2023 NFL Offensive Line Rankings: What It Means for Bettors This Season
Today is about the five beefy guys up front on the offensive line.
This was the first NFL article I wrote last season, and it probably looked inauspicious to many.
It's not exactly glamorous analyzing those five giants. But if you think about it, five is almost half of the 11 men on offense! These guys almost never touch the ball, but football is still won and lost in the trenches, and no position group in football is more impactful yet overlooked than the offensive line.
A good line can elevate an average supporting cast, but even the most talented QBs and skill players can't do much if the defense is living in the backfield every play. Offensive lines are more multiplicative than additive. A great line multiplies an offense's greatness, while a bad one can stymie an entire attack.
Last year's offensive line rankings warned that the NFC could be wide open if presumed contenders Bucs, Rams, and Packers got shaky blocking as expected. All three teams started the year with top-five Super Bowl odds and finished it under .500.
So, who topped last year's list? Why, the same two teams that ended it, of course!
The Eagles and Chiefs ranked No. 1 and 2 last season with a note that Philadelphia looked like a great investment to win the division (+175) and NFC (+1400). Check and check! Turns out this offensive line stuff matters.
Offensive lines are a team effort. It's less about one or two stars elevating the unit and more of a weakest-link game. Like an NBA defense, an O-line needs five guys working together in sync to be at its peak, and depth is a huge value add for a long grueling season at a difficult position. Continuity is also extremely valuable, especially early in the season since the players are working together. Scheme matters, too.
Let's rank all 32 NFL offensive lines, focusing on continuity, depth, and balance as we head into the new 2023 season. What implications does it all have for NFL bettors?
Be sure to check out the whole rankings series:
|Tier 1||The Unimpeachables|
|Tier 2||Elite, Probably|
|Tier 3||Clear Top Tens|
|Tier 4||Solidly Above Average|
|Tier 5||Young and On the Come Up|
|Tier 6||How Far Can a Stud LT Take You?|
|Tier 7||Definitely Below Average|
|Tier 8||You Made the Playoffs With This?!|
|Tier 9||Objectively Awful|
Tier 1 — The Unimpeachables
1. Philadelphia Eagles (Last year's preseason ranking: 1)
2. Cleveland Browns (4)
3. Detroit Lions (3)
I rely on Pro Football Focus, Establish the Run, Sharp Football, and Ross Tucker as I build my offensive line rankings, and they all agree on the team at the top: the Eagles offensive line is No. 1 with a bullet.
Philadelphia won last year in the trenches, and the Eagles are ready to do it again. Stud C Jason Kelce decided not to retire and that keeps this unit at the top, bookended by a pair of star tackles in Jordan Mailata and Lane Johnson. They're down a starter and lost their swing tackle, but Jeff Stoutland's group is still the best line in the league and sets Philly up for its unique brand of smash-mouth football.
Truthfully, the Eagles could be in their own mini-tier at the top.
But the Browns return all five starters along with longtime great line coach Bill Callahan, so they're next on the list. Cleveland has the best guard combo in the league in Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller, which makes this line more dominant in run blocking than pass. The Browns are still waiting for their tackles to live up to top-10-pick billing but may have gotten a steal in T Dawand Jones in this year's fourth round. He adds to already good depth and keeps Cleveland in the top five a third straight year.
The Lions reprise their rank at No. 3, and they ought to rank this high since Detroit leads the league in spending on the offensive line. That's the brand of kneecap-biting football Dan Campbell brought to this squad, and RT Penei Sewell gets better each year. Detroit returns four starters and gets mammoth RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai back after an injured season, so they could be even better.
Tier 2 — Elite, Probably
4. Kansas City Chiefs (2)
5. Dallas Cowboys (6)
6. Baltimore Ravens (14)
The Chiefs line should still rank near the top of the league — by the playoffs. Kansas City returns its three interior offensive line starters, the best trio in the league, and OL coach Andy Heck has been a stalwart. Both tackles are new, though. Donovan Smith steps in for Orlando Brown at LT after an injury-plagued season, and the Chiefs went out and got Jawaan Taylor to upgrade at RT.
That could make this line even better by the playoffs, but it might also mean a slow start in September as this line gels around Mahomes. You might want to hold off on betting Chiefs futures for now and look to add them at a discounted price later.
