2013 Offensive Line Rankings

In this look back at the offensive line units in 2013, Khaled Elsayed sets them in order, ranking all 32 and naming the studs and duds from each.

| 2 years ago
OL-Rankings-2013-final

2013 Offensive Line Rankings


 

8. Detroit Lions (7th)
PB: 5th, RB: 14th, PEN: 1st

Stud: Normally when your stud is a third-round rookie that’s a bad thing. But Larry Warford (+22.8) proved a steal with a season that earned him second team All-Pro honors here at PFF. The good news for Lions fans is he’s not the finished article.

Dud: How about this. The lowest rank they got was from a guy who played just 205 snaps and that was a mere -1.9. That’s Jason Fox by the way.

Analysis: A performance few saw coming. Gone were both starting tackles and the right guard. By the end of the year they’d replaced them with a sophomore left tackle many thought was out of his depth, a third-round rookie and an undrafted free agent. And yet they didn’t miss a beat. Held together by the excellent Dominic Raiola, the Lions have a line that just got very young in a lot of key areas.

7. Carolina Panthers (27th)
PB: 10th, RB: 7th, PEN: 6th

OL-rank-grossStud: It’s been a year to remember for Jordan Gross (+33.5). Retirement had been talked about, but surely he won’t quit when playing this well?

Dud: When you convert a defensive linemen to starting right guard there are going to be teething problems. That said, they can be relieved that Nate Chandler (-9.0) wasn’t the total liability he could have been.

Analysis: A big part of their offensive turnaround. They lost Amini Silatolu to injury but Travelle Wharton came in and played lights out in his 851 snaps. Throw in the good (although media overrated) play of Ryan Kalil and it’s really just the right side of the line you look at and think they could do with upgrading the talent/ experience level there.

6. Minnesota Vikings (9th)
PB: 7th, RB: 6th, PEN: 15th

Stud: Right tackle Phil Loadholt (+25.0) earned All-Pro honors in our eyes. He didn’t get the press he garnered last year as the team struggled but he remains the prototypical right tackle.

Dud: At this point in his career, Charlie Johnson (-5.4) might be best served in more of a utility linemen role. There are plenty of worse guards out there and if he’s the worst player on your line, you’re probably doing well.

Analysis: No doubt the team won’t be happy with how the left side performed with Matt Kalil suffering something of a sophomore slump. The good news is Brandon Fusco took a huge leap forward with his play to the point he was a legitimate All-Pro candidate. John Sullivan remains a quality center and whoever ends up coaching this unit can be happy with the talent they’ll be inheriting.

5. Washington Redskins (16th)
PB: 4th, RB: 10th, PEN: 3rd

Stud: An All-Pro-(or at least second team)-like performance from Trent Williams (+38.3). He has moments that make you smack your head, but by and large he’ll slow down elite pass rushers and has the kind of athleticism that generates movement whatever scheme you’re running.

Dud: Too many bad days for Chris Chester (-5.5) who continues to baffle with his streaky play.

Analysis: This ranking won’t please many Redskins fans who see the line as the root of their problems. The truth is the Shanahans had the zone blocking scheme working perfectly with huge cutback lanes regularly there for their backs to work with. Much is made of the hits Robert Griffin III took as if every single one of them must be the responsibility of the line. Well we charged RGIII himself with 10 of those sacks (more than any other player on the team) as the team gave whoever was quarterback ample time to get the job done. The big question now is what Jay Gruden intends for this line and whether he’ll move to a more power based scheme that could put a number of jobs on the line.

4. Dallas Cowboys (22nd)
PB: 9th, RB: 2nd, PEN: 24th

Stud: They got good play out of both tackles but Tyron Smith (+28.3) was the pick of the bunch. The 23-year-old is already one of the best left tackles in a league filled with good ones.

Dud: No player earned a lower grade than Ronald Leary (-9.4). The former undrafted free agent was largely decent but had a tricky middle spell to his season where he gave too much ground in pass protection.

Analysis: When things go wrong in Dallas they get magnified. But the truth is their line was a pleasant surprise as they opened up some big holes for DeMarco Murray and gave Tony Romo ample time to work with. While the tackles were the stars of the show but Travis Frederick came in and really added something to the run game.

