One of the toughest evaluations in the NFL is determining how good an offensive lineman is. Does run-blocking matter more than pressure rate? Are great offensive linemen the ones who protect the quarterback? Can they make their teammates they line up next to every week better?
The advanced statistics have given a better evaluation how good an offensive lineman is, and how valuable they are for the offensive system they’re in. Ranking the best of the best offensive linemen is still difficult, based on a valuation of a left tackle versus a right tackle (a position that doesn’t get enough respect) and a guard versus a center.
The criteria for ranking the best offensive linemen in the game is simple — tackles fall into their own category and interior linemen will have their own classification. Instead of ranking the five best players at each position on the line, we’ll group the tackles and interior linemen in their own classifications — giving a fair evaluation of all the tackles, guards, and centers in the league. If a right tackle and center make their respective top 10 list, that player is elite at his position.
The final qualification for these rankings is how good the player was in 2021. We’ll use success over the past few seasons to help weigh the ranking, but 2021 performance is the key equation in the formula. This is a ranking of the best offensive linemen right now, not entirely based on past or future success.
Let’s rank the top 10 tackles and interior linemen in the NFL starting with the tackles.
Tackles10. Jordan Mailata (Eagles)
Mailata wasn’t even playing football five years ago, but Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has made the former Australian rugby player a very good left tackle. He allowed just 18 pressures and three sacks in 437 pass-blocking snaps last year and was a driving force in helping the Eagles to the No. 1 rushing attack in the league.
At 25 years old, Mailata isn’t even close to entering his prime or reaching his potential. The 6-8, 365-pound tackle could significantly move up this list in 2023.
9. Kolton Miller (Raiders)
One of the worst tackles in the NFL four years ago, Miller has emerged into one of the best in the game. Miller allowed just five sacks and 32 pressures in 689 pass-blocking snaps last season, playing all 17 games and earning first team all-conference honors.
While Miller can improve as a run-blocker, he backed up a breakout 2020 season with an even better 2021. The Raiders have a franchise left tackle in Miller, who isn’t even close to the player who gave up 16 sacks in his rookie season (2018).
8. Ryan Ramczyk (Saints)
Ramczyk is still one of the top right tackles in the league, even if an ongoing knee injury affected his performance last year. He allowed three sacks and 15 pressures in 339 pass-blocking snaps last season, a career-high pressure rate allowed per dropback at 4.4%.
The former All-Pro is still an excellent run-blocker, and should be healthy for 2022 after undergoing knee surgery. Wouldn’t be surprising to see Ramczyk return to All-Pro form this year.
7. Ronnie Stanley (Ravens)
An ankle injury limited Stanley to just one game in 2021, and his presence was severely missed on the Ravens offensive line. Stanley is one of the best pass-blocking left tackles in football when healthy, as he allowed just five pressures and zero sacks in his last full season (2019).
Stanley has been limited to seven games over his last two years, but he’s still just 28 years old and played a huge role in Lamar Jackson’s MVP season. If Stanley is healthy, Jackson and the Ravens’ offense will be one of the best units in the NFL.
6. David Bakhtiari (Packers)
Bakhtiari only suited up for one regular-season game in 2021 thanks to a knee injury, yet he is still one of the game’s best left tackles. Prior to the injury, Bakhtiari made three consecutive Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro in two of the past three years.
Playing just 27 snaps in the regular season doesn’t limit Bakhtiari’s greatness at left tackle. The season prior, he allowed just one sack and eight pressures in 423 pass-blocking snaps.
5. Rashawn Slater (Chargers)
One year in the league and Slater has emerged into one of the best left tackles in the game. The 2021 first-round pick was a home run selection for the Chargers as Slater allowed just a 3.6% pressure rate per dropback in his rookie campaign, allowing just five sacks and 25 pressures in 699 pass-blocking snaps.
Slater started all 16 games he played and earned Second Team All-Pro honors. He’s already among the league’s best left tackles and appears to be a franchise player for the Chargers for the next decade.
4. Lane Johnson (Eagles)
Right tackles don’t get enough respect around the NFL. Johnson isn’t just one of the best right tackles in the league, but one of the best tackles in the game.
Among tackles who have 1,000 pass-blocking snaps over the past three seasons, Johnson has allowed the fewest in the NFL with two. His 2021 season was All-Pro-caliber, as Johnson allowed zero sacks and seven pressures in 399 pass-blocking snaps. He also played a huge role in the Eagles averaging 159.7 rushing yards per game last season, which led the NFL.
