The positional rankings saga continues with offensive line.
First: Detroit Lions
The 2014 and 2015 offensive line had issues due to Joe Lombardi and some injuries. LaAdrian Waddle and Cornelius Lucas were big problems at right tackle and Travis Swanson struggled in his first year starting at center. Laken Tomlinson took some time to develop at left guard and Larry Warford had an ankle injury in the first half of the season.
Stafford was sacked hit 89 times in 2 years and hit and hurried too often. However, the scheme of Jim Bob Cooter fixed many issues in the second half of the 2015 season. The Lions have talent across the entire offensive line and good depth finally at every offensive line position.
The Lions drafted a 1st round pick to play tackle in 2016 (Taylor Decker) and center in Round 3 of the draft (Glasgow). New GM Bob Quinn made it a priority to bolster the offensive line talent. Decker is a mauling run blocker that improved in pass protection for a very good college football team.
Riley Reiff is a good left tackle. He is durable, solid in pass protection and a good run blocker. He had a bad first 3 weeks in 2015 but improved under Jim Bob Cooter and had other good years at left tackle (especially 2013). He is the best left tackle in the NFC North and only Terron Armstead is better in the South (Jake Matthews could pass him too).
Larry Warford and Laken Tomlinson fit Jim Bob Cooter’s scheme perfectly and have talent to be powerful run blockers. Warford has one great (2013) and one good season (2014). Lombardi’s scheme and injuries derailed Warford in the first half of 2015. Laken Tomlinson progressed as a rookie first round pick and was solid in pass protection. His run blocking didn’t fit Lombardi’s scheme but Tomlinson improved under Cooter.
The Lions added veteran Geoff Schwartz in free agency for good depth at guard and right tackle. Schwartz is oft injured but is good when he plays guard or tackle. Michael Ola played well at right tackle in 2015 for Detroit under Cooter but should sit behind Taylor Decker or Riley Reiff. Ola can play guard too.
The Lions have two players that could be good left tackles in Reiff or Decker if one gets injured. Joe Dahl was drafted in Round 5 for guard and right tackle depth as well. Corey Robinson and Cornelius Lucas remain and have a shot at the 4th tackle spot with improvement. Lucas has playing time experience in both 2014 and 2015.
Travis Swanson has experience from 2014 and a full year of starting in 2015 until a Week 17 injury. Swanson had some shoulder injuries and must work on his strength. Swanson against the rookie Graham Glasgow is a good battle for the starting center job. If the rookie isn’t ready, Detroit has starting experience waiting to play.
Detroit has talent across the board and a good amount of experience for the young players. Detroit has really good depth with Schwartz, Ola, Swanson and their tackle situation.
Second: Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers had a good offensive line in 2011-2014. However, that line regressed in 2015 and had some injury issues late in the season. Josh Sitton and TJ Lang are top 5 and top 10 guards respectively.
Corey Linsley is a solid center who played really well in his rookie 2014 season. Linsley regressed to average in 2015 however. David Bakhtiari is solid in pass protection but a poor run blocker at left tackle. Bryan Bulaga has big time fluctuations in play with good seasons in 2012 and 2014 but poor seasons in 2013 and 2015. Bulaga is a solid starting right tackle but has some durability concerns too.
Green Bay has good depth with JC Tretter (versatile for all spots) and newly drafted second round pick Jason Spriggs (tackle). Don Barclay and Lane Taylor have playing time experience at tackle/guard and guard respectively but both are poor players. Spriggs could be the future at left tackle if the Packers don’t re-sign Bakhtiari next offseason.
The Packers have good depth and good starters across the board. However, the regression of Linsley and Bulaga and lack of depth in 2015 hurt their protection of Aaron Rodgers (36.5% under pressure).
Third: New Orleans Saints
Terron Armstead is a very good left tackle and earned his long term deal. Armstead was the third best tackle in the league in 2015.
Max Unger is a good center and was a top 10 center in 2015 after a trade with Seattle. Zach Strief is a solid veteran right tackle who is good run blocker but struggled some in pass protection.
Andrus Peat is the Saints first round pick from 2015. Peat could slide to guard or take over for Strief eventually. Tim Lelito was good in run blocker but struggled in pass blocking in his first season starting for the Saints. Young guard Senio Kelemete played 331 snaps with solid run blocking but poor pass blocking.
The Saints have some good veterans but their young guards must play better in 2016. The Saints lack some depth other than Andrus Peat.
Tied Third: Atlanta Falcons
Jake Matthews was good in pass protection but struggled in run blocking. Ryan Schraeder was surprisingly the second best RT in the league in 2015 behind Mitchel Schwartz. The Falcons have two good book end tackles.
Alex Mack has been a top 5 center for years despite an average year in 2015. Andy Levitre is a very good run blocker but must work on pass protection. The veteran failed with the Titans but was good with the Bills and solid with Atlanta in 2015. Ben Garland was added in free agency from the Texans to compete with Chris Chester. Chester was played below average at guard in 2015.
