The 10 Best Offensive Guards in NFL History

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst IMarch 7, 2012

The 10 Best Offensive Guards in NFL History

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    There's probably not a position more overlooked and more taken for granted than offensive guard. Think about it for a second. 

    Obviously, the skill guys get all the love. And linebackers and defensive linemen at least get the chance to make sacks, tackles for loss, fumble recoveries and interceptions.

    And even on the offensive line, tackles are highly coveted because they are charged with blindside protection of the quarterback, while centers—who at least get to touch the ball on every play—are widely considered the "quarterback" of the offensive line.

    So where does that leave the right and left guard? Well, usually just blamed for a holding or false start call.

    But on this list, that's not the case! Here, guards get some well-deserved attention.

    I give you the 10 greatest guards in NFL history. 

No. 10: Steve Hutchinson

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    Years: 2001-present

    Teams: Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings

    Achievements: Seven All-Pro selections

    During the past decade, there have been plenty of fine guards in the NFL. Will Shields, Alan Faneca and Brian Waters to name a few. But the best of this generation is Hutchinson. 

    He's been blocked for two different rushing champions (Shaun Alexander, Adrian Peterson), and before suffering an injury in 2010, was a first team All-Pro for a whopping seven consecutive seasons.

No. 9: Joe DeLamielleure

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    Years: 1973-85

    Teams: Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns

    Achievements: Six All-Pro selections, Hall of Fame (2003)

    As great as O.J. Simpson was, he couldn't do it alone. And the man who opened up holes for the Juice year in and year out was this former Michigan State Spartan.

    In his first season running behind Joe D, Simpson set the single-season rushing mark, then won two more rushing titles in 1975 and 1976.

    And in case there was any question about whether or not DeLamielleure was a one-trick pony, only a great run-blocking guard, consider this. 

    After being traded to Cleveland in 1980, Browns quarterback Brian Sipe won the NFL MVP. DeLamielleure's pass protection was a huge reason why. 

No. 8: Russ Grimm

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    Years: 1981-91

    Teams: Washington Redskins

    Achievements: Four All-Pro selections, three Super Bowl wins

    The Hogs offensive line of the 1980s Washington Redskins was loaded with talent: Jim Latchey, Joe Jacoby, Mark May and Raleigh McKenzie.

    But Grimm might be the most famous, and perhaps the best.

    He brought great strength and speed to that Redskins team, but also an attitude that Washington rode to three Super Bowl titles in a span of 10 seasons. 

No. 7: Tom Mack

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    Years: 1966-78

    Teams: Los Angeles Rams

    Achievements: 11 Pro Bowls, Hall of Fame (1999)

    Maybe their technique wasn't as refined, their feet not as quick, their strength not as great, but the offensive linemen of the 1960s and early 1970s deserve a serious chunk of this list. And here's the first of several entries. 

    Although the studs on defense (Merlin Olsen, Lamar Lundy and Deacon Jones) were much more celebrated, Mack may have been the best in-the-trenches player on the Rams pseudo-dynasty of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

    Behind him, the Rams and their limited talent at the skill positions had some of the best offenses in the NFL. In 1973, they led the league in points, and Mack deserves as much credit as anyone. 

No. 6: Mike Munchak

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    Years: 1982-93

    Teams: Houston Oilers

    Achievements: 10 All-Pro selections, Hall of Fame (2001) 

    It's not often that a guard goes in the top 10 of the NFL draft. In fact, it hasn't happened since 1997, when the Saints selected Chris Naeole 10th overall. 

    But the Oilers sure made the right choice in 1982, selecting this Penn State Nittany Lion eighth overall.

    In Munchak's first full year on the job, he was a key component to the offensive line that rejuvenated Earl Campbell's career (1,301 yards in 1983), then showed no decrease in value once the Oilers switched to the Run and Shoot offense in the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

No. 5: Larry Allen

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    Years: 1994-2007

    Teams: Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers

    Achievements: Seven All-Pro selections, one Super Bowl

    His guard counterpart, Nate Newton, drew more headlines and was a fine lineman himself, but the most dominant and ferocious offensive lineman of the 1990s Cowboy dynasty was Allen.

    The second round pick from little Sonoma State became legendary for his achievements in the weight room, but it was how those feats of strength translated to the field that earned him a spot in seven consecutive All-Pro selections.

    He may have arrived in Dallas after the start of the Cowboy dynasty, but after Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin were long gone, Allen was still going to Pro Bowls regularly. 

No. 4: Randall McDaniel

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    Years: 1988-2001

    Teams: Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Achievements: Nine All-Pro selections, Hall of Fame (2009)

    It doesn't matter than he never won—or even appeared in—a Super Bowl. McDaniel was the best interior lineman of his era.

    From the moment he reached the NFL in 1988, he missed only two games, and beginning in 1990, didn't miss a single start until he left the game in 2001. That type of durability is vital for any offensive lineman.

    But durability isn't what earned him a spot in Canton. He routinely drove bigger defensive tackles off the ball so that Robert Smith, Randy Moss and Cris Carter could become stars and Randall Cunningham, Jeff George and Warren Moon could enjoy greatness in their twilights. 

No. 3: Jerry Kramer

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    Years: 1958-68

    Teams: Green Bay Packers

    Achievements: Five All-Pro selections, five NFL titles  

    Utter shame. That's probably the best way to describe the fact that Kramer isn't in the Hall of Fame.

    The Packer sweep was the staple of Green Bay's dynasty during the 1960s, and as much as Paul Hornung or Jim Taylor, Kramer was the centerpiece. He was the "power" in the Power Sweep. 

    That alone should be enough to punch his ticket to the Hall of Fame. The five world championships should clinch it. 

No. 2: Gene Upshaw

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    Years: 1967-81

    Teams: Oakland Raiders

    Achievements: Six Pro Bowls, two Super Bowl wins, Hall of Fame (1987)

    Several of the names on this list had the luxury of playing beside superstar tackles. Jerry Kramer had Forrest Gregg, Russ Grimm had Joe Jacoby, Steve Hutchinson had Walter Jones. But that doesn't diminish their achievements.

    The same is true for Gene Upshaw, who was fortunate to play beside Art Shell. Together, they allowed Ken Stabler to stand in the pocket like a statue and almost never fear a hit was coming to his front side. 

    And in the running game, Upshaw's exceptional quickness and strength were invaluable, but it was his ferocious attitude that was his greatest asset. 

No. 1: John Hannah

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    Years: 1973-85

    Teams: New England Patriots

    Achievements: 10 All-Pro selections, Hall of Fame (1991)

    One of the most underrated players in NFL history, Hannah never blocked for a superstar quarterback or running back, never won a Super Bowl and therefore, never got the credit he deserved. 

    But he was one of the best pulling/lead guards the game ever saw, had textbook pass pro technique and only missed seven starts in his entire career.