eats a lot of sacks. LT Duane Brown has done his part to improve the line. He ranked second among left tackles in pass blocking win rate last year, per Pro Football Focus.
The Jets are still building this line and might be a year away. Sophomore LT Mekhi Becton and rookie LG Alijah Vera-Tucker could anchor this team for a long time, but it’s a young duo, and this unit has a long ways to go, especially in pass protection.
The Jaguars are another young line headed in the right direction. Jacksonville benefits from continuity as all five starters from last season return. The problem is those five starters still ranked on the edge of the bottom 10, and the tackles don’t measure up against top teams.
It’s tough to know what to expect from this Vikings line. Rookie LT Christian Darrisaw is supposed to improve the pass protection that cratered last year, but he’s fighting injuries in preseason, and the rest of the line is still a work in progress. Minnesota is far better blocking for the run than the pass.
Tier VIII — Heading in the Wrong Direction
It’s ironic that offensive line is one of the few spots on the Texans roster that isn’t abjectly terrible, after the line was the big problem holding the team back for so long before it fell apart. LT Laremy Tunsil is more of a pass blocker, and this unit really struggles to open up the run game.
For some reason, the Raiders decided to blow up what was a pretty good line a year ago. They’ll debut three new starters and might see a significant downgrade on what was almost certainly the offense’s biggest strength. Vegas takes a big step back just when its three division foes step forward here.
For years, the Raiders and Falcons were consistently among the best lines in the league, but those years are in the past now. Atlanta has ranked bottom 10 in the NFL in run blocking three straight years. We’ll see if Arthur Smith’s offense can open things up, but this unit lacks high-end talent.
Tier IX — It’s Definitely Not Good News
The Bengals are trying to improve their line, but it’s a work in progress. The team passed on Penei Sewell to draft WR Ja’Marr Chase and signed free agent Riley Reiff instead, but that’s not exactly the same quality. LT Jonah Williams is very good, and this line is young and improving but has ranked bottom 10 in run blocking four straight years and looks en route to a fifth.
This whole Dolphins rebuild started with them trading away Laremy Tunsil and starting over on the line, and while other parts of the rebuild have moved quickly, the line still needs a lot of work. The team has invested heavily in the left side of its line with LT Austin Jackson and LG Liam Eichenberg, but they’re young and have a long way to go.
The Bears spent a second-round pick on Teven Jenkins, but it’s starting to feel like he may miss much of the season. Instead, they’ve brought in 39-year-old Jason Peters out of retirement, and the worst part is that he’s probably the best lineman now. It’s a good thing Justin Fields can move in the pocket, because he may not get much help from his offensive line.
Tier X — Actively Harmful
Last year, the Panthers line severely lacked continuity and chemistry, and it’s still not clear who will start at each spot on the line. Carolina has decent depth, but it’d be a lot nicer if they had better starters. It’s possible poor Sam Darnold could get even worse protection on his new team than his old one.
The Steelers are in transition, and much like QB, the offensive line is aging out and in rough shape. Pittsburgh will start four new linemen, and the one returner Chukwuma Okarafor was bad at RT and now moves left to protect Big Ben’s blindside. Longtime starters Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro are gone, along with the unit that led the league in pass protection. The Steelers have ranked bottom three in run blocking two straight years, and drafting a first-round RB in Najee Harris doesn’t magically fix that. This could be ugly.
Usually it’s good to return five linemen, but that’s not the case for the Giants. Last year’s first rounder Andrew Thomas had a rough rookie season, and Nate Solder still hasn’t played after opting out for COVID reasons last season and could end up a cap casualty. The Giants had the worst pass protection in the NFL last year. The starters are bad, and the depth is even worse.
5 Key Takeaways for Bettors
1. The Chargers’ offensive line improvements could make them a serious AFC sleeper.
Everyone is focusing on sophomore QB Justin Herbert and an exciting new Chargers coaching staff, but the most important change might be along the offensive line. The additions of Rashawn Slater and Corey Lindsey plus a healthy Bryan Bulaga could take this team from bottom to top 10 on the line, and that could set LA up to be this year’s Browns.
Last year’s team was held back by poor line play; this year, if everything breaks right, the line could amplify everything else and send the Chargers to the playoffs. They’re +126 to do so at FanDuel.
2. The Packers and Titans could be regression candidates this season as line play takes a step back.
There are a number of reasons Green Bay and Tennessee could be candidates to regress in 2021, but the offensive lines are at the heart of things. Green Bay may not get David Bakhtiari back for awhile, and both teams’ units project to be better at run blocking than passing.
Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Tannehill both had career seasons and are due to regress, and poor pass blocking would certainly hurt the cause. Green Bay is one of only two teams among the 10 Super Bowl favorites at DraftKings to rank outside the top 12 offensive lines. The Packers are +1300. Be careful.
3. Offensive line health could tell the story in the NFC East.
The Cowboys are the favorite to win the NFC East at +135 on BetMGM, while the Eagles are the long shot at +500. Dallas and Philadelphia have potential top-five offensive line units, but both saw injuries crater things last year.
Keep an eye on line health for these teams as the season progresses. If Dallas looks healthy, they could be a smart play. If the Cowboys get banged up, the NFC East could open up — and a healthy Eagles line could make them an intriguing long shot.
4. Beware of slow starts for the Chiefs, Ravens and Colts in the AFC.
The Chiefs have four new starters on the line and a tough opening schedule, so a lack of line continuity could make for a rocky start. Baltimore has new and returning names too, so they could be in a similar spot. Indianapolis could be waiting awhile for its best two or three linemen to return from injury.
That could mean slow starts for all three, and it means now is now the time to bet overs or futures for these teams. A slow start should drop the odds for Super Bowl, division, even team win totals, so there’s no reason to invest now.
5. Tampa Bay is loaded, but if there’s one potential question mark, it could be the offensive line if last year’s leap was not permanent.
The Bucs are loaded and favorites for a reason. But if you’re looking for a reason things might not work, the offensive line could be it. Wirfs is still young and Smith is a bit unreliable, and growth is not always linear.
This line took a huge leap forward last season, and that was massive with a questionable run game and a quadragenarian QB. If the line does falter, it could have a domino effect on the whole offense. If you’re invested in Tampa futures but see the line take a step back early, it might be time to get out.