B/R's NFL 20 for '20: Projecting Top 20 Offensive Linemen in 2020

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterJanuary 20, 2016

B/R's NFL 20 for '20: Projecting Top 20 Offensive Linemen in 2020

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    We don't like to think about what the NFL will look like without tackles such as Joe Thomas or Jason Peters, or even underrated studs such as Andrew Whitworth, but it will happen. And it'll happen soon. 

    My generation didn't want to think about an NFL without trendsetting tackles Jonathan Ogden and Walter Jones, but along came the next wave of talent in the form of Joe Thomas, Jason Peters, Trent Williams and more. We didn't want the game without Orlando Pace or Tony Boselli, but along came Tyron Smith and Joe Staley. No more Willie Roaf? Here's Kyle Long. The game moves on, and legends walk away. Looking ahead to the next generation, who will be the best offensive linemen in the year 2020?

    That's what this signature series aims to answer—our "20 for '20" covers who the top 20 linemen will be five seasons from now. And if you're looking for guys such as Thomas and Peters—who will be well over 30 years old in 2020—we have to project a few retirements and a few slowdowns. 

Honorable Mention

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Others Receiving Strong Consideration

    • Ereck Flowers, New York Giants
    • Greg Robinson, Los Angeles Rams
    • Mitchell Schwartz, Cleveland Browns
    • Trai Turner, Carolina Panthers
    • Ryan Schraeder, Atlanta Falcons
    • Jared Veldheer, Arizona Cardinals

    Excluded Because of Age and Expected Regression

    • Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns
    • Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles
    • Joe Staley, San Francisco 49ers
    • Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati Bengals
    • Duane Brown, Houston Texans
    • Ryan Clady, Denver Broncos
    • Donald Penn, Oakland Raiders
    • Richie Incognito, Buffalo Bills
    • Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens
    • Josh Sitton, Green Bay Packers
    • T.J. Lang, Green Bay Packers

20. Rodney Hudson (31 Years Old)

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 31

    2020 Pass Blocking

    35/40

    A former Florida State Seminole and two-time All-American in college, Rodney Hudson was looked at as too small to hold up at center in the NFL at 6’2” and right at 300 pounds. Five seasons later, he’s proving to be one of the best in the league. Hudson’s quickness in space and instincts to lock down combo blocks and pick up blitzes are top-tier.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    36/40

    Hudson’s ability to get out in space makes him a threat as a run-blocker. He’s a perfect fit for a zone-blocking scheme, too, with that upfield quickness and balance. The only knock is that his small frame makes him a liability when he does have to dominate a nose tackle and clean him out of the rushing lane.

     

    2020 Upside

    17/20

    Hudson is an athlete with a lot of good football ahead of him. Barring injury, he should remain at this current level heading into 2020.

     

    2020 Overall

    88/100

    The move from Kansas City to Oakland has worked out for both clubs, and Hudson is in a scheme with a talented young quarterback and running back to showcase his skills.

19. Chance Warmack (29 Years Old)

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    2020 Age: 29

    2020 Pass Blocking

    33/40

    Evaluating Chance Warmack as a pass protector is tough because he’s been in a few different offensive systems with very different quarterback styles behind him. But the current situation in Tennessee, with mobile Marcus Mariota, is great for Warmack. He’s powerful enough to shut down inside pass-rushers and has the quickness to slide and catch blitzes and stunts. Being more patient will pay off for Warmack, and he definitely has room to improve here.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    38/40

    A War Daddy in the run game, Warmack attacks defensive linemen and is a superb power blocker. He’s also agile enough to live in a zone-blocking scheme and not get stuck at the first level. The current scheme in Tennessee is perfect for Warmack, but he has the kind of lasting power to excel in any offense.

     

    2020 Upside

    18/20

    Barring injury, it’s tough to see Warmack regressing from where he is now. If anything, by 2020, he’ll have a better sense for angles, leverage and the conditioning needed to be an elite NFL blocker.