3. Denver Broncos (4th)
PB: 2nd, RB: 4th, PEN: 7th

Stud: We didn’t expect Louis Vasquez (+33.6) to be quite this good but he was. Our All-Pro right guard, he even chipped in with good play at tackle to fully justify the outlay on him.

Dud: Left guard Zane Beadles (-5.7) is good out in space but his work in pass protection really leaves a lot to be desired.

Analysis: When Ryan Clady went down who saw this coming? Well Chris Clark filled in ably while the duo of Vasquez and Manny Ramirez delivered the goods in the run game. A real cohesive unit and while they benefit from the pocket presence of their quarterback, it’s a two-way street with both elements helping each other out.

2. Cincinnati Bengals (8th)
PB: 1st, RB: 5th, PEN: 12th

Stud: It’s hard enough to be good at one line position, but Andrew Whitworth (+36.7) excelled at two. A move to guard seemed to reinvigorate his run blocking while he kept his quarterback clean at the tackle spot.

Dud: He’d be a solid starter on most teams, but Kyle Cook (-4.8) remains the weakest link on a strong unit.

Analysis: Lose your starting guards? No problems. We’ll just ship in our backup left tackle and rotate a guy or two around. It was extremely impressive to see how the Bengals coped with injury, ending the year with six offensive linemen who played at least 350 snaps with a positive grade. With a lot of talent to work with, which five they put out next year will be worth keeping an eye on (and where they line up).

1. Philadelphia Eagles (19th)
PB: 18th, RB: 1st, PEN: 19th

OL-rank-mathisStud: Another season, another year of Evan Mathis (+46.7) putting on a clinic at guard. You don’t see linemen win as consistently as he does and it’s remarkable to think of his early career when you look at what he’s done these past three years.

Dud: It’s never bad when your dud, Lane Johnson (+0.2) earns a positive grade. The rookie right tackle started off slowly, giving up too much pressure but came on strong to finish the year.

Analysis: When you factor in that they started a rookie at one tackle spot and a veteran coming off two Achilles tears at the other, it’s miraculous they finished so high. By the season’s end no line created as much at the point of attack as this unit with three All-Pro candidates on board, and even with their sometimes porous pass protection they waltzed to the top spot. It’s an area for improvement on a fantastic line.

 

Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled

 

  • bz2

    Interesting to see Philadelphia ending only at 9, after some of the praise we heard from PFF for them, plus having Kelce, Mathis and no-one in the red. I guess the praise they got was all predicated on the run. Also, in the Philly paragraph, “you’re” should be “your”.

  • Lord Mad

    Patriots run blocking at 21st? Right….no way is the pass blocking better than the run blocking.

    • Bellini

      Could the team at PFF please sort out their comments system please? It must be so frustrating to have your posts cut midway through. Rather than the coherent rationale he was about to give for his view, poor old Lord Mad is now left looking like a petulant child.

      Sort it out!

      • Mr Garrison

        @Bellini Gotta love those internet intellectuals

      • Lord Mad

        Had to make room for your pretentious self absorbed ego.

  • Luke

    How can the Cardinals rank 32nd in the rankings? I feel this is more a predication based on last year’s line. To rank the Cardinals the same as last year is deeply misinformed. I would advise people to look at http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/ol.

    • pbskids4000

      The fact that FO think the Colts have the 15th best run blocking line makes it lose so much credibility. I’d rather stick with the website that shows performance of players. You can not give all credit to a offensive line if the RB gets a 5 yard gain or if a QB/RB got a first down on 3rd and 2. Stuid way to analyze.

      • Abdallah Awwad

        lol and given the fact that atleast 3 teams have given up 40 plus sacks, one of which gave up 50+ are in the top 15 also helps prove pff is a joke. the colts can’t block at all.

  • MT

    A Redskin fan for 21 years and this is one of the worst offensive line I’ve ever seen. I’m dead serious. Nobody can play QB behind that line. OMG. It’s beyond belief to rank them at 4th, even if they were ranked at 20, it would still be generous.

