Offensive Line Rankings: Midseason Awards

by Dan Fornek · Analytics & Advanced Metrics

Eight weeks of the NFL season is the perfect time to take a step back and revisit the performances of NFL teams. NFL fans realize the season is nearly at the true halfway point. For fantasy players, the season is halfway over (unless you play in an insane league that has a Week 18 championship).

One of the challenges with evaluating offensive lines before the season is blending past production and offensive line configurations to try and predict future results. Offensive linemen are gigantic humans who are guaranteed to absorb contact on every single play. That means that their bodies can break down at any point. This makes predictions exceedingly difficult.

Check out Dan Fornek’s full offensive line rankings here –>

Add in the fact that offensive lines operate as units and one change can enhance (or throw off) any cohesiveness and you have plenty of variables to evaluate. This article will break down some of the best (and worst) performances now that we have plenty of film and data at our disposal.

Best Overall Offensive Line

Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions have been the best offensive line in the NFL despite a series of injuries that have forced them to experiment with different combinations to start the season. Only one of their starting offensive linemen (Penei Sewell) played in every game this season. Thankfully for Detroit, Sewell has developed into one of the best tackles in the NFL. He’s allowed zero sacks and just five pressures while splitting time between right and left tackle to start the year.

Penei Sewell Advanced Stats & Metrics

The key to Detroit’s dominance has been the consistency the team has regardless of who is active on game day. Eight different offensive linemen have played at least 120 snaps (out of 572). That group has been credited with just six sacks given up and 70 pressures combined. Graham Glasgow has quietly been one of the best signings of the offseason. The veteran interior lineman is sixth on the team in snaps played (455). All while he’s split time between left guard, right guard, and center. Glasgow has allowed just 15 pressures on the season despite playing three different positions.

Honorable Mention: Philadelphia Eagles

As expected, the Eagles have once again performed as one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. The Eagles have gotten at least eight games from four of their starting offensive linemen. Right guard Cam Jurgens is the only lineman who has missed a significant amount of time.

Jordan Mailata (one sack and 20 pressures) and Lane Johnson (zero sacks and 11 pressures) remain one of the best tackle duos in the NFL. Jason Kelce (zero sacks and four pressures) continues to defy father time by delivering stellar play in the middle of the offensive line.

Worst Offensive Line

New York Giants

Coming into the season, the Giants were expected to be one of the top young offensive lines in the NFL. Injuries have ensured that this team will not hit their ceiling in 2023. Every single offensive line has missed at least one game this season. Star left tackle Andrew Thomas has played just 53 snaps due to a hamstring injury.

Andrew Thomas Advanced Stats & Metrics

Even without Thomas, none of New York’s linemen have seemingly taken a developmental step. Five different offensive linemen have given up at least 10 pressures in their limited playing time. PFF doesn’t have a single Giants offensive lineman with a pass-blocking grade above 57.0. Additionally, their highest-graded lineman (Mark Glowinski) was benched for poor play. He was thrusted back into starting action due to injuries earlier in the season.

Daniel Jones has gotten a lot of heat for his poor play this season. However, it is hard to blame him considering the awful play that has taken place in front of him.

Honorable Mention: Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals attempted to improve their offensive line with second-tier free-agent acquisitions (Hjalte Froholdt and Elijah Wilkinson) and by investing a top-10 pick in the 2023 draft in a premier tackle (Paris Johnson Jr.). Through eight games, those moves have mixed reviews.

Paris Johnson Advanced Stats & Metrics

In those eight weeks, four of Arizona’s five starting offensive linemen have allowed at least two sacks and 16 pressures. Paris Johnson Jr. has shown flashes of talent but has struggled with consistency while playing on the right side of the line. Elijah Wilkinson (33.5 PFF grade) was one of the worst guards in the NFL before an injury knocked him out of the last two games. Hjalte Froholdt has been the most impactful acquisition. However, he’s been extremely average. Currently, Froholdt is rated as PFF’s No. 29-ranked center out of 39 eligible players (155 snap minimum).

