Power Ranking NFL Offensive Line Depth Charts
No matter what you do with the ball in the NFL, a good offensive line is key to winning on a regular basis. That's why teams are still investing high first-round picks on the position and bending over backward to lure marquee free agents to town.
After a 2014 offseason that saw a ton of player movement and draft picks spent on the offensive line, it's time to look ahead and project which NFL team will have the best (and worst) offensive line play this season.
Taking into account projected ability for veterans, predraft rankings for rookies and scheme fits for all players, here's a look—bottom to top—at which players in the trenches will make the best unit in 2014.
32. Carolina Panthers
Starters (left to right): Nate Chandler, Amini Silatolu, Ryan Kalil, Garry Williams, Byron Bell
Key Reserves: Trai Turner (rookie), Edmund Kugbila
The Carolina Panthers faced an exodus this offseason, and the offensive line was hit as hard as any position. Coming off one of his best pro seasons, left tackle Jordan Gross retired, leaving a gaping hole at the position and putting the entire line in flux.
With other needs along the roster and a lack of talent available late in the first round, the Panthers weren't able to fill needs through the draft and will be asked to roll with two former undrafted free agents at both tackle spots.
Ryan Kalil is a top-tier center, but this unit is very questionable at guard and tackle.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars
Starters: Luke Joeckel, Brandon Linder (rookie), Mike Brewster, Zane Beadles, Austin Pasztor
Key Reserves: Cameron Bradfield, Sam Young, Luke Bowanko (rookie)
The Jacksonville Jaguars have a good one in left tackle Luke Joeckel, but the rest of the offensive line gives you pause.
Joeckel missed 11 games in his rookie season with an ankle injury, but he was starting to show major flashes before that time. And now that he's back at his natural position of left tackle, he'll shine. Joeckel, at the time he was drafted, had the highest grade I had ever given an offensive tackle.
The Jaguars have plenty of potential here, and right tackle Austin Pasztor is a fun young guy to watch down the road, but this group is still trying to find chemistry and consistency. Rookie Brandon Linder, a third-round pick, doesn't add much, given his predraft grade at No. 259 overall.
Starters: Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Kory Lichtensteiger, Chris Chester, Tyler Polumbus
Key Reserves: Morgan Moses (rookie), Spencer Long (rookie), Josh LeRibeus
When you look at the offensive line in Washington, it's easy to be spellbound by elite left tackle Trent Williams. That's all well and good, but the rest of the line is a mess.
That could change down the road thanks to smart pickups throughout the last two drafts. Josh LeRibeus, Morgan Moses and Spencer Long have the potential to seriously elevate this unit, but until they are in the starting lineup, it's all based on projection and not production.
Williams is elite, but if Jay Gruden wants to keep Robert Griffin III healthy, getting the young guns on the field sooner rather than later would be smart.
29. Arizona Cardinals
Starters: Jared Veldheer, Jonathan Cooper, Lyle Sendlein, Paul Fanaika, Bradley Sowell
Key Reserves: Bobby Massie, Nate Potter, Anthony Steen (rookie)
The Arizona Cardinals, like many of the teams ranked near the bottom of the list, have one standout player (Veldheer), a young guy with loads of potential (Cooper) and then a lot of question marks.
At center the team has done well with Sendlein, but he's a middle-of-the-road starter. Still, he's the third best lineman on the team. The right side of the line should keep Carson Palmer up at night—especially when he thinks about Ahmad Brooks or Chris Long coming past Bradley Sowell at right tackle.
The team signed Eric Winston to a one-year deal at right tackle last year, and if Sowell and Bobby Massie play like they did last season, the Cardinals should have Winston on speed dial.
28. Indianapolis Colts
Starters: Anthony Castonzo, Donald Thomas, Khaled Holmes, Hugh Thornton, Gosder Cherilus
Key Reserves: Jack Mewhort (rookie), John Ulrick (rookie), Xavier Nixon
The Indianapolis Colts used a first-round pick on left tackle Anthony Castonzo and paid free agent Gosder Cherilus big money—so why are they still ranked in the bottom five of the league's offensive lines?