    • yankydave

      Exactly. Watch when at least four of the guys-not-named-Williams are released and don’t start anywhere else next year. That will prove how ridiculous these rankings are.

  • Bill Marcellino

    Football Outsiders has NE ranked 1st in offensive line RB; PFF has them 21st in RB. This is because of a difference in the unit of analysis, and the analytical assumptions behind that unit of analysis. FO is looking at the line as a whole as the unit of analysis, and PFF the individual player. You end up with two very different methods based on emergent vs. reductive assumptions: a) line play is an emergent quality b) line play is reducible to individual performance. If you think line play is an emergent quality, you can’t simply follow PFF’s reductive approach of grading players and then simply aggregating the grades.

    This is a good example of how PFF’s method is likely more appropriate for more individual performances (e.g. defensive backs), but fails when applied to more complex emergences (e.g. line play).

    • Lord Mad

      Awesome breakdown. Thank you!

    • Mike Renner

      There are so many variables that aren’t accounted for when crunching running numbers that it is impossible to equate their arbitrary definitions of running success with offensive line play. Things like running back talent, quality of other blockers(full backs/tight ends/receivers), and play calling are all huge factors to a running plays success. That analysis doesn’t really consider those elements though and puts the result of a running play solely on the offensive line.

      While you may feel we rank New England too low, that analysis also has two of the top three rushing offenses, Philadelphia and San Francisco, ranked 26th and 29th respectively. It wouldn’t take watching that many games of tape to realize that both those units can run block better than the Falcons and Cardinals.

      • Bill Marcellino

        “Arbitrary definitions of running success?” That makes no sense–for example, there’s nothing arbitrary about assigning “tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage” as a line failure.

        • Mike Renner

          So on a toss play when a safety beats a WR and tackles the RB for a loss…that’s the lines fault? Or if a draw is called against an overload blitz, 5 linemen are supposed to pick up 6 blitzers? Yes, usually runs for a loss come from line failures, but attributing blame without watching the play is guesswork. From the article:

          Losses: 120% value
          0-4 Yards: 100% value
          5-10 Yards: 50% value
          11+ Yards: 0% value

          Saying the offensive line has nothing to do with a gain over 10 yards, but takes all the blame for losses seems arbitrary to me.

          • Bill Marcellino

            Mike, I think you’re right that this doesn’t account for WR blocking. But I would point out that it is a proxy, not a measure–while you are right to point out that there are cases where stuffs aren’t attributable to the line, I do think MOST of the time, stuffs are the result of bad line play. Just like MOST of the credit for very long runs likely goes to the runner. Maybe this could be refined, but clearly it is not arbitrary.

          • Mike Renner

            I agree that line play isn’t just a sum of individual talents and understand why they chose those figures.What I’m saying is that their weighting system is arbitrary. 120%, 100%, 50% and 0% are arbitrary designations based on what they believe is the best way to eliminate running back skill. I just think you’ll never be able to control external variables well enough by simply using yards as a basis.

          • Bill Marcellino

            Mike, these aren’t arbitrary–they’re approximations based on judgement. If I tell you, “Top Marine officers usually have 1 or 2 bad fitreps in their record book,” that numerical range isn’t arbitrary. It’s an approximation, and it represents judgements. It could be a pretty crummy judgement (maybe it’s based on unrepresentative experience), or it could be a good judgement (based on a retroactive study of officer performance and retention).

            AYL is a proxy developed from observing football in the real world, and an understanding of how running plays actually develop. It’s approximate of course–maybe losses should be weighted more or less, or maybe distances could be shortened/lengthened. So there is a range of acceptable numbers, but you couldn’t plug just any number in. I couldn’t put 0-90 yard runs are fully weighted, but 91-99 yards are slightly weighted in favor of running back performance, at least I couldn’t if I wanted to match actual observation of football.

            I have no problem with you critiquing this as a proxy, or the construct of the proxy–I think it’s reasonable, but I don’t know that it is is perfect. But saying “it’s arbitrary” indicates an analytical error.

          • Mike Renner

            I guess I keep using the word ‘arbitrary’ because any system that you could create based on yardage is meaningless without actually watching the play. Is there anywhere on FO that explains how they came up with these values? I’d be curious to see if their reasoning arose from watching and charting a bunch of plays and seeing for what gains line play has the biggest impact.

