B/R NFL 1000: Top 35 Right Tackles
Who is the best player in the NFL? Not based on the last 10 years or one game, but over the last year, who was the best? Good luck answering that one without starting a fight, right?
Well, that's what the NFL 1000 aims to do by scouting, grading and then ranking the best players at each position before putting them in order and breaking ties to come up with the top 1,000 players. No narratives, no fantasy football points, no "QBR"—this is cold hard scouting.
You can find rankings for all other positions on our B/R NFL 1000 main page.
The B/R 1000 metric is based heavily on scouting each player and grading the key criteria for each position. The criteria are weighted according to importance for a possible best score of 100.
Potential is not taken into consideration. Nor are career accomplishments.
Right tackles are judged, quite simply, on pass-blocking (50 points), run-blocking (45) and their value as a starter or backup (5).
In the case of ties, our team asked, "Which player would I rather have on my team?" and set the rankings accordingly.
Subjective? Yes. But ties are no fun.
Each player was scouted by me and a team of experienced evaluators (Dan Bazal, Cian Fahey, Dan Hope, Marshal Miller, Justis Mosqueda) with these key criteria in mind. The following scouting reports and grades are the work of months of film study from our team.
35. Jonathan Martin, Carolina Panthers
A nine-game starter at right tackle in 2014 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, Jonathan Martin (6'5", 312 lbs, three seasons) was a frequent liability in pass protection. Once he gets his feet moving, he has the quickness to mirror his opponent’s moves. However, he is often slow coming out of his stance and does not have a clean slide. Also lacking functional strength and an effective punch, Martin gets pushed backward too easily and does not finish pass-rushers with his hands.
Martin has little power and does not show much of a mean streak on the field. He rarely moves defenders off the line of scrimmage but sometimes gets moved backward by defensive linemen. He has the acceleration to be a strong second-level blocker, but he does not consistently get his hands on defenders to seal them out of running lanes. Lacking the agility to fluidly change directions, Martin needs a straight shot to downfield defenders, while he struggles to redirect moving opponents at the line of scrimmage.
In three tumultuous seasons to start his NFL career, Martin has struggled far more than he has succeeded. It looks unlikely that the 25-year-old will ever establish himself as a full-time starting offensive tackle.
34. Marshall Newhouse, New York Giants
Marshall Newhouse (6'4", 328 lbs, five seasons) has the athleticism to get out in front of outside pass-rushers, but he is not nearly aggressive enough with his hands. Even when Newhouse gets in perfect position on an opponent, he will allow the defender to stay in the play because he lacks the punch to knock his man away from the quarterback. As a result, he tends to get beat when his opponents can make sudden moves and have quick hands.
An athletic offensive tackle, Newhouse moves well to the second level to make downfield blocks on linebackers. Against defensive linemen at the line of scrimmage, however, Newhouse is far less effective. He lacks the strength to drive opponents downfield and does not exhibit the coordination to redirect moving defenders.
The Cincinnati Bengals initially called upon Newhouse in 2014 to start at right tackle when regular starter Andre Smith went down with injuries, but they took him out of the lineup after a few games, replacing him by moving left guard Clint Boling to right tackle and later by signing Eric Winston. Signed for only one year in Cincinnati, Newhouse was a free agent and signed with the New York Giants. Hi isn't good enough to be anything more than a swing backup tackle.
33. D.J. Fluker, San Diego Chargers
After an up-and-down rookie season, D.J. Fluker (6'5", 339 lbs, two seasons) failed to improve in pass protection. Despite having long limbs, Fluker has a short slide and lacks quickness, which makes him far too susceptible to being beat by outside speed-rushers. He tends to catch-block, often drops too close to the pocket and frequently gives up leverage to his opponents, all of which lead to him allowing pressure on bull-rushes despite his massive frame. He has terrific length and functional strength, but technical flaws keep him from playing to his strengths.
When Fluker is able to lock out his arms on a smaller defender, he can bulldoze his way through his opponents. The problem for Fluker is that he is not regularly able to do so. His aim and hand placement are inconsistent, while he also struggles to bend so that he can obtain the leverage to assert his power. He can punish defenders at the second level with his punch, but a lack of explosion limits his opportunities to hit downfield blocks.
An imposing physical specimen who was a first-round pick in the 2013 draft and is just 24 years old, Fluker still has high upside but might be best suited to move inside to guard. While Fluker has ideal length for an offensive tackle, he has struggled against edge-rushers throughout his first two seasons and might continue to be a liability in pass protection if he stays outside.
32. Seantrel Henderson, Buffalo Bills
Seantrel Henderson (6'7", 331 lbs, one season) has all the physical tools to be a terrific pass protector, but he must continue to work on his technique after an up-and-down rookie year. He has a quick kick-slide and terrific length, which enable him to shield the edge against speed-rushers, but he is still prone to getting beat around his outside shoulder. When he gets his hands solidly on a defender, he shows the strength to keep his opponent at bay. He allows defenders to cross his face too easily, however, and is indecisive when he has to make a decision between blocking one of two defenders.