Johnson is 32 years old, but is in the prime of his career. His game appears to be getting better with age.
3. Tristan Wirfs (Buccaneers)
Wirfs was the best right tackle in the league last year, earning a spot among the top three tackles in the league. An All-Pro selection, Wifs allowed just two sacks and 14 pressures in 764 pass-blocking snaps — while having an astonishing 1.8% pressure rate per dropback.
One of the reasons Tom Brady is able to remain upright is because of Wirfs, who is even improving his run-blocking as he enters his third season. The best is yet to come for Wirfs, who is only 23 years old and has allowed only four sacks in 1,419 pass-blocking snaps.
2. Tyron Smith (Cowboys)
No matter what issues he faces with injuries or constant changes on the Cowboys offensive line, Smith picks up his lunch pail and dominates at work. Smith missed five games with an ankle sprain last year, yet only allowed two sacks and 10 pressures in 416 pass-blocking snaps. He’s still one of the game’s best run-blockers, the driving force behind the explosiveness of Tony Pollard and the effectiveness of Ezekiel Elliott.
Smith hasn’t missed a Pro Bowl in any season he’s played 10-plus games since 2012. Even if he doesn’t get the All-Pro accolades, the numbers show he’s still elite at his position. A healthy Smith — even at 31 years old — is one of the most dominant tackles in the game.
1. Trent Williams (49ers)
Unseating Williams at No. 1 was always going to be difficult, but the 49ers left tackle showcased why he’s the best in the game in a dominant 2021 season. Not only is Williams a dominant force in the 49ers’ zone-run scheme, but he’s just as productive as a pass-blocker.
Williams allowed only two sacks and 14 pressures in 481 pass-blocking snaps last season (career-best 2.9% pressure rate allowed per dropback), controlling his side of the field while throwing his body toward the right side of the line to assist in the running game. He’s the most athletic tackle in the game and is a cornerstone on a 49ers team that uses all of his unique talents on the line.
At 33 years old, Williams is just getting better with age. Playing in Kyle Shanahan’s offense is a perfect match.
Just missed cut: Orlando Brown (Chiefs), Terron Armstead (Dolphins), Rob Havenstein (Rams), Charles Leno Jr. (Commanders), Braden Smith (Colts), Elgton Jenkins (Packers), La’el Collins (Browns), Dion Dawkins (Bills), Garett Bolles (Broncos), Donovan Smith (Buccaneers)
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Interior Linemen 10. Brandon Scherff (Jaguars)
Scherff was paid as one of the best guards in the game this offseason for a reason, even if a sprained MCL hindered his performance in 2021. A Pro Bowler in each of the past three years, Scherff didn’t allow a sack last season — but his 4.8% pressure rate allowed per dropback was the highest of his career(18 pressures on season).
A healthy Scherff is one of the best right guards in the game, even if he hasn’t played a full season since 2016. A fresh start in Jacksonville will benefit the 30-year-old Scherff.
9. Joe Thuney (Chiefs)
In his first season with the Chiefs, Thuney was as good as advertised. Bringing stability and excellent left guard play to Kansas City, Thuney allowed just one sack and 14 pressures in 752 pass-blocking snaps last season. Not only is Thuney an elite pass-blocking guard, he missed just 10 snaps last season and has played 99% of his team’s offensive snaps in five of the last six seasons (97% in the other).
Not only is Thuney reliable, but he doesn’t hurt his team with penalties. He has just three penalties over the last two years, with all three coming in 2021.
8. Wyatt Teller (Browns)
Teller may be one of the most underrated players in the league. A Second Team All-Pro last season, Teller allowed four sacks and 24 pressures in 600 pass-blocking snaps in 17 games — and was one of the best run-blocking guards in the game. This was the second straight year Teller earned an All-Pro selection.
Not only is Teller good, but consistent. His pressure rate per dropback allowed in 2021 (4.0%) was slightly up from 2020 (3.9%) and his run-blocking has been arguably the best among any guard in the game. What’s crazy about Teller’s excellent play is he’s not the best guard on his own team.