          • Ajit

            Coming from someone who likes both products, its worth stating that pff’s analysis is focused on the microlevel details of football, while FO is about the macro. Fo’s basis is all about trying to sort through relevant variables for optimal predictions – an excercise entirely different from what Pff is trying to do. Both are useful.

            I think this deviated too far from Bill Marcellino’s original point, which was, trying to explain the gap between what pff’s findings and FOs. I wouldn’t say Pff failed anymore than I’d say FO succeeded. They may just be telling us two different sides of the elephant.

            As an aside – I think it would be fun to try and see what kind of bridge can be built to connect Fo’s aggregate statistics with Pff’s micro level statistics. Ultimately, we’re dealing with event analysis and they should be related(assuming we’re all watching the same games).

          • Bill Marcellino

            Ajit, I think you’re quite right that the source of the difference is a micro vs macro approach to data. It would seem in cases like this, where there is a really huge divergence, that one or the other approach is missing something.

          • Jef Rogers

            Guys, just want to let both of you know that I appreciate the interesting dialog presented in a constructive way. This stuff usually devolves into a catfight in two posts and I learned something from reading this entire thread. Namely, that the B’s I earned in statistics were likely lucky grades.

          • Bill Marcellino

            I’m surprised constructive dialogue hasn’t torn a fabric in the internet…

          • JJ

            Which brings us back to the days before PFF and fancy oline metrics, when X oline was good and Y oline sucks.

          • Ben August

            Hmm, this is all very interesting. I’d suggest evaluating it through Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA), using an Output Perspective (can choose multiple input and output vectors). I think DEA’s ability to define a best-practice frontier, combined with ad ho/quasifactor (post-analysis externality analysis), would be very useful (ie, quasi factors could at least take in to account, quality of competition). Something to look in to, if you enjoy stats and sports- highly applicable.

          • Ajit

            In statistical parlance, the problem here is with endogeneity, or more generally, separating cause and effect. There are all kinds of linkage issues in football, ie- how much is play calling /receivers/ qb affecting how good the o line is playing.

            I think PFF still does a great job, but for instance, can we really know for sure how good den’s o line would fair with tebow at qb? In theory, pff’s grades are attempting to separate that, but even they would admit that such extremes would definitely affect their ratings. Again, it’s still very informative and they should be applauded, but trying to tease out those factors statistically on a microlevel is extraordinarily difficult.

          • Ben August

            I would agree that it is difficult- and in fact, may be utterly impossible.

            As far as addressing externalities, I typically suggest running the primary analysis, and then applying ad hoc analysis later, in order to attempt to explain or highlight how different externalities may impact whatever is being observed.

            For instance, though we don’t know how different QB’s can impact a line, we can try…IE, the biggest quantitative factor would probably be “time to decide” and/or “time to release,” regarding how fast a QB typically gets “rid” of the ball.

            Anyways, you run the initial analysis, and then re-order based upon a classification (measured time), then plot it across a graph, and look for trends.

            I’ve had what I believe to be great success using “ad hoc” analysis to account for externalities, and have applied it to factors such as coaching style, weather, elevation, play choice, etc…with regard to the output of various positions within football (NFL).

            But like you said- it is difficult, and time consuming, and ultimately it is hard to know the direction of the linkages (SPSS and PASW would probably help, but didn’t take that far).

          • Ajit

            I don’t know this for sure, but they did mention they used regression analysis to determine which values produced the most predictive statistic. It certainly seems reasonable I would think.

          • Bill Marcellino

            Mike,

            1) You’re quite right these aggregate statistics tell us nothing about the individual play. That’s the nature of this kind of proxy. It’s like BMI–I’m just under 30 BMI (obese), but that’s inaccurate–in this micro-level case my BMI reflects strength training. But at the macro-level of populations, BMI is a very reliable proxy.
            2) I think your question about the method is valid–I would like to hear how they got to those figures as well. They seem reasonable at face value to me, but I’m no scout. I would prefer an explanation that makes clear why weighting 0% for long runs is more accurate than weighting 25%.