Despite his tremendous size, Henderson does not exhibit much run-blocking power. He rarely drives opponents off the line of scrimmage. He has the athleticism to get downfield and make second-level blocks, but he does not change directions naturally. This limits his ability to reach defenders in space. He also has problems with blocking defenders who are moving toward the middle of the line of scrimmage, as he is unable to nimbly turn while moving and often gets moved toward the run by his opponent as a result.
The first seventh-round pick since 2004 to start all 16 games of his rookie season, Henderson beat out fellow rookie Cyrus Kouandjio for the job and is likely to keep it going into 2015. While Henderson had the struggles you would expect from a rookie seventh-round pick playing offensive tackle, he improved over the course of the season and flashed the potential that made him a 5-star recruit, per 247Sports, out of high school. The 23-year-old could develop into a star.
31. Jordan Mills, Chicago Bears
Jordan Mills (6'5", 316 lbs, two seasons) has the physical tools needed for an offensive tackle to succeed in pass protection, but he has struggled to do it effectively so far in his NFL career. He has good feet but allows rushers to get inside or outside his frame too easily, and he lacks the strength to recover when that happens. He also allows defenders to get into his pads to win the leverage battle and move him backward. If Mills is going to have a long-term future at right tackle, his pass-blocking technique needs to improve.
A surprisingly nimble athlete for his size, Mills is very good at getting to the second level, finding linebackers and sticking blocks on them. On the other hand, Mills does not have the power you would expect from a 316-pound tackle, and he struggles to generate push against defensive linemen.
Mills has started 29 games in his first two NFL seasons, only missing three starts this year due to foot and rib injuries, but he has yet to prove himself to be a starting-caliber player. The 24-year-old has physical potential but has not made significant improvement since the start of his rookie year. The Bears should invest in another option at his position this offseason.
30. Austin Pasztor, Jacksonville Jaguars
Austin Pasztor (6'7", 308 lbs, three seasons), who missed the Jacksonville Jaguars' first four games with a fractured wrist and didn't play the last four due to a ruptured hamstring, allowed four sacks in just eight contests played this past season. He has good slide technique, as he keeps his hands and feet evenly spaced apart and typically gets into proper positions, but he can defeated by his physical limitations. Limited agility allows speed-rushers to get around his outside, while he lacks the functional strength to consistently thwart bull rushes.
Pasztor has a clean running stride and does a nice job getting downfield to make second-level blocks. Along the line of scrimmage, Pasztor is far less effective. He has no ability to nimbly change directions and struggles to redirect moving defenders, especially when they are working inside. He also lacks the strength to drive defensive linemen backward off the line.
Given his physical limitations, it is unlikely Pasztor will ever be better than a below-average right tackle. Although the 24-year-old has started 23 games in three NFL seasons, the Jaguars should look for an upgrade this offseason.
29. Justin Britt, Seattle Seahawks
A 16-game starter in his rookie year, Justin Britt (6'6", 325 lbs, one season) had a rough welcome to the league as a pass protector. Limited in lateral quickness, Britt struggles to fend off inside moves but also has issues with speed rushes around the outside. He has the strength to keep defenders at bay when he is able to lock on with his hands, but he suffered some beats on bull rushes too when he failed to sustain leverage. Britt has the tools to be a solid pass-protecting right tackle and made strides as his rookie season went along, but he has to shore up his technique. He does not have the physical tools to get away with mistakes against NFL opponents.
Britt has the foot skills to reach defenders downfield in open space and packs a strong initial punch. He needs to become a stronger finisher on second-level blocks, however, as he often fails to sustain them and allows the defender to get back into the play. He is good at turning out on edge defenders and moving them away from inside runs, while he also exhibits the movement and coordination to knock down defenders moving inside with cut blocks.
Drafted with the last pick of the second round in the 2014 draft, Britt needs to continue working on his technique as he goes into his second season, but he could develop into a solid starting right tackle. His skill set suggests that he might be a better fit at guard than tackle, but the 24-year-old should retain a spot in the Seahawks' starting lineup for 2015 after showing some promise in his rookie year.
28. Gabe Carimi, Free Agent
Having already played for three teams since he was a first-round pick in 2011, Gabe Carimi (6'7", 316 lbs, four seasons) has been a liability in pass protection at every stop. Limited in agility, Carimi is prone to letting pass-rushers get outside of his frame and work their way around him. He does not have a strong punch and often gives up leverage to shorter pass-rushers, which sometimes results in his getting driven backward or knocked over. In just four starts at right tackle this past season, Carimi allowed three sacks.
