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Trent Williams, Tristan Wirfs Top ESPN's Rankings of Best OTs for 2022

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 15, 2022

Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers star Trent Williams retained his spot atop ESPN's annual ranking of the NFL's best offensive tackles for the second straight season.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler provided the results Friday, noting Williams received nearly 80 percent of the first-place votes from the league's executives, coaches and players.

"He's the most talented for sure, but he is a true student of the game with great passion for improving and an extremely smart player as well," an unnamed NFC executive told Fowler. "He's the total package."

Here's a look at the group of tackles selected for the top five in 2022:

  1. Williams
  2. Tristan Wirfs (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
  3. David Bakhtiari (Green Bay Packers)
  4. Rashawn Slater (Los Angeles Chargers)
  5. Tyron Smith (Dallas Cowboys)

Building a championship contender in the modern NFL features at least four essential elements. Three are obvious: quarterback, a No. 1 pass-catching target and a pass-rusher. The fourth, often overlooked, is a tackle who can protect the QB's blindside.

Williams is putting together a Hall of Fame resume by being one of the best in the current generation at filling that fourth role. He's earned nine Pro Bowl appearances and received a First Team All-Pro selection for the first time in 2021.

The 33-year-old Texas native reached the pinnacle of his position as a cancer survivor after being diagnosed with Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans in January 2019.

"I take so much pride in the product that I put out there. I'm always concerned, I'm always nervous, I'm always anxious about football and playing. I don't feel like that part of it gets easier," Williams told Adam Maya of NFL.com in December. "But when it comes down to actually going out there, every time I can tie my cleats up, I can strap my shoulder pads up and my helmet, just taking advantage of that. I do know how it feels for that to be snatched away."

He'll take on an even more vital role for the Niners in 2022 if the team makes the switch to second-year quarterback Trey Lance after reaching the NFC Championship Game last season under the guidance of veteran Jimmy Garoppolo.

Meanwhile, Wirfs has quickly established himself as one of the NFL's best linemen since the Bucs selected him in the first round of the 2020 draft.

"Elite pass-blocker," an NFL personnel director told Fowler. "He's got all the tools to be the best in this area."

Being able to protect Tom Brady, who's the epitome of a pocket passer at this stage of his career, will be crucial for Tampa Bay once again this Fall.

In all, eight of the 10 tackles in the ESPN ranking this year also made the list in 2021. The two new arrivals were Slater and the Philadelphia Eagles' Lane Johnson (No. 7).

The three offensive tackles who were selected within the first nine picks of the 2022 draft—the Carolina Panthers' Ikem Ekwonu, New York Giants' Evan Neal and Seattle Seahawks' Charles Cross—are all candidates to crack the rankings next year.

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