The one bright spot for Arizona has been the continued development of right guard Will Hernandez. Hernandez has turned into a very good guard after a disappointing start with the New York Giants. Unfortunately, that is just enough to edge the hapless Giants as one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL this season.

Best Run Blocking Offensive Line

Detroit Lions

The Lions are putting together a special season as a run-blocking group. Detroit’s collective offensive line has an average run-blocking grade of 66.84 to start the season. The Lions have a 16.4% stuffed run rate. Additionally, their running backs are averaging 2.0 yards before contact out of the backfield.

The work of the offensive line has manifested in the production of the running backs out of the backfield. Both Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery rank as top-20 rushers in the NFL by yards per contact to start the season. The Lions are averaging an absurd 3.5 yards per carry on run plays going between the right A-gap (the immediate right of the center) and the C-gap (the immediate right of the right tackle).

Detroit is getting quality offensive line play even though Detroit has been forced to play so many different linemen throughout the season. The Lions have lived up to their reputation as a dominant run-blocking unit. This will only serve them well as they make a push for a Super Bowl berth in 2023.

Honorable Mention: Atlanta Falcons

According to PFF, the Falcons have the edge on Detroit based on their average run-blocking grade (67.5). However, the advanced metrics don’t shine on them as favorably. Atlanta has a slightly higher stuffed run rate (18.1%). Additionally, Atlanta is averaging much fewer yards before contact (1.38) through the first half of the season.

Veteran guard Chris Lindstrom continues to make a case for the best interior offensive lineman in the NFL. The combination of Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier averaging 4.3 yards per carry behind him is impressive.

Worst Run Blocking Offensive Line

New York Giants

This ranking shouldn’t be surprising considering how many injuries the Giants have had to navigate to start the season. This includes running back Saquon Barkley. The Giants aren’t terrible at getting initial movement across the offensive line (19.2% stuffed run rate). However, they are allowing just 1.15 yards before contact to start the season.

Giants running backs are averaging 2.07 yards per carry on runs outside of the tackles this season. New York has just 18 runs of 10+ yards through eight weeks. Seven of those have come on quarterback scrambles. 

Honorable Mention: Green Bay Packers

Green Bay once again started the season navigating key injuries to their star offensive linemen left tackle David Bakhtiari and left guard Elgton Jenkins. In years past, they’ve been able to utilize their depth to withstand these injuries. However, this year that success just hasn’t been there. Part of the issue could be attributed to the lack of passing threat posed by Jordan Love. The offensive line also has to take their share of the blame.

Green Bay’s running backs are getting just 0.9 yards before contact in the team’s first seven games. The left C-gap (left shoulder of the left tackle) is the only running lane where backs have averaged over 3.0 yards per carry this season. This group just hasn’t proven to open rushing lanes on the ground this season. This is impacting the offense as a whole.

Best Pass Blocking Offensive Line

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay came into the 2023 season with several questions across their offensive line. While their work in the run game has left much to be desired, the offensive line has been phenomenal in pass protection.

Tampa Bay’s offensive linemen have allowed just five sacks and 71 pressures on 297 passing snaps through seven weeks. The Buccaneers are giving up a modest 27.1-percent pressure rate and are providing quarterback Baker Mayfield 2.75 seconds before he is pressured on the season. Mayfield is completing 69.9-percent of his passes in a clean pocket this season.

Tristan Wirfs Advanced Stats & Metrics

It would be criminal to mention this unit without taking time to acknowledge the greatness of Tristan Wirfs at tackle. Wirfs flipped from right tackle to left tackle this season (which is much more difficult than it seems) and is currently ranked as PFF’s No. 6-ranked tackle in the NFL. He’s allowed pressure on just 2-percent of his pass-blocking snaps this season.

Honorable Mention: Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders’ offense has gotten its fair share of criticism this season. The Raiders have issues given the firing of Josh McDaniels and the benching of Jimmy Garoppolo. However, if the new regime can put together a good offensive plan with rookie Aidan O’Connell, then this offensive line might be able to get the recognition they deserve in pass protection.