A decent run-blocker, Carimi is at his best when he is working toward the interior of the line. He does not exhibit the power to drive a defender backward when his man is straight in front of him, but he is strong enough to move a defender out of a running lane when he has an angle on his opponent. He lacks an explosive burst off the line of scrimmage and sometimes struggles to find defenders in space. But he has enough foot skills to make downfield lead blocks when he quickly identifies a target and has a clean path in front of him.
Traded by the Chicago Bears in 2013, just two years after they selected him with the No. 29 overall pick, Carimi is a draft bust who is not close to being a starting-caliber NFL offensive tackle. Despite starting seven games between four different positions (four at right tackle, one each at left tackle, left guard and right guard) for the Atlanta Falcons last season, the 26-year-old is unlikely to garner significant interest on the free-agent market this offseason.
27. Ryan Harris, Free Agent
The Kansas City Chiefs did not sign Ryan Harris (6'5", 302 lbs, seven seasons) in 2014 to be a starter, but he ended up playing right tackle in all 16 of their games, in which he allowed five sacks. An adequate athlete, Harris does a solid job protecting the edge but lacks a significant punch and can be troubled at times by speed and power. Harris' technique is typically sound, but when he makes a mistake, he lacks the quickness and strength to recover.
To be successful as a run-blocker, Harris needs to use angles to his advantage. He positions his body well to seal off defenders but is unable to move defensive linemen away from runs, as he lacks power. Harris has the quickness to get downfield and make blocks at the second level, but he has to be accurate with his punch to be effective and is often unable to redirect defenders once he gets to them due to imperfect hand placement.
Harris, who signed a one-year contract with the Chiefs in July after two years as a backup for the Houston Texans, has no special physical traits and has never been better than a below-average starting right tackle. The 30-year-old's experience and technical polish make him a solid backup and spot starter, but the unrestricted free agent is unlikely to make big money this offseason.
26. Ja'Wuan James, Miami Dolphins
Ja'Wuan James (6'6", 315 lbs, one season) had trouble going up against top pass-rushers in his rookie season—especially in the second half of the year, when an injury to Branden Albert forced him to move to left tackle—but he displayed the tools to develop into a very good pass protector on the right side. Possessing quick feet, great length and a solid punch, James can shield the edge of the pocket effectively and is rarely pushed back to the quarterback. He was exposed at times by speed-rushers going around his outside, but he should overcome his early mistakes if he can become more consistent with his reactions to the snap and his body positioning.
A quick starter out of his stance, James is effective as a run-blocker when he can get his hands quickly on an edge defender and turn outside on him, locking his man out away from a run going the other direction. Running behind James is not nearly as effective, as he fails to generate the power needed to move defenders off the line of scrimmage. James has the foot skills to get to the second level and make downfield lead blocks, but he does not yet have the accuracy and control to consistently stick his blocks in space.
James had the growing pains one would expect from a rookie offensive tackle, especially considering he had to start on both the right and left sides in his debut season. He was a liability on the left side, but his play early in the year at right tackle was promising. If he can build upon his upside, he has the skills to emerge as one of the best right tackles in the league.
25. Paul Cornick, Free Agent
One of three players to start games at right tackle for the Denver Broncos this past season, Paul Cornick (6'6", 310 lbs, one season) gave an admirable effort but had some issues when faced with speed on the edge in pass protection. Cornick has slow feet by NFL standards, which allows rushers to get around him even though he has a technically clean slide. He has a good understanding of how to position himself at angles that can enable him to shield the edge of the pocket against an outside rusher even when that rusher gets a step ahead of him. That said, he lacks a significant punch and can be troubled by opponents with quick hands.
When Cornick is accelerating toward an opponent, he struggles with his aim and has a tendency to whiff blocks or only get his hands on his opponent's inside half. On plays when Cornick has time to set up his block, he is good at angling himself so that he can turn out on opponents and allow runs to go away from him. When Cornick gets his hands solidly on an opponent, he typically gets the job done. But he has not shown the ability to do so consistently. He is not an overpowering run-blocker, but he typically holds his ground when engaging a defender at the line of scrimmage.
Initially a replacement for Chris Clark in the starting lineup, Cornick was replaced after just three games by Louis Vasquez moving outside from right guard. Not particularly successful as a blocker for Peyton Manning, he would likely be a big liability on an offense with a quarterback who is less adept at avoiding sacks. He is not physically gifted enough to be a long-term NFL starter.
24. Chris Clark, Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos' starting right tackle for their first five games this past season, Chris Clark (6'5", 305 lbs, six seasons) provided mostly adequate pass protection before he was replaced in the lineup. A good athlete who consistently keeps a wide base, Clark uses his hands fairly well and is able to shield rushers outside the pocket when he is able to lock out his arms. He has quick feet, but his steps can be sloppy and take him off balance at times. Where he really runs into trouble, however, is when he allows defenders to get into his body. He gets driven backward too easily by bull rushes.
