We continue our offseason dead-time series with the guys charged with keeping their quarterbacks upright. Here are the 10 best…
1. Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys — It’s hard to believe the first-team All-Pro is only 24 years old and has already made 63 starts while earning a pair of Pro Bowl nods. Smith gave up just two sacks on 1,082 snaps last season. Oh, and he became the first offensive lineman in a decade to be named a player of the week.
2. Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati Bengals — I know Whitworth isn’t young, but I have no idea why the Bengals seem to be rushing to replace a man who gave up zero sacks on over 1,000 snaps last season. The 33-year-old didn’t even make the Pro Bowl but was graded by Pro Football Focus as the best pass-blocking offensive tackle in the game.
3. Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns — Mr. Consistent was once again a monster as both a pass protector and a run blocker in 2014, earning an eighth Pro Bowl and fifth All-Pro nod. Thomas, who hasn’t missed a game in eight seasons, deserves to become part of Hall of Fame conversations.
4. Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles — For the second time in four years, Peters was graded by PFF as the best all-around offensive tackle in the game. The steady 33-year-old has been to seven Pro Bowls.
5. Ryan Clady, Denver Broncos — A lot of the guys above lack team success. That’s not the case with Clady, who has been dominant when healthy on a perennial contender. The problem is that Peyton Manning’s blind-side protector can’t stay healthy. The two-time All-Pro is only 28, but he won’t play another down until 2016. Expect him to lose ground here between now and then.
6. Duane Brown, Houston Texans — Brown gave up just two sacks and 25 total pressures on 1,122 snaps last season, which has become typical for the three-time Pro Bowler. Dude has surrendered just nine sacks in 62 starts the last four seasons. Matt Kalil gave up 12 this season alone.
7. Trent Williams, Washington Redskins — The 26-year-old mauler takes too many penalties and lacks consistency, but his environment hasn’t helped. In 2013, Williams was graded head and shoulders above every other tackle in the game at Pro Football Focus. If the Redskins can get it together, he could be the best tackle in football in 2015.
8. Joe Staley, San Francisco 49ers — Make that four consecutive full Pro Bowl seasons for the steady Staley, who amid turmoil in San Francisco managed to earn the league’s second-best PFF run-blocking rating among players at that position in 2014.
9. Jared Veldheer, Arizona Cardinals — Still not sure what the Raiders were thinking when they let this guy walk. The 28-year-old gave up just one sack and 25 pressures on 1,089 snaps in 2014.
10. Kelvin Beachum, Pittsburgh Steelers — Cordy Glenn’s got more talent and D’Brickashaw Ferguson is a bigger name, but Beachum’s sheer numbers blew those guys out of the water in 2014. In fact, PFF had him as the fourth-best pass-blocking offensive tackle in the league. Still need to see a little more dominance beyond the numbers, but the 26-year-old is on the right track.