5. Andrew Whitworth
Whitworth capped off a fabulous hall of fame career with an unprecedented elite season at 40, playing one of the toughest positions in the league. He was a vital part of the Rams having one of the best offenses in the league and ultimately winning the Super Bowl. There was a stretch where Whitworth looked like the best tackle in the NFL even. He was elite in pass pro all season finishing 3rd among tackles in pass-block win rate and 4th in PA%. Wirfs got the nod over Whitworth for pro-bowl and all-pro honors, but I thought Whitworth was close to him in terms of pass pro and a lot better in the run game.
4. Tyron Smith
Tyron Smith comes in 4th on this list, but I can make a case he was the best offensive lineman in the NFL in the first half of the year. However, he was injured in week 8 and never quite returned to that level after returning from injury. He only ended up playing in 11 games. Even with his play falling off, he finished 2nd in PA% among tackles and top 10 in run-block win rate among tackles.
3. Joel Bitonio
It was a photo finish for best guard, and while I think Bitonio finished 2nd in that race, anyone that wants to make the argument he was the best guard of 2021 certainly won’t get a ton of push back from me. Bitonio was elite in both phases of the game, but what truly added a boost to his season was the fact that he started a few games at LT due to injuries to other players, and he played a high level at that position as well. Bitonio was one of the best run-blockers I evaluated on tape this season, and how he didn’t finish higher amongst guards in run-block win rate, I’m not sure. As a pass-blocker, he finished 3rd in pass-block win rate and 5th in PA% among guards.
2. Zach Martin
The man who was slightly better at guard than Bitonio was Zach Martin. Martin missed the first game of the year due to Covid and then stepped in week 2 and never looked back. He was phenomenal in the run game all season, perhaps the only Cowboy upfront that played well in the run game the entire season, as many of the others became inconsistent in the 2nd half of the year. Martin was of only two guards to finish top 10 in pass-block and run-block win rate. He was also top 10 among guards in PA%.
1. Trent Williams
The race for best offensive lineman was tight at the midway point, with all of the gentlemen in the top 4 all in contention. However, by week 17 Trent Williams had separated himself from the rest of the pack and was clearly the best offensive lineman in the NFL for the 2021 season. Trent Williams was the best run-blocker in the NFL in 2021, and him not finishing top 10 in run-block win rate is a little bit of an indictment of the stat, but there isn’t another run-block stat out there so it’s all we got. He was top 10 in pass block win rate, and he finished 6th in PA% among tackles. Beyond the numbers, Williams stood out so much because he was just so much more dominant than anyone else this season. There are multiple highlights from the year of him punishing defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs. He was an equal opportunity punisher, and a case can be made he was the best player in the NFL in 2021 period, regardless of position.
10. Shaq Mason
I rated the Cowboys as the best o-line of 2021. However, the Patriots were ranked 3rd and were the clear-cut best in the second half of the season. Shaq Mason was the best of that bunch as he led the charge as an elite player in both phases of the game. He was one of the best run-blocking guards in the NFL as his consistent play helped a mundane Pats offense that lacked firepower at the skill positions maintain drives primarily due to their top 10 rushing attack. He was also sixth in PA% at 2.75%.
9. Lane Johnson
Lane Johnson had one of the most underrated seasons of any player in the league. I think it was largely because he missed four games for personal reasons. However, when he was out there, he was an elite tackle this season and would have gotten award recognition if he were in the AFC instead of the NFC, which was loaded with excellent tackle play this season. Had he played the full season, I might’ve ranked him a little higher, but the other 8 guys on this list all had elite seasons and either played the whole season or slightly better.
8. Ali Marpet
Marpet’s sudden and shocking retirement this offseason came as a major surprise. Not only because he’s only 29, but because he was one of the top 10 offensive linemen in football this past season. We’ve discussed how the Chiefs threw the hell out of it, and right behind them as the team with the second-highest pass rate was the Bucs. In large part, because they had by far the best pass-blocking o-line in the NFL and Marpet was a big reason why. Marpet was top 10 in PA% among guards at 2.81%, one of only 10 guards to post a sub 3 percent PA%. On top of that, he proved to be a great all-around player serving as the Bucs best run-blocker and finishing fourth among guards in run-block win rate. The Eagles had many guys contribute upfront for their top-ranked rush attack, making them one of the surprise teams of 2021 and resulting in a playoff berth. Lane was great in the run game, but he was right at the top in pass pro. He was tied for first in pass-block win rate and finished with a PA% of 2.64, 3rd among tackles.
