Top 5 Positional Units: Offensive Line

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Continuing the Positional Unit series, I will shift to the offenses in the league and specifically the offensive lines. In the NFL, it doesn’t matter much the quality of your skill players if your line is bad and having a very good line can elevate the offense immensely. Teams have different philosophies in building their lines according to their schemes.

Some teams want quick-footed and aware players for a zone-blocking scheme while others will want big, powerful linemen to punish defenses with a downhill running game. Regardless of how they’re built, these are the five best lines in the NFL.

5. Cleveland Browns

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Despite having to deal with horrible play from their Quarterbacks the past few years, the Browns have put together a very talented offensive line. The group is headlined by star offensive tackle, Joe Thomas, who is the best Left Tackle in the league and a tremendous pass blocker. Alex Mack is a stud center who has great feet and power and fits perfectly into their new zone blocking scheme.

Rookie Joel Bitonio was my number 12 overall prospect in this past draft and I strongly believe he can excel as a guard or a tackle in a zone blocking scheme. He doesn’t have ideal length, but he has great feet, strength and a nasty mean streak to punish defenses with. He is listed as a guard right now and he will make a huge impact on that interior. Mitchell Schwartz is coming off a down year after a promising rookie season, but he has the ability to play guard or right tackle in this offense so a rebound would be phenomenal for this group.

Other guard, Jason Pinkston, is a bit of a question mark for this group, but as a whole the line has a ton of athleticism and prowess and should key the Browns’ heavy running game this year.

4. Tennessee Titans

I love the Titans line because every player fits the same mold. Michael Roos, Andy Levitre, Brian Schwenke, Chance Warmack and rookie, Taylor Lewan, are all gigantic, powerful and nasty offensive linemen. Warmack is coming off a rocky rookie season, but he was my top prospect in the 2013 NFL draft who I loved due to his incredible strength and size. He flashed a lot during his rookie season and I think that he breaks out this year as one of the top guards in the league.

Lewan is a guy that I was not as high on during the draft process as most and certainly not as much as the Titans, who spent the 11th overall pick on him. He has wild inconsistencies, but he is a ridiculous athlete in almost every measurable way and has dominant potential. Another thing that is so scary about this line is the youth of it, with 4 starters under 28 years old.

There is a bit of projection required, but there is no doubt that this line has the potential to be a league best by the end of next season.

 

3. San Francisco 49ers

One of the biggest pieces of the 49ers’ resurgence over the past three years has been their dominant offensive line. The line has two bookend tackles in Anthony Davis and Joe Staley who despite not being elite pass blockers, dominate the running game in ways most linemen cannot in this league and they are very fun to watch.

The offensive interior has some issues with Adam Snyder and Daniel Kilgore being below average starters, but Guard, Mike Iupati is another dominant run blocker with fantastic strength who is a big part of the team’s power running game. It is also worth noting that the team drafted tackle/guard, Brandon Thomas and center, Marcus Martin, both of whom are incredibly powerful offensive linemen who could start in a year.

It would not be shocking to see this group atop the league in two years time.

 

2. Dallas Cowboys

For all the things people can make fun of the Cowboys for, their offensive line is certainly not one of them. Tyron Smith took the next step last year to become an elite Left Tackle in the NFL. He has incredible athletic ability for a man his size and dominated teams in every facet of the game week in and week out.

Next to him will likely play rookie Zach Martin. I thought the Cowboys reached for Martin a bit, but he is a mean streaked technician who should be a very good guard in this league. Center Travis Frederick was viewed by many as a reach when he was taken in the 2013 draft, but turned in a very impressive rookie season where he showed off his ability to grind it out in the running game and should continue that into his second year. He needs to improve a bit as a pass blocker, but the arrow is pointing upward for the young man out of Wisconsin.

Guard Mackenzy Bernardeau doesn’t get talked about much, but I think he is a very solid player on this talented line. Doesn’t wow in any facet, but he is a very solid run blocker and does a decent job in the passing game. Finally, Doug Free was coming off a down 2012 season but turned in a much better season in 2013. If he can stay at that level, the Cowboys will have an elite offense to power their high scoring offense.

If Doug Free ever falters, the Cowboys have Darrion Weems waiting in the wings. Weems is another athletic, well sized tackle who should help the Cowboys continue their line success. Even scarier is that Weems is only 25 years old. This line has a ton of youth and talent on it.

 

1. Philadelphia Eagles

Few people predicted such a quick resurgence for the Eagles under Chip Kelly and yet the team took the division and finished with a 10-6 record. This was due in large part to their insanely high powered offense that was keyed by the best offensive line in the league. The team had three elite players on their line in Center, Jason Kelce, Left Tackle, Jason Peters and Guard, Evan Mathis. Mathis has phenomenal movement skills and while he isn’t a traditional “punch you in the face” type of guard, he is an elite technician who dominates in both the running game and passing game.

I would go as far to call him the best lineman in the league last year. Kelce is much the same in how he wins. Kelce is an incredibly intelligent player with great feet and hands in both the passing and running games. He could do a bit to boost his functional strength, but this was only his second full season with the team and their is still untapped potential. Peters is an elite athlete even after coming off an achilles injury. He has great size, movement skills and strength that he uses to take control of defenders. He seemed to be nicked up all season, but really turned it on in the second half.

The other 2/5 of the line is made up of Todd Heremans and Lane “The Rock” (Not Really) Johnson. Heremans was not the best pass blocker, but he was a top five run blocker in the league, which huge for a run heavy team like Philadelphia. The last piece to the puzzle is second year player, Lane Johnson. Johnson is an elite athlete with movement skills like few players I have ever seen before. He had a rough go as he adapted to the game in the first half of the season, but finished strong, flashing the ability that forced the Eagles to take him fourth overall in 2013. He has been suspended for the first four games of this upcoming season, but he will get plenty of opportunities to display that rare ability and if he takes the next step, the Eagles offense will continue to be nearly unstoppable.

The Eagles are also very high on their depth with guys like Allen Babre and Dennis Kelly so the line success should continue for a long time.

Top 5 Positional Units: Continuing The Series

@BenNatan2



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NFL Draft Analysis for WTFP and Draft Mecca. Eagles analyst for IgglesNest. Official NFL Outsider. Football Savage.


'Top 5 Positional Units: Offensive Line' have 3 comments

  1. July 27, 2014 @ 11:56 pm Coffee and Cigarettes: Seahawks links for Monday - Sports News Extra

    […] Football Savages / Top 5 Positional Units: Offensive LineContinuing the Positional Unit series, I will shift to the offenses in the league and specifically the offensive lines. In the NFL, it doesn’t matter… […]

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  2. July 28, 2014 @ 12:02 am Coffee and Cigarettes: Seahawks links for Monday - Sports News Time

    […] Football Savages / Top 5 Positional Units: Offensive LineContinuing the Positional Unit series, I will shift to the offenses in the league and specifically the offensive lines. In the NFL, it doesn’t matter… […]

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  3. August 5, 2014 @ 1:40 am Football Savages / Top 5 Positional Units: Running Backs

    […] Offensive Line […]

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