     

    2020 Overall

    89/100

    Warmack has come into his own in his short NFL career, living up to the top-10 draft pick the Titans used on him in the 2013 draft.

18. Tre' Jackson (27 Years Old)

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Pass Blocking

    33/40

    The New England Patriots’ passing game in 2015 was aided greatly by the pocket presence of Tom Brady. Looking ahead five years—and assuming Brady isn’t still playing—Tre' Jackson will have to improve his ability to anchor and hold a spot. Too often he’ll get caught traveling side to side, something Jimmy Garoppolo may not be as capable of handling.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    37/40

    A physical run-blocker with a finisher’s mentality, Jackson doesn’t shy away from contact. He also shows the footwork to get to the second level against inside linebackers and to pull and attack the edge of the line. He has the tools to be one of the NFL’s best guards in 2020.

     

    2020 Upside

    20/20

    Jackson is an athlete and a mauler—which makes him uniquely suited to win a 70-round fist fight in the middle of the Patriots offensive line every week.

     

    2020 Overall

    90/100

    The only question surrounding Jackson’s future are the knee issues that had him sliding in the 2015 draft class. If he’s healthy, he looks like a top-10 guard.

17. Cam Robinson (24 Years Old)

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 24

    2020 Pass Blocking

    33/40

    Cam Robinson looks like a natural in pass protection. He’s big (6’6”, 326 lbs) and still growing at just 20 years old. That length and power allow Robinson to anchor against power rushers in the SEC, but he’s surprisingly agile for a man of that size and sheer power. That allows him to be a viable prospect cutting off speed on the edge. And looking five years down the road, he’ll have figured out the technique of the position and improved drastically.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    38/40

    The most natural thing for Robinson right now is plowing ahead and opening up rushing lanes. And in five years, he could be very, very special as a run-blocker. As for an NFL projection in 2020, Robinson may be playing right tackle given his size and agility, but no matter where he lines up, his run-blocking skills will be well-used.

     

    2020 Upside

    20/20

    If you liked Greg Robinson at Auburn, you’re going to love this Robinson from Alabama. Cam has the size, power and graceful footwork rarely seen in a big man.

     

    2020 Overall

    91/100

    A true sophomore standout at Alabama, Robinson has the tools to eventually become a top-five offensive lineman. But in 2020, he’ll just be 24 years old and in the early stages of his pro career.

16. Jason Kelce (32 Years Old)

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    2020 Age: 32

    2020 Pass Blocking

    37/40

    Jason Kelce wasn’t a high-profile draft prospect when he entered the NFL in 2011—he was a sixth-round pick—but he’s developed into a great fit in the Eagles’ scheme. Kelce has elite quickness and the vision to dominate on stunts and blitz pickups. He’s also strong enough to anchor and hold his ground against bull-rushers.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    37/40

    The same skills that make Kelce such a great pass-blocker make him as talented in the run game. He’s agile and tough and rarely misses when targeting a defender in space. And in Philadelphia, that’s exactly what the Eagles need. Kelce’s traits, though, would be excellent in any zone-blocking scheme by 2020.

     

    2020 Upside

    17/20

    Kelce is already 28 years old—one of the older linemen on this list—which does limit his upside, but it won’t keep him from being a top-15 blocker in 2020.

     

    2020 Overall

    91/100

    Already one of the best centers in the game, Kelce will only improve as he gets more experienced and learns more about being an NFL center.

15. David DeCastro (30 Years Old)

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    2020 Age: 30

    2020 Pass Blocking

    34/40

    David DeCastro has it all. Power, toughness, quickness, balance and the quick hands to keep pass-rushers off his frame. That’s the key to being a top-tier pass protector, and right now, he definitely has the tools. Five years from now, he’ll have the experience and play maturity to back up his potential.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    39/40

    The one trait that really stands out for DeCastro now and in the future is his toughness. He never shies away from contact in the trenches and does an excellent job getting push and doing anything possible to get a rushing lane for his backs. To top it all off, he’s quick in space and very balanced on the move.