That's thanks to the interior offensive line play.
The 2013 season was a highlight in bad guard and center play, and the front office has to be banking on big seasons of growth from youngsters Holmes and Thornton. General manager Ryan Grigson also brought in depth and competition in the form of Jack Mewhort and John Ulrick, but the investments made to better the offensive line here don't match up with the on-field product.
The Colts may be a step ahead of the teams ranked below them, but they're still trailing the rest of the NFL by a big margin.
27. Oakland Raiders
Starters: Donald Penn, Tony Bergstrom, Stefen Wisniewski, Kevin Boothe, Austin Howard
Key Reserves: Menelik Watson, Gabe Jackson (rookie), Khalif Barnes
The Oakland Raiders are in a win-now mode with both general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen approaching "prove it" status. But can the team win with a rag-tag offensive line thrown together in the offseason?
That's the big question mark here. If you look at the players individually, the group has some talent and upside. Donald Penn isn't the best athlete in the world, but he's a quality starter at left tackle. The same goes for Austin Howard, who has good potential to improve at right tackle.
When looking at rookie guard Gabe Jackson, it's easy to see him finding a role in the offense, especially given his run-blocking skills. With a solid core group surrounding center Stefan Wisniewski, this line could end the season ranked much higher than it is placed here.
26. New York Jets
Starters: D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Brian Winters, Nick Mangold, Willie Colon, Breno Giacomini
Key Reserves: Ben Ijalana, Oday Aboushi, Dakota Dozier (rookie)
The New York Jets have a strong mix of savvy veterans, young upstarts and journeymen on the offensive line. Add all that up, and you have a unit that's not overly strong when compared across the league. The range in talent on this line is pretty huge.
D'Brickashaw Ferguson remains a solid left tackle, but his play has started to regress some. Nick Mangold is still one of the league's better centers, but around the two mainstays the talent is very shaky.
Willie Colon and Breno Giacomini are a weak group on the right side, and left guard Brian Winters severely struggled in 2013. While Ferguson and Mangold are solid fixtures, the lack of consistency beside them keeps the Jets down low on this list.
25. San Diego Chargers
Starters: King Dunlap, Chad Rinehart, Nick Hardwick, Johnnie Troutman, D.J. Fluker
Key Reserves: Chris Watt (rookie), Michael Harris
The San Diego Chargers defied expectations when they made a run to the playoffs in 2013. Now the offensive line that propelled that run is back to keep Philip Rivers and Co. going for another season.
The team had to be happy with the play from bookends King Dunlap and D.J. Fluker. Dunlap, a castoff from Philadelphia, held down the fort all season with good play. Fluker, the Alabama rookie, was nearly dominant on the right side. They'll be the main players on the front five this fall.
The interior play is solid but keeps this group from ranking higher. Hardwick is nearing the end of his career, and guards Rinehart and Troutman are lower-level starters.
24. Kansas City Chiefs
Starters: Eric Fisher, Jeff Allen, Rodney Hudson, Jeff Linkenbach, Donald Stephenson
Key Reserves: Rishaw Johnson, Rokevious Watkins, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (rookie)
The Kansas City Chiefs have the potential on the O-line to go from No. 24 to the top 10 at season's end, but they are relying on a scary amount of youth and potential to open holes for one of the NFL's best rushing attacks.
Let's look at the tackles. Eric Fisher was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 draft but struggled at right tackle and with injuries in his first season. Donald Stephenson, the new right tackle, was the better of the two last year and has the athleticism to be elite—but this is his first extended test. Looking only at potential, the duo has a chance to be one of the best young groups in the league.
The interior line lost Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz, but Jeff Allen and Rodney Hudson are solid. The right guard position is a concern, though, and both Linkenbach and Watkins could see reps there.
