By Steve Silverman
» More Columns
Formations and attacks in the NFL come and go, but the one constant needed to score consistently is a solid offensive line.
Blockers must be in sync with each other, understand their quarterback’s tendencies, and have gained familiarity with the defensive linemen who are trying to defeat them on every snap.
This usually takes time, and the necessities are a sharp-minded line coach and players with nasty natures who love to hit on every play.
Shockingly, the best offensive lineman in the league plays for one of the worst teams. Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns has consistently knocked his opponents off the ball, opened holes in the running game, and protected the quarterback as well as any left tackle in the league. He leads our list of the 10 best offensive linemen in the NFL, which includes four tackles, four guards and two centers.
1. LT Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns
It’s not much of a stretch to say that Thomas has played as well as any offensive lineman in recent memory, and he may rank very close to the level of all-time greats such as Anthony Munoz, John Hannah, Jim Parker, Jonathan Ogden, and Gene Upshaw. Thomas has made the Pro Bowl in each of his 10 seasons. He is a 6-foot-6, 314-pound tackle who is athletic enough and a dominating physical blocker who can overpower nearly everyone he engages. Additionally, he has a coach-like understanding of his opponent, and is brilliant strategically.
2. LT Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys
Smith has been nearly as good for the Cowboys as Thomas has been for the Browns, and it’s obvious around the league that Smith and Thomas are the two best blockers in the league regardless of position. Smith has excellent balance and quickness, and overwhelming power. His ability to defeat his man and help his fellow offensive linemen make him one of the best assets the Cowboys have.
3. LG Kelechi Osemele, Oakland Raiders
The Raiders went from a team on the rise to one of the best in the AFC in 2016 after signing Osemele in the offseason, and the improvement was not coincidental. Osemele is a versatile player who can play guard or tackle, but the 335-pound former Baltimore Raven has become overwhelmingly dominant at guard. He is at his best as a run blocker because he has a nasty nature and abuses opponents — in a legal way. And he is nearly as good as a pass blocker.
4. LT David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers
When you have an asset like Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, you can’t overstate the importance of providing the best protection possible on the back side, and that’s just what Bakhtiari does. He moves extremely well, and it is very difficult for the best speed rushers to get by him. He also has powerful hands that allow him to redirect opponents and stop them in their tracks.
5. RG Trai Turner, Carolina Panthers
Turner has become one of the most consistent interior linemen in the league, and he came into his own in 2015 when the Panthers won the NFC championship. While the team struggled last year, Turner continued to play sensational football. At 6-3 and 321 pounds, Turner is extremely athletic, a very nasty run blocker and a solid pass blocker.
6. LT Trent Williams, Washington Redskins
Williams has become one of the best left tackles in the NFL, and the good news for the Redskins is there is still significant room for improvement. He is one of the biggest players in the league at 6-5 and 336 pounds, but that doesn’t stop him from moving well and showing off his great feet. With just a bit more nastiness, he’d be an elite run blocker.
7. C Travis Frederick, Dallas Cowboys
Like Thomas, Frederick gained many of his skills while playing his college football at Wisconsin. Frederick was a first-team All-Pro in 2016 and has been to three consecutive Pro Bowls. He is one of the smartest line leaders in the league and makes quick adjustments to the Dallas blocking schemes. He has excellent balance and technique, and was one of the primary reasons quarterback Dak Prescott had so much success as a rookie.
8. RG Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens know that they are going to get an excellent performance from Yanda because he is one of the strongest run blockers in the league, even though he is not the biggest man at his position. At 6-3 and 307 pounds, Yanda can still punish bigger opponents because of his overpowering strength. His technique as a pass blocker is excellent.
9. C Alex Mack, Atlanta Falcons
The former Brown was miserable throughout much of his run in Cleveland, and much of that was due to the team’s performance on the field and organizational issues. After signing a $45 million deal with the Falcons, he helped solidify their offensive line and made life much easier for quarterback Matt Ryan by shoring up the interior blocking.
10. RG Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys
Martin has made a great adjustment to guard after playing left tackle. Along with Frederick, he helped Prescott gain the confidence to learn the nuances of his position, mostly because the young signal-caller knew he wouldn’t have to run for his life on an every-play basis. Martin still has a bit of work to do in the running game, but he is a three-time All-Pro.
Follow Steve on Twitter at @Profootballboy