     

    2020 Upside

    18/20

    A regression shouldn’t be expected, but as he approaches 30, DeCastro will likely become a better, more nuanced blocker.

     

    2020 Overall

    91/100

    DeCastro started a little slow in the NFL, but he’s hit his stride and has helped round out a massively improved line in Pittsburgh. 

14. Jake Matthews (28 Years Old)

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 28

    2020 Pass Blocking

    37/40

    Jake Matthews played both left and right tackle in college, and that experience helped blend him into an amazing talent. We’re seeing that in Atlanta, where he’s showing the length, athleticism and toughness to hold up as an edge protector. And Matthews is just getting started. Five years from now, he will be competing for the top left tackle crown.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    34/40

    The biggest question about Matthews heading into the NFL was if he had the power to bully defenders in the run game. That’s still in question, but Matthews is great for the zone-blocking scheme currently being used in Atlanta. He’s quick and smart and does great getting to the first and second level as a run-blocker.

     

    2020 Upside

    20/20

    The talent Matthews shows on a weekly basis is evident—just as it was when he was playing college ball at Texas A&M. That’s why he was the No. 6 pick in the 2014 NFL draft.

     

    2020 Overall

    91/100

    Matthews’ rookie year was a tough transition, but his work ethic and athleticism are the perfect blend to become a top-five left tackle.

13. Taylor Lewan (29 Years Old)

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    2020 Age: 29

    2020 Pass Blocking

    35/40

    Taylor Lewan left a scheme at Michigan that didn’t prepare him to make an immediate impact in the NFL as a pass-blocker, and yet here he is as a top-tier talent after his second season. Lewan’s length and toughness are awesome traits, but the athleticism and quickness he displays constantly in pass protection are why he gets the nod for a future star at tackle.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    36/40

    You can’t watch Lewan play and not see his toughness on display at left tackle. He’s a finisher in the run game and will set out to physically dominate defenders. Watch him lock on and drive block defenders out of the rushing lane, and you can see why he’ll be one of the best left tackles in the game in 2020.

     

    2020 Upside

    20/20

    Lewan, ranked at No. 12, has the tools to be ranked at No. 1 when this list is reviewed five years from now. There’s nothing limiting his potential.

     

    2020 Overall

    91/100

    A top-five left tackle on this list, Lewan looks like a perennial All-Pro player.

12. Brandon Scherff (28 Years Old)

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    2020 Age: 28

    2020 Pass Blocking

    32/40

    Brandon Scherff was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft based on his play at left tackle in college and the potential he poses as an interior lineman or right tackle. Scherff’s lack of length may prevent him from ever being a great left tackle, but his instincts and balance as a pass protector will keep him in the top tier of linemen moving forward.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    40/40

    It should be no surprise that an Iowa offensive lineman is a great run-blocker. Scherff definitely lives up to the prototypical Hawkeye stereotype—he’s powerful, athletic and great at opening up rushing lanes. Scherff is like a made-to-order run-blocker with his powerful base and quickness to make plays on pulls and traps.

     

    2020 Upside

    20/20

    Scherff started his NFL career at right guard and instantly looked like a star there. He’s talented enough to end up at left guard or right tackle, too, if that’s the decision Washington makes. No matter where he lines up, Scherff has the tools to be great.

     

    2020 Overall

    92/100

    Scherff can play multiple spots along the offensive line at a high level, which makes projecting him as a top-10 offensive lineman in 2020 an easy decision. 