7. Corey Linsley
I thought Corey Linsley was the best center in the NFL in 2021, and he proved to be one of the best free-agent acquisitions of the year. The Chargers were the worst o-line in the NFL in 2020, and primarily due to the play of Linsley and Slater, they became a top 10 unit overnight. Linsely was great in both phases of the game. And while his run-blocking was impressive, his biggest impact on the Chargers was in the pass game. Center is the one O-line position where I don’t believe pass pro is more important than run blocking. But Linsley’s impact went beyond his pass blocking. His presence on that line helped a cast of new characters gel. The tape looked drastically different from 2020 to this past year when it came to picking up blitzes, and I have to believe the presence of Linsley on and off the field played a major role in that. He finished top-five in pass-block win rate and top 3 in PA% among centers.
6. Tristan Wirfs
It was tough leaving the most efficient pass-blocking tackle in the NFL out of the top five, but that’s just how stiff the competition was this year. Wirfs led all tackles in PA% at 1.76%, and he was the only tackle with a sub 2% PA percentage. His play played a large role in why the Bucs were so successful throwing at a high volume, and how Brady was one of the least pressured QBs in the league. As great as he is in the pass game, he’s got to get better as a run-blocker. And I must point out that he made strides throughout the year. His run-blocking in the second half of the year was much better than in the first half, but it’s still far off from the tackles above him, who are also elite in pass pro.
15. Ryan Ramczyk
Ramczyk had a good season when he was on the field. The problem for the Saints all over the offense was injury, and Ramczyk contributed to that problem by missing seven games and playing hurt in several others. However, he showed he could still reach an elite gear that few other RTs in the league can at his best. He was great in the run game, and though his PA% wasn’t elite, he led all tackles in pass block win rate. He’s a similar case to Quenton Nelson, as his overall play and time missed should perhaps warrant a lower ranking. However, three straight All-pro team selections prior to this season give me room to say had he been healthy he would’ve been better.
14. Quenton Nelson B+
Speaking of Quenton Nelson, let’s talk about him. If I’m being completely honest, he wasn’t one of the top 25 players just on overall performance this season. However, when he was healthy, he was a top-25 player this season. He still finished top 15 among guards in PA% at 3.35%, and his return to the lineup along with Braden Smith largely contributed to Jonathan Taylor having a breakout MVP caliber year. That, combined with just what we know he is as a player when healthy makes it hard for me to rank him any lower than this. I would’ve ranked him first on this list just a year ago. He is the perfect guard, and if he puts together a decade-long career that more closely resembles his first three seasons, he'll have a case for best guard of-time.
13. Wyatt Teller
Teller had another great season in 2021. His pass blocking took a slight step back, so it wasn’t quite as good as his 2020 season, but back to back all-pro second team appearances put him in the conversation for top-5 at his position. Teller was a fantastic run-blocker who helped the Browns finish tied for 1st in rush YPC. While he wasn’t elite in pass-pro his 3.8 PA% was still top 20 at his position, and he finished top 10 in pass block win rate.
12. Joe Thuney
Maybe 10 years ago, a guard of Thuney’s profile wouldn’t be in the conversation for top 5 at the position, but things have changed. Aaron Donald’s interior domination in the SB proved we can no longer only look at tackles as the only o-line position where pass pro is viewed as a more important skillset. The Chiefs had more pass snaps than any other NFL team, and Thuney was the best pass-blocking guard by a mile. His 1.9 PA% was the best of all guards, and he was one of only two non-centers that allowed pressure less than 2% of pass snaps. He was also first among guards in pass block win rate. While he’s not an elite run-blocker, Thuney is a good run blocker, so he’s not a one-dimensional player, he just isn’t as good in the run game as the other elite guards.
11. Creed Humphrey
Jamar Chase had an outstanding rookie season and was no doubt the best offensive rookie skill player. But Humphrey was the best offensive rookie in 2021. His rookie year was on par with guys like Zach Martin and Quenton Nelson, and it’s a shame he wasn’t rewarded like those guys with no pro-bowl or all-pro nod. Creed was great in the run and pass game. He finished top 5 among centers in run-block win rate, and was probably the best pass-blocking center in the league. He finished 2nd in PA% at 1.24% and had the best pass-block win rate among centers. It’s no wonder the Chiefs threw the ball so much, they had two guys upfront that led their position in pass-block win rate.
20. Brian O’Neil
While the interior of the Vikings o-line was in shambles most of the year, and the LT position was in flux until Darrisaw recovered from injury, O’Neil brought consistency week in and week out to the RT spot and was one of the best tackles in the league all season, especially in pass pro. He finished 7th among tackles in PA% and only allowed one sack all season. He was only average in the run game, which is why he’s not ranked higher.