Mike Person and Chester (or Garland) are experienced depth. Tom Compton is a veteran backup tackle but the Falcons lack good depth on the offensive line, especially at tackle.
Fifth: Carolina Panthers
Michael Oher revived his career at left tackle in Carolina despite being a terrible run blocker in 2015. Mike Remmers was a solid run blocker but was terrible in pass blocking. Remmers was exposed in the Super Bowl.
Ryan Kalil is a top 5 center every year. Trai Turner was the 6th ranked guard in the league and Andrew Norwell was the 8th ranked guard in the league. The Panthers have a really good interior offensive line. Their interior could be the best in the league.
Carolina has a great interior offensive line but questionable tackle pass protection. Daryl Williams is solid depth at right tackle as a former 3rd round pick. Chris Scott and David Yankey is average guard depth. Tyler Larsen is rookie center drafted to backup Kalil. The Panthers could be in trouble if Oher was hurt.
Sixth: Minnesota Vikings
Teddy Bridgewater was the most pressured QB in the league in 2015 but the run blocking was above average for Peterson and McKinnon. However, the Vikings had injuries to Phil Loadholdt and John Sullivan at right tackle and center in 2015.
Loadholdt returns from an achilles injury and the Vikings also added Andre Smith on a one year deal. Smith had a down year for the Bengals but can be solid in pass protection and a mauling run blocker. Loadholdt is a good run blocker and can be solid in pass protection as well but now has an injury concern.
Alex Boone was added to improve the run blocking and pass protection at right guard from the 49ers. Brandon Fusco had a terrible year in 2015 (-16.1) but has been solid in the past for Minnesota at the other guard spot.
Joe Berger did really well filling in for Sullivan at center. Mike Harris played all season at right guard for Minnesota and has some experience now. Harris could push Fusco at guard. Third right tackle TJ Clemmings is a 4th round pick with experience after playing (and struggling) all of 2015.
Matt Kalil is a poor left tackle. He has a lot of starting experience and is durable but really struggles in pass protection. Kalil improved some in 2015 compared to 2013/2014 but still could be upgraded. The Vikings don’t have a true left tackle backup on the roster with Clemmings and Smith.
Minnesota has good interior and right tackle depth but Loadholdt, Smith, Fusco and Kalil have a lot to prove in 2016.
Seventh: Chicago Bears
The Bears have a good right guard in Kyle Long. Long slides back inside after being a solid right tackle season in 2015. Bobbie Massie was added in free agency but Massie has not been a very good right tackle from Arizona. Charles Leno Jr struggled in 2015 but has some experience now at left tackle.
Hronnis Grasu is a 3rd round pick from 2015 that will be expected to start at center. Ted Larsen and Manny Ramirez will provide the depth. Second round pick Cody Whitehair will be the new left guard after the Bears cut veteran Matt Slausen.
The Bears are solid on the interior offensive line. Massie and Leno have some experience but they are below average starting tackles. The Bears tackle depth is poor but Long would slide to right tackle and Ramirez would start at guard if Massie or Leno were hurt.
Eighth: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Donovan Smith was one of the worst rated left tackle in the league as a rookie in 2015. Demar Dotson is a good right tackle but was injured and only played 202 snaps in 2015. Gosder Cherilus is good depth with starting experience with Lions and Colts. Cherilus struggled in 2015 with Tampa Bay however. Caleb Benenoch was drafted in Round 5 of the 2016 draft to be the fourth tackle.
Evan Dietrich Smith has been a disappointment at center and Joe Hawley looks to play much better than he did in Atlanta. Both centers have experience but not enough talent.
Ali Marpet was a good run blocker from a small school as a rookie and should develop in pass protection. Logan Mankins retired and the Bucs added JR Sweezy in free agency from Seattle. Sweezy had a poor year for the Seahawks but is a tough run blocker. Garrett Gilkey isn’t much depth behind these starters.
The Buccaneers have a good right tackle and some young talent at left tackle but lack the production and protection. Marpet and Sweezy and Dietrich Smith must prove they can protect Jameis Winston. Doug Martin and Charles Sims still had a good year running the ball but the protection must be better than in 2015 (37.6%).
The Lions have the most talent and are the deepest offensive line. Once Cooter took over, the Lions offensive line shined and now they fixed right tackle and center and depth this offseason. The Packers have a very good offensive line too with depth. However, Linsley and Bulaga must rebound in 2016 and their run game must improve.
The Saints and Falcons lack at guard but have good tackles and centers. Both teams lack depth. Carolina has great guards but lack at pass protection with tackle and lack depth.
The Bears have a solid interior and some depth but have tackle issues like Carolina. Finally, the Bucs have left tackle and interior issues but could run block well with Marpet and Sweezy and Dotson in the fold.
Join us tomorrow to discuss the receiving weapons rankings.