PFF’s Best Pass Protector: Browns LT Joe Thomas

Bryson Vesnaver reveals PFF's choice for the Anthony Muñoz Award, and names four runners-up to the honor.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/David Richard)

(AP Photo/David Richard)

PFF’s Best Pass Protector: Browns LT Joe Thomas

Offensive linemen are often the most overlooked position in the NFL. Often times they are only noticed when they have done something poorly. The best linemen are the ones you rarely hear about, because they do their job so well. This is especially true in the passing game as more often than not when you hear an offensive lineman’s name, it’s followed by “…has allowed a sack”.

But we at PFF love our offensive linemen. We recognize how important they can be to a team’s success. So we’re recognizing them. This award, named after NFL legend Anthony Muñoz, is for the Best Pass Protector. Voted to 11 straight All-Pro teams, and a member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team, Muñoz is widely considered to be one of, if not the best offensive lineman ever. It’s only fitting that this award bears his name.


Joe Thomas, LT, Cleveland Browns

Joe Thomas is something of an NFL legend. Week after week Thomas sees the best of the best in terms of NFL pass rushers from his left tackle position. He plays for a Browns team that has gone 47-97 in his nine-year career for the team and he has played in zero playoff games. Yet he hasn’t missed a single snap. That’s 9,565 straight snaps that Thomas has played, taking none off for rest, injury, or anything else. Yet he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

This season was yet another fine one by Thomas, to the surprise of nobody. Thomas finished as PFF’s highest graded tackle at 94.3 overall, and was the number one pass blocker with a 93.6 grade. He blocked on 705 passing plays, the most among all tackles. Despite protecting quarterbacks that averaged 2.80 seconds to throw, far above the league-average of 2.64 seconds, Thomas allowed just two sacks, one hit and 21 hurries. His Pass Blocking Efficiency of 97.4 was the best among all tackles. He also had six full games in which he didn’t allow a single pressure.

Joe Thomas continues to be one of the most dominant left tackles in the league, especially when pass protecting. This season was no exception, as he dominated week in and week out. He is absolutely deserving of being named this year’s Anthony Muñoz Award winner for best pass blocking offensive lineman.

First runner-up

Tyron Smith, LT, Dallas Cowboys

Smith was right behind Thomas when it came to pass blocking, only missing out on this award by a narrow margin. He finished with both the second-highest overall grade at 93.3 and the second-highest pass blocking grade at 91.9. The Cowboys’ quarterbacks were a little quicker to throw than their Browns’ counterparts at 2.67 seconds average, but Smith still allowed five sacks and just 22 total pressures. His Pass Blocking Efficiency of 96.9 was seventh in the league.

Second runner-up

Josh Sitton, LG, Green Bay Packers

Sitton finished the season with an overall grade of 88.5, and the third-best pass blocking grade among guards at 88.4. He allowed three sacks and just 12 total pressures all season, giving him a league-leading pass blocking efficiency among guards at 98.4.

Third runner-up

Marshall Yanda, RG, Baltimore Ravens

Yanda was our highest-graded guard this season, finishing with a 92.6 overall player grade. His pass blocking grade of 89.0 was second-best among guards, and his pass blocking efficiency of 98.2 was third. He allowed just one sack on 706 passing plays.

Fourth runner-up

Zack Martin, RG, Dallas Cowboys

Martin was our highest-graded pass blocking guard, at 90.7. He allowed just one sack all season and finished with a second-best pass blocking efficiency of 98.3.

| Analyst

Bryson has been an analyst at Pro Football Focus since 2014, and has also been a contributor to 120 Sports.

  • anon76returns

    Not sure exactly what the criteria are, here. The pick of Thomas as the winner seems fine, as does Smith at runner-up. But I’m completely confused by why your #3 guard is the 2nd runner up, your #2 guard is the 3rd runner up, and your #1 guard is the 4th runner up. Without any explanation in the paragraph on each recipient, it just seems like you’re not standing behind the website’s core principles on grading.

    • Kyle Ferguson

      Admittedly that is a bit confusing. Maybe they have level of competition and QB throw time mixed in with it. But ya more of an explanation would be nice. PFF STEVE or SAM or GORDON please answer!

      • Justinius Maximus

        Offensive linemen don’t only pass block. Therefore, it stands to reason that their overall grade is not the same as their pass blocking grade.

    • Justinius Maximus

      Offensive linemen do more than simply pass block. Therefore, it stands to reason that their overall grade is not the same as their pass blocking grade.

      • anon76returns

        Who said anything about overall grade?
        This is an award for “best pass protector”.
        The grades that I reported were the pass protection grades detailed in the article. Why should the 3rd highest graded pass protector at guard be closer to winning the pass protection award than the 2nd highest graded pass protector at guard, who himself was apparently closer to winning the award than the highest graded pass protector at guard?

  • Ante

    Sitton? I remember seeing him get absolutely toasted all game in week 17 against the Vikings.

    Unless it was Lang. Then, my mistake.

    • TorreyAnderson

      Sitton was out of position that game. Forced to play LT instead of LG due to injuries. In that sense, I can see why they didn’t mark him down for that game.

  • zinn21 zinn21

    Paxton Lynch will love Joe Thomas once Hugh drafts him..

    • Lol

      That’s what they said about Johnny Manziel.

  • Scott kohler

    Funny how Tyron Smith gives up sack after sack, but repeatedly gets high pass protection grades from PFF…