          • Mike Renner

            It’s interesting that you bring up BMI because it suffers from the same input data problem that I think FO’s analysis has. Height/Weight may come close to representative on a Macro-level, but wouldn’t you say body fat % would be a more precise depiction on both micro and macro levels? BMI doesn’t regulate a huge variable in body composition, muscle vs fat.

            FO’s analysis has the same problem in that the input data doesn’t control for RB skill/running style. They are using yards, but wouldn’t yards prior to contact be more accurate again on both micro and macro?

            Some of FO’s stats are great in that they approach complex problems with complex equations that take into account loads of aggregate data. This formula, along with their sack rate formula, just seems too simplistic to tackle something as multi-faceted as line play. I think they are headed in the right direction with their analysis, but they simply need better input data.

          • Bill Marcellino

            Mike,

            1) Yes, body composition would be more accurate at the level of populations. But getting that data is very costly, so BMI is used as a proxy–it is cheap to get that data, and at the level of populations it is a very reliable proxy. Communities with high BMI are chock-filled with overfat people.

            2) I think adding in yards after contact, or using broken tackles, misses, etc as a way to weight aggregate yards would be more accurate. My question is about whether the increase in accuracy would justify the cost.

    • Budahmon

      The grading is also subjective. If the grader likes the player they will get a better grade….that is just human nature after all the graders are fans and have their own personal biases. Case in point lets look at the Chiefs (and I to have my own personal bias); PFF has liked the Chiefs’ Asamoah for several years. They have also slammed Fisher on a continuous basis all year. Yet, the Chiefs line play improved dramatically once Asamoah was injured. Specifically, Fisher’s run blocking and pass protection greatly improved with Schwartz to his left. Yet, PFF grades out Asamoah highly and takes the time to slam Fisher again in this write up. Here I will quote from the article….(WRT Schwartz) “his play ensured that the team couldn’t switch back to Jon Asamoah (who wasn’t playing badly himself).” Asamoah was the worst OL the Chiefs had this year. His play affected the entire line. When he was injured and Schwartz replaced him the entire line play took off. Charles had more productive runs, getting into the second level of defenders on a more consistent basis and the OL pass protection improved. Asamoah has always been inconsistent from game to game, but this past year he was consistently bad…yet PFF ranks him highly. They had the same feelings about Lilja last year…..and where is Lilja now? Out of football since he was cut by the Broncos…

    • Daniel

      Football Outsiders just broke down Cam Newton last week and said he was a emerging talent and a good passer. They raved about how he is reading the field. This is a guy who is completing a Rick Mirer like 70+% to the left side of the field and 55% to the right side of the field. His TD/INT ratio is 8-1 throwing left and 13-10 throwing right. He is rarely even attempting passes over the middle of the field. He averaged 3 pass attempts a game attempted over the middle and had a 3-2 TD/INT ratio there. You know who can’t throw over the middle of the field? Poor passers! His completion % drops to 42% when he throws 11 yards or more. Cam’s yardage dropped to 3,379 this season. Also if you break it down Cam has ALWAYS put his stats up vs. weak defenses and struggled vs. good defenses. Check the game logs over the course of his career in you do not believe me. If you watch the Panthers, like in the SF game last week, when they give Cam the keys to the offense they struggle to move the ball and he throws picks. When they ask him to do less and run the ball more they play better. None of this is a breakdown of a top level QB or an emerging talent who is a good passer. The fact is the Panthers have an elite defense that carried them to their awesome record and a playoff birth. Cam is hands down the best scrambling QB in the league, but he is suspect as a passer when asked to do so. Yet, Football Outsiders somehow finds him to be a good passer in the pocket and emerging talent.

      • Nik

        Cam’s passing yardage going down is due to the Panthers switching to Mike Shula’s conservative run first ball control offense. With Chudzinski, they had an aggressive downfield passing attack. Shula’s conservative playcalling has restricted their offense.

        And have you seen Cam’s weapons. His #1 WR fell off a cliff. He’s 35 years old and lost his speed, leaping ability, and had uncharacteristic drops. His other options aren’t reliable either. Brandon Lafail and Ted freakin’ Ginn.