7. Creed Humphrey (Chiefs)
The Chiefs got a steal with Humphrey in the second round of the 2021 draft, and he lived up to the hype in Year 1. Humphrey stated his case as one of the best centers in the game, allowing just one sack and eight pressures in 752 pass-blocking snaps last season — while also showcasing his dominance as one of the best run-blocking centers in football.
Humphrey should have been selected to an All-Pro team last year, but another dominant season in 2022 will get him the nod. The Chiefs appear to have a fixture at center for the next decade.
6. Shaq Mason (Buccaneers)
The Buccaneers were able to replace Alex Cappa with one of the best right guards in the game, only giving up a fifth-round draft pick. Mason was excellent in 2021, allowing two sacks and 14 pressures in 514 pass-blocking snaps last season with a career-low 2.7% pressure rate per dropback allowed.
Mason is also one of the best blocking right guards in the game as the 28-year-old should finally earn a Pro Bowl and All-Pro nod in 2022 (if he keeps up his play in Tampa). His game was been underappreciated over the past few years.
5. Corey Linsley (Chargers)
The Chargers had one of the best free agent signings in football last year, showcasing how good Linsley is at his position. Solidifying himself as one of the top centers in the game, Linsley didn’t allow a sack in 674 pass-blocking snaps in 2021. He allowed just six pressures and a pressure rate per dropback allowed of just 0.9%. This comes one season after allowing just one sack and a pressure rate per dropback allowed of 1.0%.
A Second Team All-Pro last season, the Chargers have an elite center in Linsley — and one of the best interior linemen in the game.
4. Joel Bitonio (Browns)
Already establishing himself as one of the best left guards in the game, Bitonio had one of his best seasons in 2021 in earning All-Pro honors. In 600 pass-blocking snaps last year, Bitonio allowed just two sacks and 14 pressures with a pressure rate per dropback allowed of 2.3% — his lowest since 2018.
The top run-blocking left guard last season, Bitonio continues to improve his play each year as he enters the prime of his career at 30. His pressure rate per dropback of 2.3% over the last four seasons showcases Bitonio’s remarkable consistency.
3. Jason Kelce (Eagles)
Kelce is on the fast track to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, still playing at a high level at the age of 34. An All-Pro selection at center in four of the past five years, Kelce anchored the league’s No. 1 rushing attack in Philadelphia, and is arguably the game’s best run-blocker among centers in the second level.
In 525 pass-blocking snaps last season, Kelce allowed just one sack and 16 pressures with a pressure rate per dropback of 3.0%. Kelce’s run-blocking and command of the game up front is the reason why he’s this high on the list.
There’s competition to unseat Kelce at center, but he’s the best player at his position right now.
2. Quenton Nelson (Colts)
Nelson had a down year in 2021, as an ankle injury landed him a spot on injured reserve while he also missed a game due to COVID-19 protocols. He was still very good, but wasn’t the dominant left guard the league has been accustomed to.
In 419 pass-blocking snaps last season, Nelson allowed two sacks and 13 pressures. He also had his worst season as a run-blocker, but that shouldn’t take away how great Nelson has been since he entered the league.
An All-Pro in his first three seasons, Nelson has allowed just five sacks while earning four Pro Bowl selections in 4,027 snaps. Even in a down year by Nelson’s standards, the Colts left guard is still elite. He’s one of the best interior linemen in the game — and the best left guard.
1. Zack Martin (Cowboys)
The model of consistency and dominance at his position, Martin has emerged as the best interior lineman in football. Martin continues to dominate as a run-blocker at right guard, blocking at the line of scrimmage better than any guard in the league.
He’s just as good pass-blocking, allowing only one sack and 17 pressures in 636 pass-blocking snaps last year — with a pressure rate per dropback of 2.7% (his lowest since 2017). Martin earned his third All-Pro honor in the last four years, and seventh All-Pro selection in the last eight. The only year Martin didn’t earn an All-Pro selection was 2020, when he suited up for only 10 games.
Martin has been dominant in every season he’s played and continues to play at a high level at 31. The Cowboys right guard continues to build his Hall of Fame resume while being one of the best offensive linemen in the game.
Just missed cut: JC Tretter (Browns), Kevin Zeitler (Ravens), Michael Onwenu (Patriots), Connor Williams (Cowboys), Alex Cappa (Bengals), Laken Tomlinson (Jets), Frank Ragnow (Lions), Ryan Kelly (Colts), Chris Lindstrom (Falcons), Rodney Hudson (Cardinals)