Clark has a severe lack of functional strength for an NFL offensive tackle. Rather than Clark moving his opponents away from running lanes, defenders are often able to push him into them. He is good at sticking downfield run-blocks when he has a clear path downfield, but he lacks the strength and balance to make an impact when he has to work his way through traffic.
Clark had a solid 2013 season as a fill-in for Ryan Clady at left tackle. But he did not live up to expectations as the Broncos' right tackle, and Denver benched him as a result. His athleticism and pass-blocking ability make him a solid backup swing tackle, but he is too weak in the run game to be a full-time starter.
23. Khalif Barnes, Oakland Raiders
Although he only started half of Oakland’s games at right tackle this past season, Khalif Barnes (6'6", 320 lbs, 10 seasons) ended up being tasked with taking on some of the best pass-rushers in the NFL. For the most part, he held his own. Still a good athlete for the position, Barnes has the foot skills to get out in front of outside rushers and shield the edge of the pocket. His problems are in his upper body, as he lacks a significant punch and can struggle to counter pass-rushing moves with his hands.
Barnes can get his feet moving quickly off the line of scrimmage and is good at engaging defenders on the edge and turning them away from inside runs. When he has an angle on his opponent, he positions his body well. When he is blocking a man straight in front of him, he struggles to generate a push, as he does not have natural power and does not bend well enough to win with leverage.
With eight starts at right tackle and five starts at left guard, Barnes proved to be an important spot starter for the Raiders offensive line this past season, and he earned an extension for 2015 as a result. He was projected to be a backup going into last season, and that's really what the 33-year-old should be at this point in his career. But he is an adequate fill-in when called upon.
22. Anthony Davis, San Francisco 49ers
Forced to miss nine of the 49ers' first 14 games due to a hamstring injury, knee injury and a concussion, Anthony Davis (6'5", 323 lbs, five seasons) did not play up to his ability this past season, especially in pass protection. As good as any right tackle in the NFL at mirroring his opponents when he is healthy, Davis did not move with the same fluidity this year. His effort seemed lackadaisical at times, as he let some rushers beat him around the edge when he should have been able to engage them with his long arms.
When Davis was able to play this past year, he continued to be a solid run-blocker. He has never been one to consistently overpower his opponents. But he is good at sustaining his block over the course of a play, while he can also switch blocks quickly when needed. When healthy, Davis has terrific feet for a right tackle and can move quickly to the second level to pick up downfield blocks.
Injuries and a rocky relationship with offensive coordinator Greg Roman led to a down year for Davis in 2014. Assuming he is healthy in 2015, Davis should re-emerge as one of the NFL's best right tackles under San Francisco's new coaching staff.
21. Bobby Massie, Arizona Cardinals
Possessing the physical tools to be a great right tackle, Bobby Massie (6'6", 316 lbs, three seasons) struggles in pass protection due to subpar technique. Massie has the quickness to get out in front of rushers and mirror his opponents, but he lacks a clean slide. As a result, defenders are able to get into his pads when he is off balance and knock him backward. He is also inconsistent with his hand placement and allows defenders to work around his outside too easily.
Utilizing his quick feet and strong upper body, Massie is good at engaging defenders on the edge and turning them outside, away from inside runs. When Massie has a clean path to a defender downfield, he can get there and stick his block in space with a strong punch. His lack of a clean stride, however, makes it tough to work through traffic. He has enough strength to move defenders backward off the line of scrimmage, but he needs to play with better leverage to generate significant power.
Replaced in Arizona’s starting lineup in 2013 after a disastrous rookie season, Massie returned to start all 16 games this past season. The 25-year-old and 2012 fourth-round pick achieved somewhat better results but has yet to establish himself as a player the Cardinals can trust as a bookend on their offensive line. Going into the final year of his rookie contract, Massie needs to start playing up to his potential in 2015 if he is going to be a starting right tackle for any NFL team going forward.
20. Joe Barksdale, San Diego Chargers
Although he has a great combination of size, length and athleticism, Joe Barksdale (6'5", 326 lbs, four seasons) failed to be a reliable pass protector for the St. Louis Rams in 2014, as he allowed seven sacks and 51 total quarterback pressures. Barksdale has the quickness to get out in front of pass-rushers, but his footwork can be sloppy. He too easily allows pass-rushers to get their hands into his chest and jolt him backward, while he lacks a significant punch of his own. He typically wins when he gets his hands solidly on his opponent, but there were too many instances of him not doing so this past season.
Barksdale moves well to the second level to pick up downfield blocks. He is also very good at sustaining blocks on the edge and turning a defender outside and away from an inside run. On inside blocks, Barksdale has more trouble with trying to redirect defenders. His size and length make him tough for a defender to move, but he is also not an overpowering blocker who regularly drives defensive linemen down the field.
