When determining NFL offensive line rankings heading into the upcoming 2021 season, there are a few important factors to consider. Some of them include talent level, chemistry from longevity, performance from previous seasons, key additions, general health, and projected growth or decline. All of these play a role in predicting which teams will have the best blocking units this year. All things considered, here are the “medal winners” for the current NFL offensive line rankings.
Gold: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts top the list of all NFL teams and receive the gold medal. Their unit is lead by the best overall offensive lineman in the entire league in guard Quenton Nelson. While he is also a great pass blocker, what makes him so special is his elite run blocking and how far he moves his man off of the line of scrimmage. He almost automatically creates a lane by himself on just about every rushing play, making him one of the most talented run blockers the NFL has ever seen. His dominance helped the Colts achieve the 11th best rushing offense last season with 124.8 yards per game.
Additionally, the Colts ranked 2nd in pass protection last season by only allowing 21 total sacks. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers allowed fewer than they did with 14 total. Two players who really helped the Colts in this department were Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith. Both of them are top ten players at their positions and could realistically continue to improve even further.
The one major change this season is replacing the now-retired Anthony Costanzo with Eric Fisher, who is coming off Achilles surgery. As long as Fisher can fully recover from that difficult injury, the Colts are on top of the NFL offensive line rankings.
Silver: Cleveland Browns
The Browns have a fair case for the gold but they receive the silver by a narrow margin. They were one of the most impressive units last year and will be returning all five of their starters for the upcoming season. Last offseason, their main focus was to improve the offensive line and they were successful in completing that goal. They did so by upgrading both tackle positions.
They signed Jack Conklin in free agency and also used their first-round selection in the draft on Jedrick Wills. Conklin proceeded to have an excellent season and Wills showed a ton of promise that he can grow into a solid tackle.
The Browns ranked third in the NFL last season in rushing with 148.4 yards per game. Some of the credit for that can go to Wyatt Teller who, despite his shortcomings in pass protection, is one of the absolute best run blockers in the league. This unit is lead by JC Tretter, who is arguably a top-three overall center, and they did an excellent job of only allowing 26 sacks all season, which was good for eighth-best.
With all five of them returning for the 2021 season, they have a real shot to dethrone the Colts and become the new leader of the NFL offensive line rankings if they continue to grow together.
Bronze: Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys offensive line had a down year in 2020 but that is mainly because of the extensive injuries that they faced. Most notably, La’el Collins missed the entire season and Tyron Smith missed a large part of it. While Smith is not quite at the same level that he used to be because of his age, he is still a top ten tackle in the NFL when he is fully healthy.
If he and Collins can both return to form this year, the entire unit is going to drastically improve and should get back to their usual dominance. After all, it was not long ago that they were widely considered at the very top of the offensive line rankings.
In 2019 when fully healthy, the Cowboys ranked fifth in the NFL with 134.6 rushing yards per game. A big reason for that is the elite play of Zack Martin, who is probably the second-best overall offensive lineman in the league behind only Quentin Nelson.
Besides avoiding injury, the other key factor for the Cowboys this coming season is the progression of center Tyler Biadasz. He had very big shoes to fill when he replaced the now-retired Travis Frederick, so his development is crucial in their success as a whole. It’s fair to expect a big rebound from the Cowboys in the 2021 season and that is why they receive the bronze medal.