19. Keven Zeitler
The AFC guard group was right behind the NFC tackles in terms of pro-bowl caliber players and not having enough spots to recognize everyone who deserved it. Zeitler was one of the best players in the league in 2021. He finished top 10 in run-block and pass-block win rate among guards and was 2nd in PA% at the position. He was the glue that held together an offensive line that was hurt early due to Ronnie Stanley missing mostly the entire year and Alejandro Villanueva being a turnstile in his place.
18. Rashawn Slater
Slater was another player that could’ve been in the offensive rookie of the year conversation if o-linemen were considered. He and Humphrey both played at an extremely high level by rookie standards. Slater ended up being the top tackle in the AFC and was rewarded with a 2nd team all-pro and pro-bowl selection. He was also top 10 among tackles with over 500 snaps in PA%.
17. Jordan Mailata
Jordan Mailata has come a long way in a short period of time for a guy who came into the NFL from Australia with only a rugby background and no tackle football experience. He is still learning as a pass blocker yet he was still one of the better tackles in pass pro this season with a 4.34 PA% that ranked top 20 among tackles with 500 or more snaps. And that’s the area of his game he needs to improve. As a run-blocker, he has a case for 2nd best run-blocking tackle behind Trent Williams. There are other guys who are more consistent technique wise such as Orlando Brown and Braden Smith, but he can deliver those splash run block plays that make you say oooohhhh in a way that few others can. He wasn’t able to make the pro-bowl due to a loaded tackle field in the NFC. However, he was in the conversation for the top-five tackles in the NFL in 2021. I rank him sixth-best.
16. Jason Kelce
Jason Kelce is undersized and old, two things that should be working against him at this point in his career. However, he continues to do two things at an elite level. Run-block and not miss games. 2021 marks the seventh straight season Kelce started every game, which is highly impressive at such a high contact position like center. But he’s not just out, there he’s still delivering at a high level. He’s at his best in the run game, where he finished top-five in run block win rate among centers and was named to the OLS all run-block team.
We are only a few months away from the start of training camp. However, before we completely turn the page on last season, let's take a look at the top 25 offensive linemen from 2021. This list is based primarily on how players played last season. Only lineman who played at least 50% of the league average total snaps (min. 564 snaps) were eligible for the list. The list will be released in increments of 5, counting down from 25 to 1.
25. Rob Havenstein
Havenstein had a good season that flew under the radar because of a loaded NFC tackle field that featured a lot of good players this past season. Havenstein was good in the run and pass game this season. As a pass blocker, he finished top 5 in pass block win rate and top 20 among tackles with 500 or more snaps in PA%. He was one of the better run-blocking tackles this season as well.
24. Orlando Brown
Brown was up and down throughout the year as a pass blocker, but overall he was good. His 4.84 percent PA% ranked top 25 among tackles with 500 snaps or more. However, the primary reason he made the pro-bowl and deserves to be on this list is because of his work in the run game. He tied for the highest run block win rate among all tackles.
23. Dion Dawkins
Dawkins had established himself as a good tackle prior to 2021, but he took it up a notch last season and had the best season of his career. His play resulted in his 1st pro-bowl appearance, and it was well deserved. Dawkins was an elite pass-blocker in 2021. He was top 10 among tackles in PA% and pass block win rate. The only reason he wasn’t higher on the list is because he’s just an average run-blocker.
22. Braden Smith
Braden Smith is tough to rank. He entered the season hurt and tried to play through it in week 1, but it resulted in his worst start of the season. He would go on to miss the next six games before returning in week 8. In the 10 games he played from week 8 to week 17, he might’ve been the best tackle in the AFC. He was very good in pass pro and great in the run game. It’s probably not a coincidence that Jonathan Taylor only had three games over 100 yards rushing from week 1 to week 7 and seven games over 100 yards after week 7.
21. Chris Lindstrom
Lindstrom had a breakout season in his third year and was one of the biggest o-line pro-bowl snubs of 2021. They even had the nerve to make Jonah Jackson an alternate over him. If the national media and the NFL won’t recognize him, it’s ok because we’ll give him props here. He was the best player on what was primarily a two-man line in Atlanta as he and Jake Matthews often were their only players who played well consistently. Lindstrom had a rough four-game stretch from weeks 13-16 that hurt him and probably cost him with the media, but he was off to such a great start that it shouldn’t have hurt him that much. He finished top 30 in PA% among guards and was one of the best run-blocking guards in the NFL this season