Offensive Line Rankings 2014

Offensive Line Rankings 2014

A look at all 32 offensive lines
By: Pete Davidson : August 04, 2014 8:18am

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Today we’re taking a look at the trenches. I’ve ranked all 32 teams for fantasy purposes. The various lines are not broken down into run versus pass as you will see in some places. Rather, we look at them in terms of how well they are projected to execute their team’s scheme. I do get into some explanations in The Skinny.

What these rankings are intended to do is give you a confidence level, or lack thereof, with each team. Is the offensive line going to help the skill positions or inhibit them? We endeavor to answer that question 32 times based on the film we’ve watched and the changes made during the offseason. One thing to bear in mind is that the ratings are more important than the rankings. Two teams that both have a 5 grade may be separated by multiple spots in the rankings but are still projected to perform similarly. Keep that in mind.  It's also worth noting that these ratings are already baked-in to our overall positional rankings and cheat sheets.  This article is meant to add some extra dimension to the rankings.

Speaking of extra dimension, Jim Hackett and I banged out a podcast on Friday.  Listen here.

1 San Francisco 9 They are so well coached and so consistent that we’ll give them the nod, but there are several other teams you could put up top, but Philly is on their heels.
2 Philadelphia 9 They’ll feel the loss of Lane Johnson’s suspension, but they’ll be ok and Johnson will return in Week 5. Philadelphia can block, and that is not going to change as long as Chip Kelly is running the show. They have stud talent and great coaching.
3 New England 8 If they stay healthy this year, they could be very good again. They have talent and depth and it’s a proven scheme. There’s just no reason to doubt the Patriots’ OL.
4 Dallas 8 What was a huge weakness just a few seasons back is now a team strength. People laughed at the Travis Frederick pick and maybe Dallas could have landed him later, but the kid can play and gives Dallas strength up the middle. Adding even more strength up the gut will be rookie Zack Martin, who can play inside or outside, but is currently playing RG. The anchor of the group is LT Tyron Smith, who excels in both phases of the offense. This is a potentially nasty unit and they are the basis for our confidence in both DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant.
5 Denver 8 It’s a very good line that is made better by Manning, who rarely holds the ball long enough to take a sack. This group was a little worrisome going into last year with the mess at center, but Manny Ramirez settled things down and will start there in 2014.
6 Cincinnati 7 They have talent and they have depth, so we expect good things once again though we do think the loss of Jay Gruden is just that, a loss. New OC Hugh Jackson has a decent track record and he sets up the pass well by running effectively. The model should work with a group this talented.
7 Green Bay 7 I expect good things as this young line continues to gel and gets Bryan Bulaga back at RT. They work with perhaps the best all-around skill talent in the NFL or very close to it. If this group stays healthy, they will exceed expectations.
8 Detroit 6 They return the starting line from 2013 and they added some talent at TE and WR, which should help Matt Stafford find open targets a bit more quickly. And, keep in mind that Detroit only allowed 23 sacks last season. That number was bested only by Denver, who has a huge advantage with Manning’s quick reads and release.
13 Buffalo 6 The fact that the Bills could run at all last year is a testament to their OL, which played a bit better than we expected them to after losing Andy LeVitre to the Titans in free agency. The Bills invested in the line at this year’s draft with three lineman out of seven selections. They are hoping that Cyrus Kouandijo can settle things down at RT. If that happens, and they can get the QB situation ironed out, they have a chance with high-end talent at both receiver and running back.
9 Chicago 6 The Bears revamped this OL in 2013 and they did a really good job. Drafting Kyle Long and Jordan Mills get a big tip of the cap, but they were also very effective with the free agents, landing Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson. We see no reason to expect a regression as this group is only becoming more accustomed to each other. They also have a good scheme and receivers that get open. Trestman has things working in Chicago.
10 Cleveland 6 They did not block very well in 2013, but they was all kinds of flux and all kinds of injuries in Cleveland. Heck, they moved their starting tailback in-season. I like the move to the zone-blocking scheme, run by new OC Kyle Shanahan and it’s great news that stud C Alex Mack was retained. Obviously you also have Joe Thomas at LT holding things down and protecting the blind side. We also like the addition of rookie Joel Bitonio, who brings versatility and toughness. This is a solid unit that is still young and improving. Also positive is all the running talent they brought in and that includes QB Johnny Manziel. Free agent Ben Tate is a proven scheme fit and we are big fans of rookie 3rd rounder Terrance West not to mention rookie UDFA Isaiah Crowell. They will run it well in 2014 and they will be ok in the passing game if they ever find some receivers.