There's little question the Cowboys line will be great, as long as the starters are actually healthy. The question is how much Dallas gets out of tackles Tyron Smith and Terence Steele. Smith is the star but has missed 33 regular-season games over the last three years, and Steele is still recovering from a late-season injury. The end of Zach Martin's holdout returns the best guard in the league, and this unit is easily top five… for now. Dallas has Super Bowl upside if those five are healthy in December and January.
The Ravens are another unit with injury concerns, but perhaps Ronnie Stanley's health issues are behind him. He was great in his return last season, and this was the least-penalized line in the league with just 24 penalties. I do have some concerns about a typically run-heavy scheme switching to Todd Monken's pass-heavy offense since it's easier to run block, but this line should be deep and good.
Tier 3 — Clear Top 10s
7. Atlanta Falcons (26)
8. Green Bay Packers (7)
9. Los Angeles Chargers (8)
The Falcons are the biggest riser in the top 10 and a great reminder of just how much scheme can accentuate line play. Arthur Smith's guys are the run-heaviest team in the league, and this line has been far more effective plowing the run, further helped by play action setting up the pass and buying an extra half-second of protection. RG Chris Lindstrom might be the best run blocker in the league.
The Falcons are a popular worst-to-first division winner pick at +210 (all odds from FanDuel), and if they have a successful year, this dominant run-blocking line will be a huge reason why.
The healthy return of David Bakhtiari changes everything for the Packers line. He and Elgton Jenkins form the best pass-blocking left side in the league, and this line offers great versatility with the way Jenkins and Zach Tom have moved around to fill in for all the injuries. The question now is how much this line benefited from Aaron Rodgers' mastery of the pocket over the years, and how far it could fall with Jordan Love in his place.
The Chargers continue to float around the fringe of the top 10, but they might be the unit best suited to leap into the top five if everything clicks. That has to start with healthy seasons from stud LT Rashawn Slater, who played only three games last season, and C Corey Linsley, who is the best in the league at his position. Similar to Green Bay, Slater's absence helped create some depth and versatility on this line, which continues to slowly improve each year. Right tackle is still a question mark but this unit could be ready.
Tier 4 — Solidly Above Average
10. New England Patriots (9)
11. Denver Broncos (16)
12. Cincinnati Bengals (15)
13. Minnesota Vikings (22)
It doesn't feel like anyone else belongs in a top 10 but we have to pick one of them, so the Patriots seem as good a choice as any. New England's offense disappeared last season, in part because of struggles at QB and little coaching direction, but don't overlook the offensive line struggles.
Before dropping to No. 19 last season, the Patriots had ranked top 10 a remarkable 15 consecutive seasons in Football Outsiders' run blocking metric. Chalk another one up to Bill Belichick focusing on what matters. A new line coach (Adrian Klemm), a more consistent season from sophomore G Cole Strange, and improved depth should put this line back on track as easily the best in the division.
No team invested more into its line this offseason than the Broncos. Like Belichick, Sean Payton has long prioritized his front five and he was no doubt the reason the team went out and dropped a pile of cash on RT Mike McGlinchey and LG Ben Powers, along with elite blocking TE Chris Manhertz. The unit also returns LT Garrett Bolles, who played only five games last season.
Russell Wilson has had a problem his entire career holding the ball too long and inviting pressure, and he had the second-worst pressure-to-sack conversion rate in the NFL last season. Translation: Russ makes life harder on his offensive line. If Payton can find a way to balance that out, Denver's line could be top 10.
The Bengals continue to invest in their offensive line since their Super Bowl loss in February 2022. The team remade itself last summer, then splashed again this offseason with the addition of LT Orlando Brown. That moves Jonah Williams to right tackle and lets La'el Collins contribute off PUP when he's ready, so this line continues to improve.
It's all about the tackles for the Vikings. LT Christian Darrisaw broke out last season and could hit another level, and the team will need a lot from him and RT Brian O'Neill, still working to return from a late-season Achilles tear. The interior of this line is subpar but tackles are king, and Kirk Cousins gets the ball out quickly to help this unit.
Tier 5 — Young and on the Come Up
14. Houston Texans (24)
15. New Orleans Saints (20)
16. Indianapolis Colts (16)
17. Carolina Panthers (23)
18. Pittsburgh Steelers (30)
I'm projecting a big leap from what's been a subpar Texans line. That starts with LT Laremy Tunsil, maybe the best pass blocker in football, and the addition of underrated G Shaq Mason helps. Houston will need big development from young linemen Tytus Howard and Juice Scruggs to make this jump, but I'm banking on new OC Bobby Slowik's Shanahan system helping his line and making everyone look better, especially the ghastly run game. Houston quietly improved its floor in a big way this offseason.