At 26 years old with great measurables and a solid skill set, Barksdale should at least have a chance to compete for a starting job next season for the Chargers.
19. Cornelius Lucas, Detroit Lions
Long-limbed and nimble for his size, Cornelius Lucas (6'9", 325 lbs, one season) has the tools to be a great pass protector. To reach his potential, he must become more technically consistent. He has the quickness to get out in front of outside pass-rushers, but his footwork can get sloppy. He can lock down opponents with his strength when he gets his hands on them firmly, but he too often fails to get secure hand placement. Lucas also needs to develop better awareness, as there were too many instances this season of him standing in place without blocking anyone.
In his rookie year, Lucas did not show much ability to redirect defenders away from running plays. He does not overpower his opponents at the line of scrimmage and lets defenders get inside him too easily. Lucas does have a strong punch with which he gets some pancake blocks, and he is good at pinning interior defenders into traffic as a down-blocker. He lacks the burst to explode to the second level, and he lacks the lateral agility to get in front of moving defenders in space.
A swing backup and spot starter this past season, Lucas started three games—two at right tackle, one at left tackle. Despite being an undrafted rookie, Lucas held his own when he was called upon and proved to be an adequate fill-in for injured players. He's likely to remain in a backup role for 2015, but the 23-year-old has promising upside and could potentially end up in the Lions' regular lineup down the line.
18. Louis Vasquez, Denver Broncos
A right guard for his first five-and-a-half years in the NFL, Louis Vasquez (6'5", 335 lbs, six seasons) made a midseason move to right tackle in 2014 due to the Denver Broncos’ instability at the position. The transition looked unnatural for Vasquez, who has poor lateral quickness for an NFL tackle and had some issues protecting the edge against outside speed-rushers. He has a cleaner kick-slide than one might expect from a converted guard and has adequate length. But he allowed edge defenders to work around his outside shoulder too easily. He allowed three sacks in eight regular-season games at right tackle.
In his new position, Vasquez did not drive many defenders backward off the line of scrimmage, nor did he show much explosiveness to pick up downfield lead blocks. Vasquez is at his best down-blocking on an interior defensive lineman and is good at coming off the down block to pick up a chip block on a second-level defender. However, he does not sustain his blocks as well as he needs to, and he too often allows defenders to squirm through his arms and into the backfield.
While Vasquez was an upgrade over Chris Clark and Paul Cornick, he does not play nearly as well outside as he does inside. The Broncos should look for a new starter at right tackle this offseason so Vasquez can return to playing right guard, a position at which he was an All-Pro in 2013.
17. Derek Newton, Houston Texans
While Derek Newton (6'6", 313 lbs, four seasons) might never be a lockdown pass protector, he made positive strides in 2014. Possessing quick feet and strong hands, Newton wins most battles on the edge when he gets out ahead of his opponent and into proper position. Too often, however, he allows his opponent to get into his pads and push him backward because he drops back and catch-blocks rather than initiating contact. Both of his two sacks allowed this year came on plays on which he was retreating back, got deked out by a pass-rusher's inside move and failed to get his hands on his opponent.
Newton established himself as one of the NFL's best run-blocking right tackles in 2014. He exhibits both the burst to explode to the second level and the power to drive defenders backward off the line of scrimmage. Once he gets his hands on an opponent, he typically takes that defender out of the play, as he can redirect his man with his strength and sustains blocks well. He does not have great lateral agility, and his balance can be shaky in space. But he consistently finishes with impact blocks when going straight on at a defender.
One of the league's worst right tackles in 2012 and 2013, Newton displayed massive improvement in the final year of his rookie contract. He started all 16 games at right tackle and also showed the ability to step in at right guard for part of one game after regular starter Brandon Brooks was injured. Just 27 years old, Newton played well enough this year that he is likely to either be re-signed by the Texans or get a chance to start for another team.
16. Sam Young, Jacksonville Jaguars
A tall offensive tackle with quick feet and a fluid kick-slide, Sam Young (6'8", 316 lbs, five seasons) does a nice job shielding the edge of the pocket and rarely gets beat around the outside. Against bull rushes, however, Young gets driven back to the quarterback much too easily. With a tendency to play high, Young allows defenders to get leverage on him, and he lacks the strength to offset their pushes. Young is skilled at knocking rushers down with cut blocks, but he is much too reliant upon them. He allowed four sacks in six starts this past season.
With limited power, Young exhibits little ability to drive defenders off the line of scrimmage. A fairly fluid runner for a man of his size, he is able to accelerate effectively to the second level. Young can use his cut-blocking ability to take defenders out and typically sticks his blocks on stationary defenders, but he really struggles to sustain blocks and maintain his balance when trying to block a moving defender.
