Offensive Line Rankings: NFL's best, worst protection units

Get ready for your season with theScore's 2019 Fantasy Football Draft Kit and subscribe to push notifications in the NFL Fantasy News section.

Fantasy football might be powered by skill-position stars, but offensive lines are the driving force behind most week-winning efforts.

So, as you prepare for your fantasy drafts, it's crucial to consider how O-lines across the league have changed this offseason, and how those changes will impact the players they're blocking for.

Below, with the help of theScore's Mike Alessandrini, we've ranked all 32 offensive lines, taking into account past performances, offseason upgrades, overall depth, and the very underrated element of continuity.

Starting lineups are projections and will be updated throughout OTAs and training camp.

Offensive Line Rankings
32-21 | 20-11 | 10-1

32. Houston Texans

Pos. Starter
LT Matt Kalil
LG Max Scharping (R)
C Nick Martin
RG Zach Fulton
RT Tytus Howard (R)

Depth: Julie'n Davenport, Seantrel Henderson, Senio Kelemete, Martinas Rankin, Greg Mancz

  • There's nowhere to go but up for the Texans' offensive line, which justifiably occupied the 32nd spot in these rankings last year, too. Houston wisely invested in the group this offseason, and the line could look very different if first- and second-round rookies Howard and Scharping earn roles in camp.
  • Deshaun Watson was under siege for most of the 2018 season, as the Texans allowed a league-high 62 sacks. Watson's blend of talent, athleticism, and savvy helped him overcome the constant pressure and post the fourth-most fantasy points among quarterbacks, but his health will continue to be a concern until his blocking improves.
  • A portion of the blame for Lamar Miller's lack of high-end fantasy outings can also be attributed to the line, which finished near the bottom of the NFL in Football Outsiders' Adjusted Line Yards.

31. Miami Dolphins

Pos. Starter
LT Laremy Tunsil
LG Michael Deiter (R)
C Daniel Kilgore
RG Jesse Davis
RT Jordan Mills

Depth: Chris Reed, Jaryd Jones-Smith, Isaiah Prince (R), Zach Sterup

  • The only reason the Dolphins avoided the last place on this list is the presence of one above-average starter in Tunsil. You could argue the rest of their line is actually worse than what the Texans have to offer. Meanwhile, Miami's only hope for an immediate upgrade is third-round rookie Deiter, who was handpicked to fit new head coach Brian Flores' tough, physical vision for the blocking unit. Still, that could be hard to implement on a team that oddsmakers project to finish with the lowest win total in 2019. In what's expected to be a rebuilding year, the line is definitely a work in progress.
  • Kenyan Drake was the RB14 in PPR formats last season, in large part due to his 53 receptions for 477 yards and five receiving touchdowns. With several former Patriots coaches on the new staff, including offensive coordinator Chad O'Shea, Drake has been watching tape of James White to get a feel for how he'll be deployed in the passing game. It's his best chance for consistent fantasy production behind this line.
  • If Josh Rosen wins the starting QB job, he'll spend his second straight season behind an underqualified set of blockers. We've seen young passers like David Carr become shell-shocked early in their careers by an unchecked flow of pass-rushers. Hopefully, Rosen's development isn't stunted by it.

30. Arizona Cardinals

Pos. Starter
LT D.J. Humphries
LG J.R. Sweezy
C Mason Cole
RG Justin Pugh
RT Marcus Gilbert

Depth: A.Q. Shipley, Desmond Harrison, Will Holden, Max Garcia, Korey Cunningham, Lamont Gaillard (R)

  • We mentioned that the Cardinals struggled to keep Rosen upright in 2018. Injuries were partially to blame, as Humphries, Pugh, and Shipley all had their seasons come to an early end. Better health mixed with the arrival of veterans Sweezy, Gilbert, and Garcia should give this unit an opportunity for redemption.
  • Kliff Kingsbury's system and Kyler Murray's skill set will also have a major impact on this unit. As Rotoworld's Evan Silva recently pointed out, Kingsbury's quick passing scheme resulted in the fourth-lowest sack rate in D-1 college football during his six years at Tech Texas, despite the offensive line not having many NFL prospects. Meanwhile, Murray's dual-threat ability should allow him to rise above the flaws of his blockers, much like Watson with the Texans.
  • David Johnson is primed for a bounce-back year, though it will have more to do with Kingsbury's spread offense and the infusion of skill-position talent than with the minor tweaks to O-line personnel. Arizona's run blocking has declined in each of the last three seasons, falling from seventh in Adjusted Line Yards in 2016, to 17th in 2017, and then down to 25th last year. That trend will begin to reverse if everyone stays healthy.