Las Vegas’ offensive line has collectively allowed 16 sacks this season. However, five of those can be credited to right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor. The team has started using Thayer Munford Jr. (7-percent pressure rate on 100 snaps) more at right tackle, which means this unit can get even better. The Raiders have provided their quarterbacks 2.7 seconds before being pressured this season. This is the No. 5 most time in the NFL this season.

Worst Pass Blocking Offensive Line

New York Giants

This one goes without saying. The struggles of the Giants’ offensive line are well documented this season and nearly every metric supports that idea. The Giants’ offensive linemen have averaged a league-worst 46.7 pass-blocking grade this season. To provide context, the next lowest grade is 52.2. Left tackle Andrew Thomas owns the unit’s best pass-blocking grade (70.1), but unfortunately, he has been limited to just 53 snaps.

As much publicity as Sam Howell gets for sacks this season, the Giants have given up just one more sack (40) than the Commanders on the year. Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor (and Tommy DeVito I guess) have been under pressure on 43.7-percent of dropbacks and have had just 2.0 seconds to throw this season.

Honorable Mention: New England Patriots

The Patriots’ offensive line struggled through injuries before the season, which forced the team to lean on developmental players far more than they anticipated across the offensive line. New England likely hoped they wouldn’t need to rely much on Vederian Lowe (27 pressures on 192 pass-blocking snaps) and Atonio Mafi (21 pressures on 209 pass-blocking snaps), but the team didn’t have much of a choice with injuries to Cole Strange, Riley Reiff, and Michael Onwenu.

New England is providing Mac Jones just 2.1 seconds to throw in the pocket this season. This has undoubtedly created complications within the passing offense. The Patriots have been using a new offensive line configuration now that they have gotten healthy with positive results. However, it is still far too early to reverse the early production.

Most Surprising Offensive Line

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders offensive line has been fantastic across the board to start the 2023 season. This is far more than anybody could have expected. The group has been even better given their switch to young tackle Thayer Munford Jr. over the last two weeks.

If you remove Jermaine Eluemunor from the team’s stats, the Raiders have allowed just 11 sacks and 60 pressures on the season. The Raiders have some growth that needs to take place as run blockers. However, they have been stellar in pass protection to start the season. All five of the Raiders’ offensive linemen (minus Eluemunor) have PFF pass-blocking grades above 63.0 through eight weeks.

Bad offensive production has masked the great start to the season from this offensive line, so it is time they get their props for their stellar play now that the team is transitioning away from Josh McDaniels and Jimmy Garoppolo.

Honorable Mention: Indianapolis Colts

The Colts struggled with injuries over the last two seasons. This made one of the best offensive lines in the NFL in 2020 extremely mediocre. The team also struggled to fill the left tackle void after the retirement of Anthony Castonzo. Those issues have seemingly been rectified this season.

Center Ryan Kelly has returned to form as one of the best centers in the NFL this season. Kelly is allowing just three pressures on 250 pass attempts while helping the running back tandem of Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss average 3.1 yards before contact in either A-gap. The Colts have also gotten solid play from both guards to start the season as well after both players came into the season with question marks either due to injuries (Quenton Nelson) or inexperience (Will Fries). This team can get even better if right tackle Braden Smith can recover quickly from injuries that have forced him to miss three games.

Best Rookie Offensive Lineman

Peter Skoronski, Guard, Tennessee Titans

Peter Skoronski has flown under the radar to start the season. This is thanks to a combination of poor play by the Titans offense and the games he was forced to miss after an emergency appendectomy. When healthy, Skoronski has been consistently good. He’s showing the same technical prowess that got him selected with the No. 11 overall pick of the NFL draft.

Peter Skoronski Advanced Stats & Metrics

The rookie offensive lineman has allowed just one sack and nine pressures on 152 pass-blocking snaps this season. Skoronski isn’t the most physically imposing or athletic lineman in the league. However, he is technically sound and is rarely in a position to get beat. Titans running backs are averaging 3.7 yards before contact behind the left guard this season. A lot of that credit can be attributed to the rookie.

