Ranking the Free Agents: Interior Offensive Linemen

| March 1, 2011

When you think of the key players on offense what do you think of? Naturally the quarterback is the first person that springs to mind. Every team wants a Peyton Manning. Then you start thinking of the guy pounding the rock. How much better does an Adrian Peterson make your team?

My bet is, you’ll probably go through a number of positions before you mention either a center or a guard. They’re not glamorous positions for sure. But they are important. Creating that little bit of running room that gets those vital extra yards or allowing your QB to step up into the pocket. They enable playmakers to make plays.

And often the case, with no real stats available, it’s hard to ascertain their value. Big names don’t always equal big performances. So who are the guys out there deserving of the free agency pay day?

1. Carl Nicks, New Orleans Saints

Age as of 1st September 2011: 28

2010 Grade: +29.9

Key Stat: Our top rated left guard for the past two years.

Behind The Numbers: It’s a shame that as a player with only three years of service, Nicks will likely not get a chance to test himself on the open market. A shame for his agent especially, because Nicks is the premier young left guard in the league. A good pass blocker, Nicks excels with his ability to seal off defensive tackles and get to the second level and wipe out linebackers. For two years he’s proved it.

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2. Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens

Age as of 1st September 2011: 26

2010 Grade: +19.5

Key Stat: Finished in our top 15 offensive guards in 2009, and top five offensive tackles in 2010.

Behind The Numbers: The hardest thing about Yanda may be deciding where to play him. After missing a large part of the first half of 2009, Yanda was supreme down the stretch. Then, when injury saw him kicked outside, he was excellent all year at tackle. A versatile, talented and young offensive lineman? You may not get better value than Yanda when free agency opens.

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3. Harvey Dahl, Atlanta Falcons

Age as of 1st September 2011: 30

2010 Grade: +13.6

Key Stat: Third-ranked right guard for 2010.

Behind The Numbers: When you think of Harvey Dahl, there are a few phrases that have been programmed into us. “Nasty player” and “plays after the whistle” come to mind, but he’s more than that. Making the most of his talent, Dahl recovered from a poor season opener to have a great 2010. Rarely dominant, Dahl gets by and not making all that many mistakes. In a league lacking top quality linemen, that’s enough to make him a good one.

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4. Evan Mathis, Cincinnati Bengals

Age as of 1st September 2011: 29

2010 Grade: +6.2

Key Stat: Played just 114 snaps in 2010.

Behind The Numbers: After a great start to the 2009 season, Mathis returned from a brief injury and found himself in a rotation with Nate Livings. It was a strange decision, but not as strange as Mathis being dropped to the bench for nearly 90% of the 2010 season. When he got his chance he played as well as you’d expect, allowing one pressure and generally winning his battles in the trenches. Mathis could be one of the steals of free agency.

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5. Justin Blalock, Atlanta Falcons

Age as of 1st September 2011: 27

2010 Grade: +10.1

Key Stat: Has improved on our grading every year since entering the league.

Behind The Numbers: A high pick from the Petrino regime, Blalock has been a testament to sticking with a guy. As a rookie he was terrible, as a sophomore not much better. But then in year number three he showed something (outside of an Albert Haynesworth mauling). Come 2010. it was like the development had finally borne consistently tasty fruit. Not a superstar, but an above-average player who has eliminated a lot of the mistakes that made evaluating him such a disappointment.

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6. Kyle Kosier, Dallas Cowboys

Age as of 1st September 2011: 32

2010 Grade: +2.2

Key Stat: Only gave up one sack all year.

Behind The Numbers: Not the greatest year for Kosier, who battled injury at times and just couldn’t get to the level we saw of him in 2009. There were still flashes such as the game against Indianapolis, but Kosier will be hoping people have longer memories when it comes to negotiating his contract.

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7. Mike Brisiel, Houston Texans

Age as of 1st September 2011: 28

2010 Grade: +9.1

Key Stat: Texans rushers averaged 7.3 yards running between center and right guard.

Behind The Numbers: Arian Foster had himself a great year, but how about some credit for that Texans offensive line? I recently gave them a complete sweep in my AFC South offensive line stakes, as they all had career type years. When Brisiel played, he was every bit a part of that (outside a poor performance against Dallas). It was just a shame his season ended early when he was really finding his stride playing every offensive snap.

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8. Kyle Cook, Cincinnati Bengals

Age as of 1st September 2011: 28

2010 Grade: +4.7

Key Stat: Gave up three sacks (2nd highest) of all centers in 2010.

Behind The Numbers: Had some really bad games with his pass pro, and some really good games with his run blocking. The rest seemed a mash of just below average, or just above it. In short Cook has talent but lacks consistency.

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9. Richie Incognito, Miami Dolphins

Age as of 1st September 2011: 28

2010 Grade: +4.1

Key Stat: Surrendered three penalties all year.

Behind The Numbers: For once, Richie lived up his name and stayed incognito for most of the year, eliminating the disciplinary issues that had plagued his career. On the field he seemed to lose a bit of that aggressiveness that made him a pretty nasty run blocker, the result being an up-and-down season.

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10. Lyle Sendlein, Arizona Cardinals

Age as of 1st September 2011: 27

2010 Grade: +0.7

Key Stat: The only Arizona lineman to have a positive grade for the past two years.

Behind The Numbers: While it’s easy to criticize the Cardinal line, one guy who has earned something of a pass is Lyle Sendlein. He’s not perfect by any stretch but does about as good a job as any Cardinal of preventing pressure getting to his quarterback. You’d like to see how he’d fare with better players either side of him.

  • http://www.fanspeak.com steveospeak

    I’m surprised Robery Gallery didn’t make the cut. Was he close on this list?

    • Nathan Jahnke

      Not too close. Gallery had a negative rating in 2010, where all of these guys had positive. Plus he’s a little on the older side compared to the guys here other than Kosier.