Don't be surprised if this unit struggles early in the year before developing into a top-tier group by season's end, but right now there are too many unknowns to bank on.
23. Miami Dolphins
Starters: Branden Albert, Dallas Thomas, Mike Pouncey, Shelley Smith, Ja'Wuan James (rookie)
Key Reserves: Billy Turner (rookie), Jason Fox, Danny Watkins
The Miami Dolphins needed a complete rebuild along the offensive line, and they got one in the offseason. The question now is, How quickly can the unit jell and become a top-tier group?
Branden Albert was a big free-agent addition, but he hasn't been a consistent top-tier left tackle and has some injury risks. At right tackle, Ja'Wuan James has long-term starter potential but was graded as a late second-round pick.
The Dolphins offensive line should be significantly better, but anyone expecting a top-10 unit this season may be in for a disappointment.
22. Minnesota Vikings
Starters: Matt Kalil, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco, Phil Loadholt
Key Reserves: David Yankey (rookie), Antonio Richardson (rookie), Vladimir Ducasse
The Minnesota Viking offensive line is anchored by one of the best young left tackles in the league. But Matt Kalil alone can't bring this group into the top 20.
He has the potential to be an All-Pro-caliber player and is without a doubt the most talented lineman on the team. Center John Sullivan has been very good in the run game and is a high-level starter also. At right tackle, Phil Loadholt is a bit of a sleeper nationally but a very good player overall.
The concerns come at guard, where Johnson and Fusco aren't proven as capable starters. Johnson would be a better swing tackle than starting left guard, and Fusco must continue to develop into his starter's role.
21. Houston Texans
Starters: Duane Brown, Ben Jones, Chris Myers, Brandon Brooks, Derek Newton
Key Reserves: Xavier Su'a-Filo (rookie), Brennan Williams, Cody White
The Houston Texans have one of the NFL's best run-blocking schemes, but they also have an elite left tackle in Duane Brown. Weighing the talent versus the scheme is tough here, especially with a new head coach coming in, but the Texans have a lot to like.
Brown is a given, even after a down season in 2013. The next best player on the line—Chris Myers—was ideal for a zone-blocking scheme. The same goes for Ben Jones, a converted college center.
The right side is less proven, but both Brooks and Newton have the athleticism to be factors if their technique and footwork improve. The guy to watch is rookie Xavier Su'a-Filo. He could be a star at guard.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers
Starters: Kelvin Beachum, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert
Key Reserves: Mike Adams, Wesley Johnson (rookie), Guy Whimper
The Pittsburgh Steelers may not have one elite, standout player on the offensive line, but the sum of those parts is quite good. And there is potential here for a breakout player.
Guard David DeCastro left Stanford as one of the best offensive guards of the last decade. Now that he's healthy, look for him to make a move to top-10 status in 2014. The same could be said for Maurkice Pouncey, who has top-10 talent at center if he can focus on his play.
At tackle the team rolled the dice on Kelvin Beachum and got a very good performer. Marcus Gilbert is solid at right tackle but unexceptional to date. Guard Ramon Foster is the weak link on the line, which could open a door for rookie Wesley Johnson down the road.
19. New Orleans Saints
Starters: Terron Armstead, Ben Grubbs, Tim Lelito, Jahri Evans, Zach Strief
Key Reserves: Jonathan Goodwin, Manase Foketi, Senio Kelemete
The New Orleans Saints have built their offensive line with a focus on the interior as opposed to the edges—a contrast to what most pro teams do. It's worked well for them, given quarterback Drew Brees' ability to step up in the pocket to find passing lanes. With Brees being a shorter quarterback, this inside-out building of the line makes sense.
The talent here is definitely at guard. Ben Grubbs and Jahri Evans are both Pro Bowl and All-Pro quality. The battle between Tim Lelito and Jonathan Goodwin at center will be interesting, and Goodwin's experience may give him the edge.