12 San Diego 6 Against the warnings of coach Turner, I underestimated this group last year and I won’t make that mistake in 2014. The Chargers were consistently solid and only C Nick Hardwick is past the age of 30. Based on Hardwick’s play in 2013, we’re not worried that he’ll turn 33 in September. This crew should come close to last year’s level of play.
11 Tennessee 6 As we said on the podcast last year and this year, the Titans’ line came together during the season in 2013 and they closed well. Adding Taylor Lewan to the mix has us thinking very positively about the Titans’ chances of playing functional offense this season. Draft Bishop Sankey with confidence and give Jake Locker some love in deeper formats and 2QB leagues. He’ll have some time and he has some weapons.
14 Baltimore 6 We liked them going in last year and then everything went wrong. Injuries to Dennis Pitta, Ray Rice and Kelechi Osemele were all killers and had varying effects on the ground game and pass protection. With the exception of Rice, they should all be back for Week 1 this year. We also like the switch at OC to Gary Kubiak. This is a young group that can still get better.
15 Houston 6 With all that went wrong in 2013, the Texans were still a decent group and were ranked 16th overall in terms of performance by PFF. With the exception of C Chris Myers, this is a young line with solid talent. The exception is at RT, where Derek Newton was a big disappointment. Still, at 26, he can get better and may benefit from a coaching change.
16 Minnesota 6 This line was hurt in 2013 by weak play-calling and poor to average quarterbacking. We expect steps forward in 2014. We expect Norv Turner to put more fear into defenses. He’ll make teams pay for over-loading the box on Adrian Peterson. And, don’t underestimate the positive effects that Teddy Bridgewater could have. He gets the ball out on time and has plus mobility. Things have gotten better in Minnesota.
17 St. Louis 6 This is a big talented group that obviously got a major jolt with the drafting of Greg Robinson at #2 overall. Robinson will be playing LG since the Rams already have Jake Long at LT. That takes some pressure off of aging C Scott Wells. This group got better as 2013 rolled on and they should be very solid in 2014, and they’ll be surrounded by healthy skill talent. As of now that is.
18 New Orleans 5 They have issues at center but this is a well oiled unit and the Saints scheme their line play incredibly well. We expect good results as usual as long as they can stay healthy.
19 Jets 5 The Jets line is probably a bit overrated. The big names are Brick Ferguson and Nick Mangold, but both have slipped in recent years, especially Ferguson, who is now adequate-to-good. Mangold could still play at high level if he’s healthy. The rest of the line is unproven or coming off of injury. The Jets have a lot of range. They could improve a great deal if Brian Winters takes a step forward and can hold down the fort at RT. If that happens, we’d expect that being in year two of Marty Mornhinweg’s scheme will yield even better results. The other key is the health of Wille Colon at RG. Colon was a pleasant surprise in 2013. The good news on the OG front, I think, is rookie Dakota Dozier out of Furman. He was one of the Jets better selections in a deep yet uninspiring draft. He was a college tackle but at 6’3”, he’ll be moving inside most likely. He’s got a nasty streak which seems to be something GM John Idzik looks for. The other key will be free agent import Breno Giacomini, who will need to play well to replace what was lost when last year’s RT, Austin Howard, signed with the Raiders.
20 Seattle 5 Russell Okung should be 100 percent and that’s big for the Seahawks line as a whole. Wilson’s blind side is in far better shape, but the rest of the group is less than awe inspiring. Then again, the scheme is well-established and they have a stable of nasty tailbacks to throw at defenses plus a highly mobile passer who is still getting better. We expect modest improvement over 2013 if they can stay healthy.
23 Kansas City 5 The Chiefs may not be the best OL in the league or the best on paper, but they do what they do well. And, that’s not a back-handed compliment. The Chiefs can block the run and they switch styles with ease. They can run zone or they can scheme teams. This is a well coached group and they are young. Now the bad news. They lost star LT Branden Albert to the Dolphins in free agency and that puts Eric Fisher, last year’s number one overall selection, on the hot seat. If Fisher can find his game by returning to his natural position, the Chiefs could be just fine. The other loss was G Jon Asamoah, who signed with Atlanta. KC needs to reinvent itself a bit. They are a wildcard.