11. Terron Armstead (29 Years Old)

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 29

    2020 Pass Blocking

    38/40

    Being a great pass protector in the NFL means being strong enough to anchor and stop a power rush, but it also means being agile enough to recover when beaten—because you will get beaten off the snap. Terron Armstead has the quickness to kick-slide and recover, and as he matures in the NFL he's improving in the power department. Projecting his stock out five years, look for the power to improve and for his timing at the snap and in predicting counters from pass-rushers to be even better.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    34/40

    The run game is essentially a coordinated street fight, and Armstead has the toughness to win one-on-one matchups. The zone-blocking scheme is great for his agility, but the key to being a better player in 2020 is gaining strength and mastering his hand placement to drive defenders out of rushing lanes.

     

    2020 Upside

    20/20

    A raw athlete with impressive length and fight, Armstead’s potential is through the roof if he can learn the technique to counter pass-rushers and gain some strength in his base.

     

    2020 Overall

    92/100

    The New Orleans Saints made an investment in a big athlete with the hope of coaching him into a left tackle. The move has paid off, as Armstead is a top-five candidate at left tackle in the NFL today and a lock to be in the top 20 linemen in 2020.

10. Weston Richburg (29 Years Old)

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    2020 Age: 29

    2020 Pass Blocking

    33/40

    In his second year, Weston Richburg looked much more mature than a 24-year-old in his first season starting at center. Richburg has instincts, football intelligence and the toughness to assist on a combo block and then catch a delayed blitz or stunt. He has the savvy ability of a five-year veteran, and five years from now, he’ll have emerged as a very talented pass protector.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    39/40

    Run blocking from the center position isn’t easy, but Richburg makes it look that way with his movement off the snap and how well he slides down the line and into the second level on run plays. Trap plays and pulls are easy for this athlete.

     

    2020 Upside

    20/20

    Looking at his potential as a draft prospect and his play early in his NFL career, Richburg continues to show all the upside and ability in the world. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be a top-five NFL center.

     

    2020 Overall

    92/100

    Richburg struggled a bit as a rookie, but he found his home as a sophomore center. Throughout the 2015 season, the former Colorado State star looked like an elite player for years to come.

9. Kyle Long (31 Years Old)

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    Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

    2020 Age: 31

    2020 Pass Blocking

    35/40

    A natural athlete on the offensive line dating back to his days at Oregon, Kyle Long has the agility and body control to do very well in space as a pass protector. Early in 2015, he did take a step back while transitioning to tackle from guard, but looking ahead to 2020, Long will be just 31 years old and established in whichever position he’s playing. The instincts, footwork and athleticism he’s shown in his three NFL seasons will carry over well into the future.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    38/40

    Long is a powerful run-blocker, showing the toughness and strength to lock out defensive ends and outside linebackers. But the real winner here is his agility in space. Long is quick and balanced getting off the ball, and when asked to get to the second level or kick out an outside linebacker, he’s excellent.

     

    2020 Upside

    20/20

    One thing working in Long’s favor at 27 years old is his positional versatility. He’s a two-time Pro Bowler at guard and played right tackle in 2015, but he has shown the athleticism to eventually play either position on the left side.

     

    2020 Overall

    93/100

    Long has played right guard and right tackle, but no matter where the Bears line him up, his work ethic and athleticism will combine to keep him a top-tier lineman in 2020.

8. Mitch Morse (28 Years Old)

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 28

    2020 Pass Blocking

    37/40

    Mitch Morse played tackle at Missouri, but the Kansas City Chiefs saw something special in him, making him a surprise second-round pick and moving him to center. There, he was a top-tier player as a rookie. Morse has the ability in space you see from a tackle, but his lack of length isn’t an issue at center, so he’s capable of holding his own in pass protection.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    36/40

    The Kansas City offense is already thriving around Morse’s ability to get into space and make things happen. He’s very quick off the line and works great on trap plays because of his agility and his talent for locating and drilling a moving target as a blocker.

     

    2020 Upside

    20/20

    If you want to get in early on the next great center, start telling your friends about Mitch Morse. He’s going to be special.