At tackle the team is banking big on second-year left tackle Terron Armstead. He's an athletic marvel and could be a stud protecting the blind side, but his inexperience and the lack of star power at center and right tackle keep the Saints lower on this list than many would expect.
18. Buffalo Bills
Starters: Cordy Glenn, Chris Williams, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik, Chris Hairston
Key Reserves: Cyrus Kouandjio (rookie), Cyril Richardson (rookie), Seantrel Henderson (rookie)
The Buffalo Bills are building a huge unit along the offensive line, and it's paying off given the hard-charging style of offense they relied on last season.
Keeping EJ Manuel healthy will be the task this fall. Third-year left tackle Cordy Glenn may look more like a power guard, but he's played very well at tackle and could take another step forward this year. It's easy to be disappointed by Chris Williams at guard, but look for Cyril Richardson to eventually take that job.
Center Eric Wood is capable of top-tier play, but the right side of the line is questionable with Chris Hairston, Erik Pears and Cyrus Kouandjio all in play for the starting job. Given the youth here, the Bills could rank much higher after the season.
17. Atlanta Falcons
Starters: Sam Baker, Justin Blalock, Joe Hawley, Jon Asamoah, Jake Matthews (rookie)
Key Reserves: Lamar Holmes, Peter Konz, Mike Johnson
The Atlanta Falcons made improving the offensive line a key priority this offseason. It looks like the plan paid off, at least on paper.
Sam Baker and Jake Matthews form a tackle duo that could be high level, especially if Matthews plays left tackle and Baker moves to the right side. Matthews left Texas A&M as a very accomplished and finished product and should make a major impact early.
On the inside of the line, you have to like the addition of Jon Asamoah to add to the team's athleticism. He and Justin Blalock form one of the more underrated guard combinations in the game and should help Joe Hawley at center.
The Falcons don't have many big names or Pro Bowl invites, but they have more talent than many realize.
16. New York Giants
Starters: Will Beatty, Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, Chris Snee, Justin Pugh
Key Reserves: Weston Richburg (rookie), John Jerry, Charles Brown
The New York Giants could realistically enter the season with three new starters along the offensive line. That's how they are able to go from one of the league's worst offensive lines in 2013 to a much-improved group heading into 2014.
Left tackle Will Beatty, right guard Chris Snee and right tackle Justin Pugh could all return from starting jobs in 2013, but expect Beatty and Snee to be pushed in training camp. The team added Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton and Weston Richburg to play big roles here, which could push Snee out of the lineup if his play drops off more.
The overall talent here is good, but the question mark at left tackle and the lack of chemistry heading into the season keep the Giants down a little lower.
15. Cincinnati Bengals
Starters: Andrew Whitworth, Clint Boling, Trevor Robinson, Kevin Zeitler, Andre Smith
Key Reserves: Marshall Newhouse, Russell Bodine (rookie), Trey Hopkins (rookie)
The Cincinnati Bengals have a solid front line and a good situation on the second unit too. With solid starters at four positions—all but center are established—the team has the type of offensive line presence to keep Andy Dalton upright at quarterback and fuel a strong run game.
The depth here is good too. Newhouse is starting-caliber, and rookies Russell Bodine and Trey Hopkins look like future starters.
The only reason the Bengals aren't ranked higher is that their established talent isn't of an elite category—or at least it wasn't in 2013, and the young players on the roster don't project to that level right away. Kevin Zeitler may be there soon, but as of now this is a very good unit that's edged out by teams with a better talent level at each position group.
14. Tennessee Titans
Starters: Michael Roos, Andy Levitre, Brian Schwenke, Chance Warmack, Taylor Lewan (rookie)
Key Reserves: Michael Oher, Chris Spencer
The Tennessee Titans have built an offensive line that is ready to compete in 2014 and beyond. The biggest question is, Which starting five will take the field?