A journeyman who has already played for three teams in five years, Young set a career high this season as he started six games for the Jaguars as an injury replacement for Austin Pasztor. Young performed adequately in relief, but it remains unlikely the 27-year-old will ever be a long-term starter in the NFL.
15. Justin Pugh, New York Giants
Limited in quickness, length and size for a NFL offensive tackle, Justin Pugh (6'4", 301 lbs, two seasons) relies on technical consistency to win in pass protection. Strong with his hands while he has clean footwork, Pugh shows the ability to mirror his opponents once he gets out in front of them. Getting out in front of outside speed-rushers can be a problem for Pugh, while he is also too prone to allowing defenders to work through his inside.
Pugh, who has often been suggested as a candidate to move inside to guard, is at his best when down-blocking on inside defenders. He can turn defenders outside but is not an overpowering drive-blocker. He effectively spots targets in space to make second-level blocks, but he’s not naturally explosive or agile getting there. Getting beat by quick jumps off the snap resulted in some tackles for loss against him this past season.
Playing a tough position to excel at as a young player, Pugh has started his career with two solid seasons as the Giants' right tackle. He's unlikely to ever be a star because of his physical limitations, but the 24-year-old's sound fundamentals should lead to a long NFL career.
14. Andre Smith, Cincinnati Bengals
Possessing long arms, a wide base and clean footwork, Andre Smith (6'4", 340 lbs, six seasons) is typically used to shield pass-rushers outside the pocket. Smith has great strength and rarely loses a rusher if he can get his arms locked out on his opponent. He does not have excellent quickness, so he can be beat around the corner if he fails to come out of his stance cleanly. At times, his hand technique gets lazy, and he fails to get an effective block on his opponent. Smith allowed four sacks in nine starts this past season.
Smith does not always stick his blocks in space, as his aim toward moving targets is inconsistent. But when he gets his hands on a defender cleanly, he is able to sustain his block, as he has a very strong upper body and adequate foot skills. He has the size and strength to be a great drive-blocker, but he didn't overpower many opponents in 2014. Smith is not a player who is going to make impact blocks a long way downfield, but he accelerates well enough off the snap to get out in front of runs for lead blocks at the second level.
Smith's 2014 season was cut in half, as he played just parts of two games after Week 8 due to ankle and arm injuries. When he is at his best, Smith can be one of the best right tackles in the league. Coming off a down year, however, the 28-year-old will need a strong season in 2015 to prove to the Bengals he deserves a contract extension.
13. Phil Loadholt, Minnesota Vikings
When Phil Loadholt (6'8", 343 lbs, six seasons) is able to lock out his long arms on a defender, the massive right tackle almost always wins that battle. Despite having limited lateral agility, he is able to pick up outside stunts and wide rushes because of his reach and ability to take wide steps. When he drops back, he is too apt to letting defenders get their hands in his chest, enabling them to obtain leverage and drive him backward. He runs into trouble when he does not initiate contact, especially against speed-rushers on the outside.
One of the largest men in the NFL, Loadholt is able to overpower most of his opponents as long as he gets his hands placed correctly. At times, he aims poorly with his blocks and ends up letting a defender get movement on him. Loadholt accelerates very well off the line of scrimmage for a man of his size, enabling him to get to the second level, but a lack of lateral agility makes it tough for him to stick blocks on defenders in motion.
Even though Loadholt's play was not his best in the 2014 season, he was still greatly missed during Minnesota's final five games of the year after he suffered a season-ending pectoral tear. Assuming he makes a full recovery from his injury, the 29-year-old could return to being one of the NFL's best right tackles in 2015.
12. Breno Giacomini, New York Jets
Breno Giacomini (6'7", 318 lbs, seven seasons) wins in pass protection more frequently because of his upper body than his lower body. He has great length and the strength to offset power rushes. But his footwork can be sloppy, and his balance can be shaky. A tight end for part of his collegiate career, Giacomini has adequate athleticism for an NFL right tackle, but failing to come cleanly out of his stance can cause him problems. Still, he only allowed three sacks in 2014, although the Jets gave him more tight end help than most teams give their right tackles.
You won't see Giacomini drive a defensive lineman off the scrimmage very often—when blocking a defender straight on, he struggles to generate push. He has more success down-blocking on interior defensive linemen, while he also shows the lateral-movement skill to quickly come off a down block and chip a linebacker at the second level. He's not explosive running downfield, but he's good at hitting his targets in space.
Giacomini has never been spectacular and never will be, but his play was solid for the most part as he started all 16 games in his first season with the New York Jets. The 29-year-old might not be a starter for all four years of his contract with the team, but there's a good chance he'll be back in the lineup in 2015, as the Jets have many areas with bigger needs for improvement on their roster.
