Magic Number Eights: The Top NFL Offensive Linemen
If you haven't seen The Blind Side yet, you may not understand the importance of an offensive lineman.
The offensive line, most importantly the left tackle, protects the quarterback from being sacked and gives him more time to find a receiver to throw to. They also open holes for the running back to run through.
I've always said that the most important aspect of a football team is its offensive line. That position can make or break a team, or even a player's career.
A good offensive line can make a bad team look good, whereas a bad offensive line can make a good team look bad.
Many times we have seen a team with a bad record bring in a high-profile offensive lineman the next offseason and proceed to post a winning record (for example, the Dolphins bringing in tackle Jake Long after their 1-15 season in 2008).
If you notice in my posts, one of the most important parts of an offensive lineman is consistency.
Here are my top eight offensive linemen in the NFL.
8) Logan Mankins, New England
Logan Mankins has started every game at guard for the Patriots since being drafted 32nd overall during the 2005 NFL Draft and has come to be one of the best in the league.
The 6'4", 310-lb. guard has been a big help to quarterback Tom Brady's success and hopefully gets his contract extension to stay with the team.
After starting every game since being drafted, Mankins has been one of the most consistent linemen in the NFL.
7) D'Brickashaw Ferguson, New York Jets
The 6'6", 310-lb. offensive tackle is a beast.
After being drafted fourth overall in the 2006 NFL Draft, Ferguson got off to a rough start, with some calling him a bust.
But after steadily improving every season, people now see that he is a great quality lineman.
He really broke out last season, as he protected rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, who led the Jets to the playoffs.
That's something future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre couldn't even do.
6) Jordan Gross, Carolina
Jordan Gross is one of the most underrated offensive linemen in the league.
After suffering a season-ending knee injury during 2009, Gross missed out on the Pro Bowl.
The 2003 eighth overall pick has been the Panthers' most consistent player throughout his career, and he has been starting since his rookie year.
The 6'4", 305-lb. tackle made a big impact in the (early) success of quarterback Jake Delhomme. Gross helped lead the Panthers to the Super Bowl the year he was drafted, 2003.
5) Jahri Evans, New Orleans
Jahri Evans had a huge breakout year in '09, and it showed, as he got a seven-year, $56.7 million contract extension this offseason.
He helped New Orleans get its Super Bowl trophy, and at age 26, Evans still has a lot of football left inside him.
He will be a force for years to come.
4) Steve Hutchinson, Minnesota
Hutchinson doesn't get enough credit for the type of player he is.
The 6'5", 313-lb. guard has started every game other than in 2002, where he was placed on injured reserve after just four games with the Seattle Seahawks.
After coming over to Minnesota in 2006, Hutchinson instantly upgraded the offense.
He's got a lot on his shoulders protecting the 40-year-old quarterback Brett Favre.
3) Joe Thomas, Cleveland
After being drafted third overall during the 2007 NFL Draft, everyone knew Thomas would instantly become one of the NFL's best offensive linemen.
With all the weaknesses Cleveland has, Thomas never lets up, giving it his all week in and week out.
He has yet to miss a game during his three-year career.
2) Ryan Clady, Denver
The 12th overall pick during the 2008 NFL Draft shocked many after an impressive season during his rookie year.
He upgraded the Broncos' offensive line immediately, giving them a much-needed leader on their offense.
Clady, 6'6", 325 pounds, is a beast on the football field, making the Pro Bowl during the '09 season.
But after injuring himself while playing basketball, we can only hope he can return to form after expecting to miss training camp.
1) Jake Long, Miami
After a 1-15 season for Miami during the 2007 season, many questioned taking Long with the first overall pick during the 2008 Draft.
I don't think anyone is complaining now, as Long instantly became a leader of their franchise, leading them to a 11-5 record the following season and into the playoffs.
To me, Long is the prototype for an offensive lineman in the NFL. He's got the size: 6'7", 317 pounds, long arms, and a lot of muscle.
There isn't a defensive player Long can't take down, making him the best offensive lineman in the NFL.
Next Stop: Defensive Linemen
Come check out my next ranking on "Magic Number Eights," defensive linemen!