     

    2020 Overall

    93/100

    Morse wasn’t a premier draft prospect, but the Kansas City Chiefs are smarter than all of us and drafted him in the second round. That looks like a steal, as Morse is already turning heads early in his career.

7. Travis Frederick (29 Years Old)

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    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 29

    2020 Pass Blocking

    37/40

    Travis Frederick has made life easy for Tony Romo and Co. since the Dallas Cowboys made him a late-first-round pick in 2013. Frederick’s ability in pass protection is aided by his quick feet, his balance and his length to keep defenders off his frame. He’s also incredibly smart when asked to pick up twists and stunts on the go.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    37/40

    Frederick is quick enough to explode off the ball and take a hard angle to reach 3-technique defensive tackles, and he’s strong enough to lock on to a nose tackle and drive him out of the play. That combination is rare, and it’s why he’s a special blocker in the run game.

     

    2020 Upside

    19/20

    The former Wisconsin product is smart, tough and physical, and he has the right blend of quickness and power when taking on defenders.

     

    2020 Overall

    93/100

    The best center on the list in 2020, Frederick was arguably the best center in the NFL in 2015 too.

6. Joel Bitonio (28 Years Old)

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    George Gojkovich/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 28

    2020 Pass Blocking

    35/40

    A college offensive tackle, Joel Bitonio has the smooth footwork and power to dominate defenders of all shapes and sizes. His lack of length may keep him from ever being great—and playing without Joe Thomas and Alex Mack as they age will be interesting—but Bitonio should be a perennial All-Pro.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    38/40

    Some fans may want these scores flipped, but projecting this five years down the road, Bitonio looks like he’ll be a better run-blocker than pass protector. That’s just how he’s built. His push off the ball, power, instincts and quickness to get the angle on defenders make him an elite run-blocker now and five years from now.

     

    2020 Upside

    20/20

    Bitonio may never get “best lineman” recognition playing guard, but if he continues to play at his current levels (or improves), he’ll rightly be a top-five blocker in 2020.

     

    2020 Overall

    93/100

    The top left guard ranked for 2020, Bitonio doesn’t get the love he deserves nationally because the Browns haven’t won many games. But make no mistake—he’s special.

5. Laremy Tunsil (26 Years Old)

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    Thomas Graning/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Pass Blocking

    40/40

    Laremy Tunsil has all the athletic tools to become an elite pass protector, and he may realize that potential very early in his pro career. Moving out to 2020, Tunsil should be in rare company with Tyron Smith and Ronnie Stanley as the best left tackles in the game. The length, power to anchor against a bull rush and the agility to kick-step out to the edge and cut off pass-rushers are all there. Tunsil is a rare prospect.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    33/40

    Tunsil is a powerful mauler in the run game and is able to kick-out edge defenders when the offense runs to the left side, but he’s agile enough to get into space and attack defenders at the second level when he’s on the backside. Agility, power and instincts will combine to make him an elite run-blocker in five years.

     

    2020 Upside

    20/20

    Tunsil has the tools and frame to become a stud, but don't sleep on his immediate potential. His Ole Miss game tape shows a player ready to step into the NFL as a top-10 left tackle from day one.

     

    2020 Overall

    93/100

    Tunsil enters the 2016 NFL draft as one of the most pro-ready prospects at the tackle position in a long time. He's big, strong, athletic and plays with a mean streak to take over defenders on the edge or in pass pro.

4. Lane Johnson (30 Years Old)

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    2020 Age: 30

    2020 Pass Blocking

    37/40

    Right tackles don’t get the credit they deserve in the modern NFL, where they have to face defenses that load up the left side of their depth chart with pass-rushers to combat the belief that right tackles are the weak link. Johnson is the best of the new-age right tackle: athletic, powerful and a graceful pass-blocker.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    38/40

    Johnson has the athleticism of a former quarterback and tight end but the power of a 300-pounder. He moves effortlessly to seal off the edge or kick an outside linebacker out of the frame. Johnson is still learning, too, and at 25 years old now, this projection factors in the strength and knowledge he’ll gain by 2020.