The Saints are a tough rank because of injury concerns for Cesar Ruiz and Trevor Penning, last year's No. 1 pick who steps in at LT with just one career start. New Orleans was No. 2 in my line rankings just two years ago before dropping to No. 20 last year and struggling through injuries, with nine guys playing at least 100 snaps. New OL coach Doug Marrone should help.
New Orleans is the favorite in a weak NFC South, but there are questions in the trenches. If those questions have the wrong answers for the Saints, this division could be wide open.
The Colts somehow drop in the ranks but also look like risers considering how bad this unit was last fall. Hall of Fame G Quenton Nelson is coming off the worst season of his career, but Indianapolis returns all five starters and looks like a great candidate to improve under new OL coach Tony Sparano. It wouldn't be stunning to see this unit leap back into the top 10 with Anthony Richardson and a run-heavy scheme helping out the line instead of Matt Ryan happy feeting into oblivion all season.
The Panthers are another team returning all five starters, and this young unit is improving. Carolina was bottom three in my ranks just two years ago, but sophomore LT Ikem Ekwonu was quite literally a huge addition especially as a run blocker, though he's still finding his way in the passing game. This line was maddeningly inconsistent last season and will probably continue to be so in its youth, but it's trending in the right direction.
Another young line on the upswing is the Steelers. Pittsburgh ranked bottom three each of the last two years but added veteran G Isaac Seumalo and first-round T Broderick Jones to remake its left side. The unit is far better pass blocking than run but now has real depth and a level of competency going forward.
Tier 6 — How Far Can a Stud LT Take You?
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5)
20. San Francisco 49ers (13)
21. Miami Dolphins (21)
This tier contains the three biggest offensive line question marks of the season.
It's a precipitous fall for the Bucs, who ranked top five each of the last two years. Star C Ryan Jensen is back, but Donovan Smith and Shaq Mason are gone and this is a line in flux with new starters at all five positions. Stud RT Tristan Wirfs moves to the left side and you never know how that sort of thing goes, while the right side of the line now starts toothless rookie Cody Mauch and sophomore Luke Goedeke. It's a line in transition, one that will likely look much better by Week 18.
The other big question is much Tom Brady's quick release might have disguised any foibles on the line. Few in history got the ball out as quickly as Brady, so defenses didn't have time to get to the QB even if they beat the line. Look no further than the Steelers line faltering after Ben Roethlisberger's fall and retirement removed his quick release from the equation. We'll see how the line looks without Brady.
The 49ers continue a slow, troubling descent from No. 6 in the 2021 ranks to No. 13 last year and No. 20 now. RT Mike McGlinchey is gone, and there are serious questions now at C, RG, and RT. There are no questions about superstar LT Trent Williams, still the best lineman in the league, but he's averaged 13.2 games the last five seasons and missed at least two games every season since 2015.
As long as Williams is out there, this unit should be at least okay, especially in pass blocking. But a serious injury to Trent Williams could be disastrous for San Francisco, likely dropping this line to bottom five in the ranks and putting any Super Bowl hopes in dire straits.
Almost everything just said about San Francisco is true of the Dolphins too — but a little bit worse. For Miami, it's all about LT Terron Armstead, still elite at age 32 but averaging only 9.7 games played over the last seven seasons, with 10 or fewer in four of them. He played 65% of the snaps for Miami last year, about as much as the Dolphins can realistically hope for, and this line was still an issue.
Miami's offense ranked No. 3 in DVOA last season with Armstead on the field. In the five games he missed, the Dolphins plummeted to No. 23. With Armstead, Miami went 8-4 and averaged 26.3 PPG; without him, they were 1-4 at 16.4 PPG. The rest of this line is weak, particularly at LG and RT. Mike McDaniel's scheme helps, but Miami needs Armstead healthy.
Tier 7 — Definitely Below Average
22. Buffalo Bills (17)
23. New York Jets (18)
24. Las Vegas Raiders (28)
25. Chicago Bears (32)
The Bills continue to opt for quantity over quality on the line. The unit is deep but has only one above-average starter in LT Dion Dawkins. The upside of that is a readiness for injuries with little drop-off for the next man up, which leaves a steady floor but not much of a ceiling. The run blocking is especially poor. Every site I considered ranked Buffalo 21 or 22, so it only seemed right that I do so too.