11. Mitchell Schwartz, Cleveland Browns
Mitchell Schwartz (6'5", 320 lbs, three seasons) plays with solid technique but rarely asserts physical advantages over his opponents. He has a clean kick-slide but is not particularly quick, so he can have trouble picking up speed-rushers who explode off the edge. Typically, he is able to get his body in front of his opponent and mirror him, while his long arms aid in his reach. But he is not aggressive with his hands and gets beat too often on second-effort rushes. Schwartz allowed seven sacks in 16 games in 2014.
Limited in quickness, Schwartz has trouble locking up defenders who are in space or in movement across the line of scrimmage. When he is able to stick a block, he packs enough punch to knock defenders down, but he is not consistently able to get out ahead of runs. He shows strength in turning out defenders on the edge but does not often drive opponents backward off the line of scrimmage.
Schwartz is often considered the weak link on the Browns offensive line, but that's largely because the rest of the unit is made up of excellent players. He doesn't dominate his competition and could be replaced when his rookie contract ends after the 2015 season, but he is an adequate starting right tackle.
10. LaAdrian Waddle, Detroit Lions
Injuries limited LaAdrian Waddle (6'6", 330 lbs, two seasons) to just 10 starts in 2014, but in that time he was once again a top-tier performer. Waddle allowed five sacks as he struggled with lateral movement off the edge. At his size, his lateral agility has always been questioned, and with a knee injury he was more limited. Length and power aren't a question with Waddle, though, and once he got his hands on defenders he was winning the battle.
A lack of burst, knee bend and power off the snap really limited Waddle's run-blocking ability in 2014—and it's safe to chalk that up to his knee injury. He was healthy for five snaps in Week 1 before leaving the game with a calf injury that limited him through his knee injury in Week 10. Without that get-off ability, Waddle was just a big body trying to be a wall between tacklers and the running back.
As long as he's healthy, the 23-year-old Waddle is an unquestioned starter for the Lions. He's been a rock at right tackle and is a powerful asset in the run game.
9. Zach Strief, New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints were not the same team in 2014, and some of that was definitely due to the struggles of the offensive line. Zach Strief (6'7", 320 lbs, nine seasons) did his part too, as he struggled to open lanes for quarterback Drew Brees to step up into and wasn't as mobile working the right corner. He did only give up three sacks, but he allowed 31 hurries with a smart, mobile quarterback behind him. Strief's timing and snap off the ball weren't the same this year.
Strief is a physically gifted run-blocker with natural balance and quickness in space. He did take a step back this year, though, in his ability to lock on and drive a defender out of rushing lanes. His head-to-head blocking wasn't the same and left us wondering if he was nursing an injury that caused him to lose strength and drive ability. His pop was not the same in 2014 and saw him take a sizable drop in scoring.
Strief was our No. 1 tackle for 2013, but he took a step back this season. At 31 years old when the season ended, his time as a surefire starter could be limited.
8. Ryan Schraeder, Atlanta Falcons
Ryan Schraeder (6'7", 300 lbs, two seasons) was a big surprise for our staff in 2014 as he became one of the better right tackles in football. Yes, he ended the season on a low note, giving up two sacks to the Carolina Panthers' Charles Johnson, but before that he allowed just one sack the entire season (10 starts). Schraeder's length, mobility and balance are above par, and he showed both strength and agility in protecting the edge in 2014. With better hand placement, better strength and much better awareness, Schraeder went from No. 29 overall to No. 8 overall at the position.
When moving in space, Schraeder did a much better job of hitting his target. His fluid movement skills were noticeably better, and when engaging a defender at the point of attack he played with greater leverage and more strength. He still struggles giving up his ground when pressed by a powerful defensive end, but he's winning those battles more and more.
One season—or 10 starts—at the position won't lock this job up completely, but Schraeder looks like a good starter for the club in 2015.
7. Doug Free, Dallas Cowboys
Doug Free (6'6", 325 lbs, eight seasons) started the season by allowing three sacks against the San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans, and then he didn't allow another one all season. Much like in his 2013 season, Free's patience and anticipation of what a pass-rusher will do were high, but he also showed very good pop on his punches and good feet to move and slide off the edge. He'll still surrender the edge at times, but his length and balance there are good enough that he's not caught lunging or guessing what the rusher will do.
The Dallas run game was excellent in 2014, but Free did struggle some in his ability to get out in space and make plays. In a one-on-one situation with a head-up defender he's going to win most battles, but asking him to clear out and reach an outside linebacker is much harder. With so many teams loading the box against the Dallas run game, Free was forced to block more athletic defenders and struggled with their speed.
Age is a question mark for Free, 31, as he moves forward, but he's still capable of being a high-level starter for several seasons.