Moving left to right, the talent and experience are good. Michael Roos, at left tackle, is a top-10 player at the position when healthy. He is battling age and injury, though, and could see this as his last season in Tennessee. Andy Levitre at left guard is one of the best in the game, and he's flanked by an up-and-comer at center with Brian Schwenke holding down the job. He was a favorite of mine coming out of the 2013 draft and could be very good.
Chance Warmack will take a big step forward this year, and he could be one of the best run-blocking guards in football. Now the battle at right tackle—between Michael Oher and Taylor Lewan—could be great for the team. If Oher is pushed, he can be very good. Lewan is the future at left tackle and won't be a loss if he's the sixth lineman this year.
13. Green Bay Packers
Starters: David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, J.C. Tretter, T.J. Lang, Bryan Bulaga
Key Reserves: Corey Linsley (rookie), Don Barclay, Derek Sherrod
The Green Bay Packers have the talent along the offensive line to be a top-10 unit if everyone can stay healthy. That's been a big problem for them in the past several seasons.
Working from the blind side over, you have to like what fourth-rounder David Bakhtiari did in his rookie season. You could argue he was the best rookie offensive tackle in the game. At guard the team is loaded with Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang—that's a combo with room to be as good as any in the league.
The right tackle position is very good as long as Bryan Bulaga is at 100 percent. He could be the best in the game there. The only real question mark comes at center, where J.C. Tretter looks to make his first career start as a sophomore in 2014.
If this group can stay healthy, look for big improvement across the board.
12. Baltimore Ravens
Starters: Eugene Monroe, Kelechi Osemele, Jeremy Zuttah, Marshal Yanda, Ricky Wagner
Key Reserves: James Hurst (rookie), Jah Reid, Will Rackley
When you think about the best offensive lines in football, do the Baltimore Ravens come to mind? They should.
After upgrading the left tackle position via a trade to land Eugene Monroe last year, this unit took off. He is a legitimate top-10 contender at left tackle and truly anchored the Ravens offensive line once he settled down. Beside him the team has a truly underrated star in Kelechi Osemele—and his counterpart at right guard in Marshal Yanda is one of the best in the game.
There are new starters at center and right tackle, but both could be upgrades. Wagner's inexperience at right tackle is a concern, but the former Wisconsin standout is a solid prospect.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Starters: Anthony Collins, Carl Nicks, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Patrick Omameh, Demar Dotson
Key Reserves: Jamon Meredith, Kadeem Edwards (rookie), Kevin Pamphile (rookie)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came into this offseason determined to improve their offensive line. You can argue that the move to add Anthony Collins while releasing Donald Penn did just that.
This group got younger and more athletic while also focusing on building the type of offensive line that Lovie Smith wants. Collins, Evan Dietrich-Smith and Patrick Omameh are new starters, but each is a mover and a run-blocker. That's Smith's style of offense.
Plug the new starters in with mainstays like Carl Nicks and Demar Dotson, and it's easy to see why the Buccaneers are my pick for the NFL's most improved team in 2014.
10. St. Louis Rams
Starters: Jake Long, Greg Robinson (rookie), Scott Wells, Rodger Saffold, Joe Barksdale
Key Reserves: Davin Joseph, Brandon Washington, Mike Person
The St. Louis Rams made aggressive moves in the 2014 offseason to secure the present and the future of the offensive line. You can bet on an immediate payoff along the front five.
Left tackle Jake Long is a prototypical star at the position, but he's coming off an injury. Still, when healthy, he's shown to be a top-five left tackle. To protect against his current and future injuries, the team used the No. 2 overall pick on stud tackle Greg Robinson. He'll start the year at guard, but he's a future tackle and a dang good one at that.
The center position is locked down by Scott Wells, and he has two familiar faces to his right. Rodger Saffold is a very good right guard, and Joe Barksdale was a surprising performer at right tackle last fall. If they're both healthy, this is a sneaky good right side.