     

    2020 Upside

    20/20

    Of the many offensive linemen selected early in the 2013 draft, Johnson has proved himself to the be the best of the bunch. He’s athletic, strong and has found a home in the perfect scheme for his talents.

     

    2020 Overall

    95/100

    The top right tackle in the rankings, Johnson is perfect for the zone-blocking scheme and powers the run game from his side of the ball.

3. Ronnie Stanley (26 Years Old)

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    RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

    2020 Age: 26

    2020 Pass Blocking

    40/40

    Pass protection is generally won on ability and length, and Ronnie Stanley has plenty of both. Playing in Brian Kelly’s offense at Notre Dame, Stanley was asked to protect the edge from a two-point and three-point stance, and he did it with a fluid movement usually seen from tight ends. Stanley can improve his hand use, and by the year 2020, he’s projected to be an elite pass protector thanks to the development he’ll see in the NFL.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    35/40

    The zone-blocking scheme is ideal for Stanley, and his score five years from now will be based largely on the system he’s drafted into. But the movement skills and angles he takes in college translate perfectly to the NFL—and his ability to beat linebackers to the rushing lane is top-tier regardless of the level of play.

     

    2020 Upside

    20/20

    Stanley could be the top-ranked player on the list when we revisit this in five years. He has all the tools to be a first-year stud in the NFL.

     

    2020 Overall

    95/100

    Stanley, a redshirt junior at Notre Dame, would have been the top-ranked tackle in the 2015 draft class had he decided to leave school early. He has future blue-chip tackle written all over him. 

2. Zack Martin (29 Years Old)

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    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    2020 Age: 29

    2020 Pass Blocking

    38/40

    Zack Martin spent his time at Notre Dame playing left tackle, and that ability in space is still evident when watching his film at right guard in Dallas. He’s a smooth mover on the inside, and his lack of top-tier length isn’t the issue at guard that it could have been at tackle. Martin will still struggle to reach stunts and twists at times, but projecting him out to 2020, look for Martin to remain one of the game’s elite.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    39/40

    Martin attacks the defense, and with his quickness off the ball and low center of gravity, he’s a beast to get moved back off the line. With technique that’s already close to perfect, Martin was a top-tier guard in 2015. Give him five more years to learn the guard position, and he’ll be a perennial All-Pro.

     

    2020 Upside

    20/20

    When we look back on this list in five years, Martin may be the best pure offensive lineman in the game—and that’s not easy for a guard to accomplish. But his experience at tackle in college set him up with the foundation to be great, and so far, he’s exceeding expectations.

     

    2020 Overall

    97/100

    The highest-ranked interior offensive lineman on the list, Martin showed back at Notre Dame that he could be special. Now, he’s capitalizing on all that upside.

1. Tyron Smith (29 Years Old)

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 29

    2020 Pass Blocking

    40/40

    Tyron Smith is the ideal blend of length, agility, awareness and toughness in the left tackle position. He’s able to hold his ground against bigger, stronger pass-rushers but has the footwork and athleticism to cut off the edge against speed rushers. Already an elite pass protector, Smith may be getting close to the best of our generation by 2020.

     

    2020 Run Blocking

    39/40

    The Dallas run game is fantastic, and that tide started to turn when Smith was drafted in the first round in 2011. He’s an amazing athlete, which allows him to dominate at the first and second level and get to linebackers when other tackles would still be stuck on the ball. His movement skills and hand placement in the run game are study guides for young tackles.

     

    2020 Upside

    20/20

    Smith has been such a fantastic pro that we forget he’s only 25 years old right now. He has nearly limitless potential. 

    2020 Overall

    99/100

    You could make the case that Tyron Smith is the best left tackle in the NFL right now—and if he’s not, it’s probably Jason Peters or Joe Thomas. By 2020, expect the Cowboys’ blindside protector to be on that level.