        Gimme a freakin’ break. The best QB in the league last year Peyton Manning underperformed severely against the Seahawks defense. So, you’re saying QBs do worse against good defenses? No way!

    • sam

      True, but Football Outsiders uses formulas involving just yards, and a good running back will create more yardage for his team. That’s why the chiefs are so high with Jamaal Charles. It’s definitely more important to look at the line as a whole, but PFF, despite the subjectivity of each rating of each play, doesn’t reward a lineman for a great move made by the running back. It’s best to look at both rankings and take them with a grain of salt.

  • phillydude123

    Wait, what? How is Miami #19 when they lead the league in sacks allowed… by a long shot? I love PFF, but you guys need to do some work on analyzing units as units, not individual sums.

    • pbskids4000

      WTF?! If you have ever gone to this site before you would realize how little sacks mean in the grand scheme of things.

      • Trey Warner

        Dude if you actually watch one snap of a Dolphins game you will see how horrendous their O-line was

    • Jonas Salk

      Sacks are not necessarily the offensive lines fault. There can be a bunch of things that can occur that lead to a sack and none of them are any indication of how the offensive line played on that particular play. For example, a RB, FB or TE can miss a block or a blitzer. You also have QB’s who simply have a slower release or just take longer to read a defense and get rid of the ball.

  • yankydave

    Redskins at three completely destroys whatever formula you use. What a joke.

  • Geo McDowell

    “Arizona Cardinals (32nd, again)”
    This is what happens when you draft a Notre Dame WR when you have a HOFer at WR and desperately need help on the OLine. Would the 49Whiners even be in the playoffs if the Cards had drafted one of the many quality tackles still on the board in 2012?

  • Daniel

    I can’t agree with the Eagles line not being at least top 5. Their worst guys graded out positive. I didn’t see anyone else with a grade like that. Not to mention, as you stated, they had 3 all pro candidates and in my opinion the best lineman in the NFL (Mathis). However, I liked the article good read, and thanks for giving us some awesome analysis all season!

  • Stating The Obvious.

    “you can get by with five Blalock-level talents on your line. You can’t cope when he’s the best of the bunch.” So there’s five Blalock level talents on the line and you can’t cope when he’s the best but you can get by with 5 of him and therefore he’d be the best offensive lineman by proxy.

  • Stating The Obvious.

    Love all the stats I get from this site though. You guys are a huge research when I need to research certain players.

  • Abdallah Awwad

    see this is the problem with pro football focus. you guys count a qb hurry as 3/4ths of a sack. that is not accurate at all. the sacks are the worst thing allowed, followed by the qb hit. big ben was sacked 41 times. the green bay qbs were sacked 52 times. yet the bears recieve lower grades then them. i think it should be hurry lvl 1 =1, hurry lvl2 =2, qb hit =3, and a sack =4. it should be like era in baseball, the lower the better.

  • Don417

    Brandon Albert a star? On what planet?

    • DrAWNiloc

      This one, as you’ll see if you draft Jamaal Charles this year.

      • Don417

        First of all, genius, I’ve watched BAlbert every game of his career in KC. Second of all, moron, BAlbert doesn’t play with JCharles any longer. Third…I’m not one of those virgin, fantasy playing losers.

        • eYeDEF

          I think you might have missed DrAWNiloc’s point. If you drafted Charles this year you might have noticed how much poorer he’s played while struggling with health issues for the first time in his career. You think it’s any coincidence his pedestrian play has coincided with BAlbert taking his talents elsewhere and Fisher as the blindside tackle in KC now? It’s also useful to note that Albert right now rates as the 3rd best tackle in the league and 2nd best left tackle according to PFF rankings with 67 tackles graded and ranked in total. Meanwhile Fisher has graded out as the 2nd worst tackle in the league so far. Meanwhile the guy on the other side Ryan Harris isn’t much better as the 7th worst tackle in the league.

  • Travis Zuehls

    Amazing, The hawks have have one of the worst O-lines in the game yet are the best team in the NFL. I believe GB and the Steelers both won 3 SB’s over a 5 year period with 2 of the worst O-lines in the NFL as well. D wins championships combined with mistake free and efficient offensive/SPT’s play