Offensive lines often get ignored in the NFL. The unit plays no part in fantasy sports, and are not as glamorous as superstar receivers and running backs. However, offensive lines are critical.
Cast your mind back on the Superbowl. The Kansas City Chiefs offensive line got dominated by a rampant Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. That culminated in Patrick Mahomes running for his life. On a day when his offensive line got beaten, arguably the best quarterback in the league couldn't make an impact. It undermines just how crucial offensive lines are.
With that said, which teams in the league boast the best unit upfront?
The best offensive lines in the NFL
#1 - Kansas City Chiefs
After watching his team's offensive line get destroyed in the Super Bowl, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach retooled the protection unit in Kansas City. Offensive lines never get rebuilt like this one did in the offseason. Former Pro Bowl guard Joe Thuney joined the Chiefs from the New England Patriots.
Veach then doubled down by trading for Orlando Brown from the Baltimore Ravens. The left tackle owns experience in pass protection, plus he is strong in run-blocking. Add those two to the return of Laurent Duvernay Tardif, rookie Creed Humphrey and Lucas Niang, and the line is powerful.
Offensive lines are insurance policies. Nobody enjoys paying for them, but teams must. After making Patrick Mahomes the highest-paid quarterback in NFL history, the Chiefs needed to take out an insurance policy. By adding excellent pass-protectors and run-blockers, Kansas City built a formidable offensive line. Mahomes could become even better in 2021.
#2 - Green Bay Packers
Per Pro Football Focus, the Packers' offensive line had the most success in pass-blocking last season. Offensive lines are crucial to Matt LaFleur's play-action-style offense. It was no surprise then that Aaron Rodgers waltzed to the MVP award behind a brilliant unit.
David Bakhtiari and Corey Linsley anchored the group by performing superbly in 2020. Bakhtiari's late-season injury cost Green Bay dearly. He will start 2021 on the PUP list as he recovers from injury. Linsley left in free agency, but the Packers are still strong.
Josh Myers is more than ready to replace Linsley at center. Myers can pin nose tackles, bounce, and then move to the second level. Lucas Patrick is another terrific run blocker, and also likes to finish blocks in passing situations with power.
Due to the complexity of LaFleur's offensive system, it is a boost for Green Bay to have two seasoned players on the depth chart. Elgton Jenkins and John Runyan are excellent backups and have tremendous knowledge of the offensive scheme. Their experience should help the new center adapt to calling the offensive line's audibles. Royce Newman is a draft pick that fans should watch out for. He impressed in the preseason and could be a star in the making.
Offensive lines don't get much better than the Packers' unit. Everything is set up for this group to perform again.
#3 - New England Patriots
Good offensive lines are essential for young quarterbacks to succeed. After cutting Cam Newton, Mac Jones is getting protected by one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Michael Onwenu demonstrated world-class versatility as he played guard and tackle in his rookie season.
David Andrews has played excellently at center for years and will be an invaluable asset to Jones. Lastly, Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn seal the edges. The trio have multiple Pro Bowl nods and Super Bowl wins between them. It's the perfect group for a young quarterback to play behind.
#4 - New Orleans Saints
Offensive lines are supposed to play with power and aggression. The Saints' offensive line bullies opposing units into submission. Yes, the line lacks depth, but the starting five are brilliant. Ryan Ramczyk, Andrus Peat, Cesar Ruiz, Erik McCoy and Terron Armstead are behemoths desperate to batter their opponents.
The lack of depth is a concern, but this may be the best starting five among all the offensive lines. In a year with a new quarterback, this group must clear running lanes for star Alvin Kamara. The Saints ranked in the top ten for pass-blocking and run-blocking in 2020. Their offensive line is a superb unit.
#5 - Baltimore Ravens
Speaking of offensive lines that love to clear running lanes, the Ravens had the best ground attack in the NFL last season and much of that success should be attributed to their offensive line. The zone-blocking and angle-blocking schemes that Baltimore utilizes suit their big, mobile blockers.
Baltimore added veterans Alejandro Villanueva and Kevin Zeitler to an already strong group. Villanueva isn't the best run-blocking lineman, although he excels in pass protection. Zeitler arrives in Baltimore with good knowledge of the run-first offense.
The Ravens are getting Ronnie Stanley back from injury. All offensive lines require their best players to stay healthy. Stanley is a power blocker and much of Baltimore's stretch and outside zone run work happens behind him. Watching some offensive lines is like watching a complicated dance. Watching the Ravens' offensive line is like getting a courtside ticket to a violent ballet.