Three AFC East teams in a row, with the Jets line perhaps their biggest question. The interior looks fine if Alijah Vera-Tucker stays healthy, but the tackles are a giant pile of question marks. Can Duane Brown contribute at age 38? Can Mekhi Becton get on the field after playing only one game in two years? Will journeyman Billy Turner's familiarity with Aaron Rodgers add value?
The biggest Jets OL question may be how much Rodgers can help the unit with his outstanding pocket presence, or whether the line will doom a QB who turns 40 in December and seemed to lose a lot of confidence last season.
The Raiders line brings back all five guys and overachieved last year, but I remain skeptical. The interior is quite poor, especially the guards, and there's no real depth. LT Kolton Miller looks like the real deal but the rest of the unit needs work.
The Bears are a good reminder that "better" doesn't necessarily mean "good." Chicago's line will certainly be better than it was a year ago when it entered the ranked last. Sophomore LT Braxton Jones looks like a fifth-round steal, and his emergence moved Teven Jenkins inside where he looks more effective. Now Chicago adds first-round RT Darnell Wright, though he might be a bit of a project.
This unit shapes up as a strong run-blocking unit but still looks pretty bad against the pass. That works for a run-heavy scheme, but it still doesn't look set up to give Justin Fields a fair chance to develop as a passer.
Tier 8 — You Made the Playoffs with This?!
26. Seattle Seahawks (31)
27. New York Giants (19)
28. Jacksonville Jaguars (27)
The Seahawks made a shocking playoff leap last season as Seattle Island cashed big for many of us, and while Comeback Player of the Year Geno Smith got most of the credit, just as much surprise improvement came on the offensive line. Rookie tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lewis were great early, helping this line improve from No. 32 to as high as No. 11 in PFF's ranks, but the line cratered down the stretch.
Seattle's offense ranked No. 8 in DVOA before the bye week but stumbled to No. 19 after, and Smith may have turned back into a pumpkin, repeatedly eating sacks and struggling against pressure. The Seahawks rank dead last in offensive line spending. Either Cross and Lewis are great and give the team a major bargain, or the line will be the reason Seattle takes a step back.
The Giants were dead last in the 2021 line rankings but saw a big improvement last year. LT Andrew Thomas became an All-Pro and carried this unit, and Brian Daboll's play-action, run-heavy scheme helped the unit. Now the team adds RG Mark Glowinski and second-round C John Michael Schmitz, though the biggest help could come from a sophomore leap from last year's No. 1 pick, Evan Neal.
It certainly looks like the Jaguars are the class of a bad AFC South, but if Jacksonville falters in the division, the offensive line will be a big reason why. An already poor line lost its best pass blocker in Jawaan Taylor and replaced him with a rookie, Anton Harrison, and LT Cam Robinson will miss the first four games to suspension. Expect this unit to take some lumps early, which could mean waiting on Jaguars futures until midseason.
Tier 9 — Damagingly Awful
29. Washington Commanders (12)
30. Arizona Cardinals (25)
31. Los Angeles Rams (11)
32. Tennessee Titans (29)
It's ugly down here at the bottom.
The Commanders feel more mediocre than awful, but it's the lack of any real upside that's concerning. Both veteran guards are gone, and both tackles are leftovers the Bears and Chiefs didn't want. This unit starts four new guys after 11 linemen played at least 66 snaps last season, so it's a work in progress and could be rough to start the year, especially in a brand new offense with a QB who's started one game.
The old is gone for the Cardinals, and it's time for a reset. A rapidly aging line led the league in penalties and is effectively starting over by weirdly investing in mostly left tackles. Kyler Murray reportedly hand-picked T Paris Johnson for the team in the first round. There are a lot of unknowns on this line, including a first-time head coach and offensive coordinator.
There were a lot of reasons the Rams season was a disaster, but offensive line was high on the list. A unit that had ranked top-11 consecutive seasons is now near last. LT Joe Noteboom was supposed to step in for retired Andrew Whitworth after the Super Bowl but he played only six games and was awful. Now he's back after a torn Achilles, and this unit was demolished by injuries with 13 guys playing 70-plus snaps and 10 of them surrendering a sack. Sean McVay's scheme is OL-friendly, but this unit is starting over.
I noted earlier that PFF, ETR, Sharp, and Tucker all agreed on one team atop the rankings. Well, they agreed on one other thing too: the Titans at the very bottom.