22 Indianapolis 5 They added Jack Mewhort out of Ohio State and he will help. So will the return of OG Donald Thomas, but the Colts lack star talent up front and have to get by with cohesion. They also have a chance to get better in their second season with Pep Hamilton running the show. The good news for Andrew Luck is that their strength is at the tackles. We see slight improvement over 2013.
21 Pittsburgh 5 It's a young group that should continue to improve and RG Davis DeCastro is a key here as is the continued health of Maurkice Pouncey. The potential for high-end play inside is there. There’s enough to work with to establish a power ground scheme that Big Ben can work off of.
24 Giants 4 The loss of G Chris Snee is a big one but at least they knew it was coming. The Giants should be healthier this year and we like the new talent they’ve brought in.
25 Washington 4 This is a tough one because we just don’t know what Jay Gruden will do. Will he continue to use the stretch or zone scheme? The OL is well-suited to do that, so we expect some of it, but we also expect JG to put his stamp on the offense. This should be a functional group, but we expect Washington to try and add some size next season if they can.
26 Atlanta 4 They should be better, but they need to play a lot better. Atlanta added Jake Matthews at RT and Jon Asamoah at RG so improvement on the right side is expected. It’s up to new OL coach Mike Tice to mold the group. Tice was out of football in 2013 after being canned by Chicago. In his defense, the Bears’ issues were more with personnel decisions versus development. Still, Tice is not a guy that inspires tons of confidence. The good news is that he has a better situation in Atlanta with capable tackles versus a pair of weathervanes.
27 Miami 4 We expect better performance and obviously more cohesion. We love the addition of Braden Albert from KC, who played at a VERY high level last year. Mike Pouncey’s hip injury (surgery) is the big negative and there’s no guarantee that he’ll play in 2014 though he’s expected back around Week 7 or 8. This group should be solid on the edges and shaky in the middle. We’re concerned about guards Dallas Thomas and Shelley Smith. If Pouncey makes it back healthy, he could take the group up a notch and provide stability across the OL. He could take them from a 3 grade to a 5.
28 Arizona 4 They may not win any awards in 2014, but we expect serious improvement over last season, and remember, Arians found a way to make that offense function despite the poor play on the offensive line. With 2013 first rounder Jonathan Cooper finally expected to play and with new LT Jared Veldheer on-board, we see a move towards respectability in 2014. Carson Palmer was often under siege in his first season as a Cardinal. He should at least be able to count on one side of the line this season. It’s a start, and it will almost assuredly help.
29 Tampa Bay 3 They brought in a QB with quick eyes and a good release. That could be the best news for Tampa on the OL. The other would be new LT Anthony Collins, who replaces the consistently shaky Donald Penn. Collins, along with C Evan Dietrich-Smith and RT Demar Dotson are the only things that Tampa can really count on. With the overdue retirement of former stud OG Carl Nicks, both guard spots are up for grabs, and getting reasonable play at guard will go a long way to the Bucs having a successful season. There really aren’t a lot of other weaknesses on their roster. This team could definitely surprise some people IF the play at OG is passable.
30 Jacksonville 3 Jaguar fans can be happy that they have a young group and a good young HC, but they still lack enough high-end talent to compete for 16 plus weeks. Getting Luke Joeckel back healthy is a big step forward and the signing of Zane Beadles was a plus too, but is it enough? We like the trajectory in Jacksonville, but they need more time. Getting a big back like Gerhart is a plus if he can stay healthy. If they add some talent plus the big QB (Borltes) to the mix in 2015, we could see some good results.
31 Carolina 3 The losses of Jordan Gross and Tyler Wharton are big and the way that Carolina has left Cam Newton unprotected and with weak surrounding skill talent is shameful. The edges are totally unpredictable and there’s some solidity in the middle. They are putting too much on the QB and they may pay for it this time. Newton’s stats will be solid because everything goes through him, but the overall offensive performance should take a step back unless there are some surprise performances.
32 Oakland 3 We’re not bullish on MJD or McFadden, so the fact that they can block for the run credibly may not help that much. We’re not sure if that can protect the passer at all. Derek Carr is the future in Oakland, so starting Schaub and letting him take the beatings should be considered an investment in the future. Oakland may be a fantasy wasteland in 2014. Adding Austin Howard at RT was a nice move, but Donald Penn at LT is a potential disaster.