9. Seattle Seahawks
Starters: Russell Okung, James Carpenter, Max Unger, J.R. Sweezy, Michael Bowie
Key Reserves: Alvin Bailey, Justin Britt (rookie), Steve Schilling (rookie)
The Seattle Seahawks dominated the NFC and won a Super Bowl in 2013 by featuring a tough run game and smart, measured passing. The credit goes to the skill players but also to this offensive line.
Russell Okung is one of the best in the league and can be a top-tier player at left tackle. In his absence, Michael Bowie proved his value and earned a starting job in 2014. Keep an eye on Alvin Bailey here, too, as he has big potential to be a starter at tackle or guard.
The interior is set at center with Max Unger becoming a high-level player and upstart J.R. Sweezy coming on strong at right guard. The left guard spot isn't as finished with James Carpenter in the lineup, but Bailey or rookie Justin Britt could push for playing time there if moved from tackle.
8. Dallas Cowboys
Starters: Tyron Smith, Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin (rookie), Doug Free
Key Reserves: Mackenzy Bernadeau, Darrion Weems, Jeremy Parnell
During the 2013 season, the Dallas Cowboys had a good amount of individual talent along the offensive line, but it was not a cohesive unit. That's a problem they hope to have fixed for 2014.
The returning corps of players is good. Tyron Smith is making a name for himself as one of the best tackles in the league, and opposite him Doug Free made a smooth transition to right tackle while extending his career with a position change. Rookie Travis Frederick was a third-round pick in my book before the draft, but he very quickly shut up his critics with a strong first season.
The new additions are first-rounder Zack Martin, who has All-Pro written all over him at right guard or even right tackle. Ronald Leary is a name to watch at left guard, but there is a chance incumbent Mackenzy Bernadeau stays in the starting job. Either way, this is a much improved group overall and one of the best in the league from top to bottom.
7. Cleveland Browns
Starters: Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio (rookie), Alex Mack, John Greco, Mitchell Schwartz
Key Reserves: Jason Pinkston, Reid Fragel, Paul McQuistan
The Cleveland Browns are not a team you generally see ranked very high on lists talking about the best at anything. But when it comes to offensive line play, they've earned a top-10 spot.
The Browns have the NFL's cleanest technician at left tackle in Joe Thomas and the best center in Alex Mack. That's a great start to get into the top 10, but the addition of Joel Bitonio at left guard really pushes them over the competition.
Bitonio and John Greco may not scare you on paper, but on the field they should be a very nice duo in a zone-blocking scheme. That allows Mitchell Schwartz to stay at right tackle, and he'll be much better this year with a more stable offense around him.
A winning season may be outside of reasonable expectations, but a top-10 offensive line is not.
6. Detroit Lions
Starters: Riley Reiff, Rob Sims, Dominic Raiola, Larry Warford, LaAdrian Waddle
Key Reserves: Travis Swanson (rookie), Corey Hilliard
The Detroit Lions would have been a reach as a top-20 team last year at this time, but smart drafting and good development from the existing players allowed for a major improvement in 2013. There's nothing standing in the way of more development in 2014 that could push this group even higher.
Riley Reiff stepped into the starting left tackle job and owned it in his second season, paving the way for the right side of the line to excel with two new starters (Warford and Waddle) who also exceeded expectations. Even with three new starters who were all very fresh into their careers, this group dominated in the run game.
The youth here combined with the experience of Sims and Raiola gives the Lions an ideal mix up front, but they also have good youth with Travis Swanson looking like the future in the middle.
5. New England Patriots
Starters: Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer
Key Reserves: Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming (rookie), Jon Halapio (rookie), Bryan Stork (rookie)
It's generally expected that the New England Patriots will rank highly in these types of articles—they have been one of the NFL's most successful teams over the last 15 years after all. But when it comes to offensive line play, it's well-earned.