Tennessee's line ranked dead last in pass-blocking efficiency last season and third worst in yards before contact in the run game. That should make it a good thing that this team will have five brand-new starters, but the new guys don't look much better. The tackles are journeymen, one of them is suspended six games to start the year, and the best lineman is probably first-round G Peter Skoronski. If a rookie is your best lineman, your team might be in for a long year.
5 Key Takeaways for Bettors
1. The Chiefs and Eagles are Super Bowl favorites for a reason.
Last year in this space, Philadelphia was our big sleeper. This year the Eagles are favorites, and both teams are built to win the way they did all last season, dominating in the trenches. Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts are great, but they're only as great as they are because of the five guys blocking up front.
It shouldn't surprise you at all to know the Chiefs (+600) and Eagles (+800) are favorites. It should reassure you to know that the offensive lines are so dominant and deep that they can compensate for an occasional bad QB game or injury and keep the team in contention at the top all season long.
On the other hand…
2. If the 49ers or Bills seasons go sideways as Super Bowl contenders, poor offensive line play will likely be a core reason why.
Remember, we were worried about the Rams, Packers, and Bucs heading into last season with top-five Super Bowl odds but offensive line worries. This year, it's the 49ers (+1000) and Bills (+1000).
I'm much more concerned with San Francisco. A Trent Williams injury would devastate this offensive line and leave the Niners with a serious liability that could doom QB play from an untested young starter and leave all those weapons without time or opportunity. Even if Williams stays healthy, this is a weak spot. If he goes out, I'm selling any 49ers stock immediately.
Buffalo's line isn't a strength but could become less of a liability as the season goes on. Their "quantity over quality" approach makes it easier to shift and adjust for injuries, so there's less room for dropoff compared to someone like San Francisco or Miami (Armstead) losing a key player. Still, shoddy Bills line play could put too much of this offense on Josh Allen's back and wear him down yet again.
The Dolphins and Jets could also fall into this category of failing would-be contenders to line play, while Miami (Armstead), Dallas (Tyron Smith), and Baltimore (Ronnie Stanley) are similar to San Francisco where one key injury could change everything.
3. Elite offensive line play could make the Browns, Lions, and Falcons surprisingly good offenses and sleeper playoff contenders.
It's always good to look for the lines taking the biggest leap forward in the search for this year's Cinderella. Last year the Giants were a big leap candidate based on line improvement and went on to make the playoffs. The year before was the Chargers. This season it could be one of these three teams.
Look at that top tier of lines again — right there between the Eagles (No. 1) and Chiefs (4) are the Browns and Lions. Both teams have invested heavily on the line and built dominant, nasty trenches ready to set the tone. The Falcons had a big improvement in line play as last season went on and could ascend further.
Detroit is a division favorite but plus odds at +145. Cleveland (+400) and Atlanta (+210) are intriguing worst-to-first division picks. The Texans, Colts, or Panthers could be other sleeper candidates based on improving line play in winnable divisions.
4. The Seahawks, Jaguars, and Giants could be regression candidates this season if line play takes a step back.
We should also note the teams headed in the wrong direction.
The Giants were last year's sleeper but still have a long way to go, and all three of these lines are young and still taking shape. Seattle's offense was terrific early last season when the young offensive line surprised but then looked lost at times down the stretch when the line play went south.
It's no surprise that Geno Smith, Trevor Lawrence, and Daniel Jones all outperformed expectations last season when the lines surprised, but things go could the other direction just as quickly if these lines struggle. Jacksonville is a significant favorite (-155) to win the AFC South, but if Lawrence struggles and can't find protection, that division could be totally up for grabs.
5. Beware of slow starts for presumed AFC contenders Chiefs, Jets, Jaguars, and Broncos.
Continuity is huge for a five-man unit that must play together, and new schemes can take time to adjust.
Mahomes and the Chiefs will have to get used to two new tackles bookending the line. The Jets don't even know which tackles will be starting yet — stay tuned to Hard Knocks. Jacksonville is missing its LT for the first four games and starting a rookie RT. Denver adds two new starters, returns its LT, and adjusts to an entirely new coach and scheme.
All four teams are presumed AFC contenders, but each of them could see a slower-than-expected start out of the gates as these lines gel and find what works.
The regular season is a marathon, not a sprint — both for NFL teams and for bettors.
Don't overreact to poor starts from these teams, but do consider waiting to invest in their futures until you get a cheaper price after a potentially slow start. You may want to wait on those Mahomes, Rodgers, and Lawrence MVP tickets too.