Most Disappointing Rookie Offensive Lineman

John Michael Schmitz Jr., Center, New York Giants

The Giants selected John Michael Schmitz Jr. in the second round of the 2023 draft expecting to get a plug-and-play center that would fortify the interior of the offensive line, similar to the contributions the Ravens got from Tyler Linderbaum in 2022. So far, the results have not been the same.

John Michael Schmitz Advanced Stats & Metrics

Like the rest of New York’s offensive line, Schmitz has struggled to stay on the field. The times that he has been healthy have been largely underwhelming. Schmitz has given up seven pressures and a sack on 165 pass-blocking snaps (usually with help from either guard). Additionally, the Giants are averaging just 2.7 yards before contact when running between the A-gaps. It isn’t too late for the rookie to take a step (especially if he can string together some healthy games), but the early returns haven’t been great.

Best Ascending Offensive Lineman ( < 2 years experience)

Tyler Smith, Guard, Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys’ initial plan when drafting Tyler Smith was to play the raw, but powerful, offensive lineman at guard during his rookie season with Tyron Smith manning the left tackle position. Smith was forced into action at left tackle for a majority of his rookie season when Tyron was injured in 2022 and played very well given the situation. However, Dallas reverted to the original plan again to start the 2023 season, kicking the young lineman back to the interior. What they’ve discovered is one of the best young guards in the NFL today.

Tyler Smith Advanced Stats & Metrics

Smith is currently PFF’s No. 3 rated guard in the NFL (minimum 155 snaps). He’s behind only the Rams’ Kevin Dotson and Atlanta’s Chris Lindstrom. Through five games, the second-year offensive lineman has allowed just three pressures on 206 pass-blocking snaps and has been a consistent force in the run game.

Honorable Mention: Bernhard Raimann, Tackle, Indianapolis Colts

It isn’t a coincidence that the quality of play from the Colts’ offensive line coincides with the retirement of Anthony Costanzo. So none of us should be surprised that the offensive line is playing excellently again with the emergence of Bernhard Raimann as a legitimate force on the left side of the line.

Raimann had a disappointing rookie season but has leaped in his second year. The left tackle is currently PFF’s No. 10-rated tackle and has allowed just two sacks and 15 pressures on 278 pass attempts to begin the season. The Colts are averaging 2.7 yards before contact running the ball at Raimann this season.

Most Disappointing Offensive Lineman (< 2 years experience)

Trevor Penning, Tackle, New Orleans Saints

Evan Neal is the logical choice here. To his credit, he’s yet to be benched this season (injuries may have played a part in that). That is more than Saints’ left tackle Trevor Penning can say.

Penning missed a majority of his rookie season with a foot injury. The Saints expected Penning to dominate the left side of the offensive line for years to come after selecting the Northern Iowa lineman with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Penning lasted six games at left tackle this season, surrendering four sacks and 19 pressures on 245 pass-blocking snaps. Things are so bad for Penning that the team opted to move underwhelming left guard Andrus Peat to left tackle when backup James Hurst was injured.

The Saints would rather play a bad guard at tackle than Penning. It is hard to get much lower than that.

Honorable Mention: Evan Neal, Tackle, New York Giants

Evan Neal was seen as the safest offensive lineman in the NFL draft after a stellar collegiate career as Alabama’s left tackle. The Giants selected Neal in the top 10 of the 2022 NFL draft and figured that their tackle combination of Neal and Andrew Thomas would immediately pay massive dividends. Neal was bad during his rookie season, but he’s been absolutely brutal in Year 2.

Of offensive tackles with at least 126 snaps, Neal has the lowest PFF grade (39.0) and has surrendered the second most pressures this season (29). We are getting dangerously close to the “bust” label for the tackle after just two seasons of play (although his career could be salvaged by moving to the interior of the offensive line).