The Patriots are set up at tackle with Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer being the ideal model for today's edge-blocker. The inside isn't as set, but Logan Mankins is still an elite technician and mauler in the run game.
That trio is the anchor of the line, with Ryan Wendell (center) and Dan Connolly (guard) likely to be pushed by Marcus Cannon and Bryan Stork now or in the very near future. The fact that a team with this much talent added three rookies and has Cannon waiting in the wings is remarkable.
4. Denver Broncos
Starters: Ryan Clady, Orlando Franklin, Manny Ramirez, Louis Vasquez, Chris Clark
Key Reserves: Winston Justice, Will Montgomery, Michael Schofield (rookie)
The Denver Broncos rolled through the AFC and made it all the way to the Super Bowl in 2013. With key starters like Ryan Clady back—and a few other moves—the offensive line could be even better in 2014.
Clady is a given on the blind side and one of the better athletes you'll see at the spot. He'll be joined on the left side by Orlando Franklin, who makes the move to guard after struggling a bit at tackle in the postseason. But this move will actually make the team better, as Chris Clark is set to step into the right tackle spot. Based on the flashes he showed last year, this could make the unit an elite one.
Manny Ramirez and Louis Vasquez are back at center and right guard, and both have shown very good skills to play well in the Broncos system.
3. Chicago Bears
Starters: Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza, Kyle Long, Jordan Mills
Key Reserves: Charles Leno (rookie), Eben Britton, Brian De La Puente
One year ago, the Chicago Bears were coming off a brutal offensive line performance and relying on a brand-new group of starters to fuel the offense. And it worked.
Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza and rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills were not expected to become one of the NFL's best offensive lines, but by season's end they were. The five players became a cohesive unit very quickly, and as the season wore on, they really hit their stride. Entering 2014, they could be dangerously good.
This starting five is backed up by good depth with rookie Charles Leno and free-agent addition Brian De La Puente. In a worst-case scenario, either one could step in and contribute at a solid level.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
Starters: Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson
Key Reserves: Allen Barbre, Donald Hawkins, Matt Tobin
The Philadelphia Eagles were breaking in a new system in 2013 during Chip Kelly's first season. To succeed they needed a strong offensive line performance, and they got one from the returning starters, the up-and-coming youngsters and their rookie right tackle.
Jason Peters is now two years removed from injury and looked like his elite self in 2013. With one of the game's best left guards—Evan Mathis—next to him, the Eagles have one of the NFL's best left sides. They also have one of the best centers in Jason Kelce. You could put Philly in a top two of the best left sides (left tackle to center) in the pros.
The right side is good too, with Lane Johnson really starting to come around after being the No. 4 overall pick in the 2013 draft. Todd Herremans isn't the NFL's best right guard, but he is good. Youngsters Allen Barbre and Donald Hawkins could have futures here at guard.
1. San Francisco 49ers
Starters: Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Daniel Kilgore, Alex Boone, Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Marcus Martin (rookie), Jonathan Martin, Adam Snyder, Brandon Thomas (rookie)
The San Francisco 49ers have one of the game's best young quarterbacks, an elite backfield, a ridiculous group at wide receiver and now this—the NFL's top-ranked offensive line. Jim Harbaugh might be on to something when he says no one has it better than his team.
Joe Staley will never win an award for the cleanest pass blocking, but his superb run blocking makes him an incredibly talented and valuable left tackle. The run-blocking dominance is a theme of the offensive line here.
Mike Iupati and Alex Boone make up a dangerous duo at tackle (assuming Boone's holdout doesn't carry into the season), and right tackle Anthony Davis is a high-end athlete and run-blocker. The returning starters on the line will break in a new center—either Daniel Kilgore or rookie Marcus Martin.
But the starters aren't all that's working here. Rookie Brandon Thomas was a first-rounder before tearing his ACL before the draft, and Jonathan Martin was a starter in Miami before leaving the team. The depth here is impressive.
Note: All depth charts courtesy of Ourlads.com
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