6. Marcus Gilbert, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh offensive line was much improved in 2014, and the development of Marcus Gilbert (6'6", 330 lbs, four seasons) had a big hand in that. Gilbert did allow seven sacks on the year, but four of those came within the first two games as he struggled to find his rhythm. In the final 15 games (including the playoffs), he was much more balanced coming off the edge and displayed better patience and timing when dealing with speed-rushers. His lateral movement is very good, and with improved awareness, he was a much better player this fall.
Gilbert comes in at 6'6" and 330 pounds, so he's big enough and strong enough to move defenders out of the lane and open holes. He'll get too far upfield at times in a block, though, and will struggle with accurately getting his hands on a defender in space. His foot speed is good, however, and shows up when he's asked to attack a linebacker; he just has to improve balance and hand placement at the next level.
Gilbert, 27, went from No. 23 overall to No. 6 overall in 2014 and locked up the starting right tackle job for the foreseeable future in Pittsburgh.
5. Demar Dotson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Demar Dotson (6'9", 315 lbs, six seasons) is one of the biggest players in the NFL, and that works both for and against him as a blocker. When facing a bull rush, Dotson is strong enough to lock out the defender and stop him cold. But his frame makes it tough for him to get underneath the pads of pass-rushers, and he can surrender the corner if he can't win with a punch. With six sacks allowed, Dotson gave up a few big plays, but otherwise he did a good job limiting pressures allowed.
Leverage in the run game is an issue for Dotson—as can be expected when you're 6'9". When he's able to get the angle on a defender courtesy of play design, he can be very good. But if he has to simply power off the line and get low, he'll struggle and can be run over by much smaller players.
The 29-year-old's 2014 season was his best and saw him emerge as a long-term solution at right tackle for the Buccaneers. He's also versatile enough to fill in at left tackle if needed, something he did for three games this past season.
4. Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles
After missing four games to start the season due to a suspension, Lane Johnson (6'6", 317 lbs, two seasons) came in and dominated at right tackle. With just one sack allowed all season he showed impressive athleticism and footwork off the line and in space. Johnson did struggle at times with penalties (seven in 12 games), which keeps his score down. Athletically, few right tackles can touch him.
Johnson moves very well in the run game. He's quick to get into space and has the footwork to pick up defenders at the second level. He doesn't have great power, though, to really be a force as a drive-blocker, and he will need to work on improving leverage and base strength to become a better run-blocker in 2015.
The 25-year-old is an unquestioned starter and a building block for the Eagles offensive line. The No. 4 pick in the 2013 NFL draft, Johnson has lived up to his draft stock.
3. Sebastian Vollmer, New England Patriots
The New England Patriots love length at tackle, and Sebastian Vollmer (6'8", 320 lbs, six seasons) offers plenty of that. With just four sacks allowed on the year, Vollmer was once again one of the dominant right tackles in football. He's long, fluid and has enough power to stun defenders with his punch. He can also squat and anchor to take on a bull rush.
Vollmer has good feet in the pass game, but when asked to move forward he's a bit unbalanced. He can also get too high at times but does a good job using his arm length to drive-block when locking on in a man scheme. He's athletic enough to get outside the box, but must focus on leverage and pad-height when on the move.
Vollmer, 30, is a lock as a starter on the right side as long as he's healthy. He's a top-tier right tackle and has been since taking the starting job.
2. Ricky Wagner, Baltimore Ravens
A newcomer to the rankings this year, Ricky Wagner (6'6", 310 lbs, two seasons) stepped in for departed Michael Oher and was an upgrade at right tackle. In the passing game Wagner is smart, balanced and powerful. He doesn't get run over by power rushers and is smooth enough to slide in either direction to cut off the edge. He'll want to work on technique, as his hand placement can be off at times, but he flashed as one of the best pass-blockers we saw at right tackle all year and allowed just two sacks.
Wagner struggled at times in the run game but has all the athletic tools needed there. His angles and leverage must improve in the Ravens' zone running scheme, but he's powerful enough to close down the edge and wall off defenders. His upside here is huge.
Wagner was an underrated star for the Ravens this season. The 25-year-old's potential is huge, and he projects as a long-term starter.
1. Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay Packers
Bryan Bulaga (6'5", 314 lbs, five seasons) remains one of the better pass-protecting right tackles in football. He has a powerful, explosive lower body that really allows him to anchor down against a pass-rusher or get the lift needed to drive-block a bull rush. He's athletic enough to slide in space and has a well-timed punch to stun defenders. Bulaga allowed just four sacks on the year.
In the run game, Bulaga shows good power and good instincts. He takes good, smart angles and doesn't miss often in space. He could do a better job sustaining blocks and working through the player, as sometimes he gets too caught up on the first level. His vision and football IQ are exceptionally high, though.
As long as Bulaga, 26, is healthy, he's locked in as a starting right tackle and a consistent top-level performer.