29. Cincinnati Bengals

Pos. Starter
LT Cordy Glenn
LG John Jerry
C Billy Price
RG John Miller
RT Bobby Hart

Depth: Jonah Williams (R) (INJ), Alex Redmond, Michael Jordan (R), Christian Westerman, Trey Hopkins, Justin Evans

  • Once a strength of this offense, the O-line has become a liability in recent years following the departures of Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler. Realizing the error of their ways, the Bengals have spent draft picks, made trades, and dished out cash in free agency, but they've yet to correct the problem. That's bad news for Andy Dalton, who needs an elite supporting cast to make the most of his modest attributes.
  • In June, the team announced their first-round pick, Williams, will likely miss the season after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum. It's a devastating turn of events for the rookie, who was expected to help stabilize the line.
  • Even with the uneven play in front of him, Joe Mixon broke out last season and should be viewed as a rock-solid top-10 fantasy back moving forward.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Pos. Starter
LT Donovan Smith
LG Ali Marpet
C Ryan Jensen
RG Caleb Benenoch
RT Demar Dotson

Depth: Evan Smith, Alex Cappa, Earl Watford, Ruben Holcomb, Michael Liedtke

  • At least the Bucs' offensive line has continuity on its side, as it's returning a nearly identical group from 2018. But sadly, that doesn't count for much after a disappointing campaign. Smith and Marpet are worthy starters, but this group desperately needs an elite player to lift its overall talent level.
  • For all the excitement over Jameis Winston's potential in a Bruce Arians offense, the blocking will need to improve for the former No. 1 overall pick to reach his ceiling. Tampa gave up a league-worst 43 quarterback hits last year, according to Pro Football Focus, as well as an embarrassing 68 knockdowns - second only to the Cardinals.
  • Poor offensive line play and a limited running back depth chart led to bottom-six finishes for total rushing yards in each of the last two campaigns. The combination of Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones searching for holes behind this line doesn't inspire confidence that things will improve in 2019.

27. New York Jets

Pos. Starter
LT Kelvin Beachum
LG Kelechi Osemele
C Ryan Kalil
RG Brian Winters
RT Brandon Shell

Depth: Jnonotthan Harrison,Tom Compton, Chuma Edoga (R), Jordan Morgan, Brent Qvale, Jon Toth

  • The Jets brought in two former All-Pros, Osemele and Kalil, to boost their line, but which version of Osemele landed in New York? Is it the star who appeared in back-to-back Pro Bowls (2016 and 2017) or the version who appeared to be slipping due to nagging injuries as a 29-year-old last season? Meanwhile, can we trust a 34-year-old Kalil, who ended his brief retirement to join the team in early August? If the duo rediscovers their form, the Jets' line could vault up these rankings.
  • The team added another All-Pro in Le'Veon Bell, who let fantasy owners down by sitting out the entire 2018 campaign. His patient running style could take some getting used to for most of the Jets' linemen, though former Steeler Beachum should help the transition. Gang Green will also need Osemele's mauling approach to rub off on them in the running game after they failed to open holes for their ball carriers a season ago. Concerns over Bell being rusty are also warranted, but guaranteed volume should secure him a spot at the backend of the RB1 ranks.
  • Keeping Sam Darnold clean is the No. 1 priority for this crew, which did a surprisingly good job of that during the QB's rookie year, finishing middle of the pack in most pass-blocking categories. That's better than anyone expected prior to Week 1.

26. Buffalo Bills

Pos. Starter
LT Dion Dawkins
LG Spencer Long
C Mitch Morse
RG Quinton Spain
RT Cody Ford (R)

Depth: Ty Nseke, LaAdrian Waddle, Wyatt Teller, Russell Bodine, Vladimir Ducasse, Jon Feliciano, Jeremiah Sirles, Conner McDermott

  • The Bills did something that few teams attempt when trying to revamp an offensive line - they increased their competition by adding several underrated veterans. Former Chiefs center Morse didn't come cheap, but players like Long, Spain, Nseke, Waddle are all on team-friendly deals that will allow them to improve the depth of this unit while challenging for starting roles. "The cream is going to rise to the top in that room," retired Bills center Eric Wood said in May.
  • Buffalo eagerly scooped up Ford early in the second round after many speculated he'd be drafted in the first. He'll need to battle the veterans for playing time, which could come at tackle or guard.
  • This is a much different group than the Bills fielded last season, and that's yet another reason to be intrigued by Josh Allen's fantasy outlook. With the help of his legs, Allen scored more fantasy points than any other quarterback from Week 12 on in his rookie year. With a more experienced line, Allen should be afforded more time to develop as a passer.

25. Minnesota Vikings

Pos. Starter
LT Riley Reiff
LG Pat Elflein
C Garrett Bradbury (R)
RG Josh Kline
RT Brian O'Neill

Depth: Aviante Collins, Rashod Hill, Dru Samia (R), Brent Jones, Dakota Dozier, Danny Isidora, Storm Norton

  • The Vikings boast high-priced skill-position talent, which was held back by the offensive line in Kirk Cousins' first year with the club. In fact, Minnesota allowed the most QB pressures in the league (217) last season, according to Next Gen Stats. So, the team went to work in the offseason, signing former Titans starter Kline and selecting Bradberry, the top center in this year's draft class. Those are notable upgrades for a group that will be responsible for protecting Cousins while paving the way in the Vikings' new run-heavy attack.
  • Once Mike Zimmer directed the offense to lean on the ground game late in 2018, Dalvin Cook was a top-six fantasy running back over the final six games. Now, Gary Kubiak has joined the coaching staff as an offensive advisor, bringing along some of his former assistants like line coach Rick Dennison to help implement their system. Kubiak's influence significantly increases the odds of a true breakout campaign from Cook - the type of season that could make him a top-five fantasy back.
  • Cousins had pass-rushers in his face more often than he would have liked last year, but the emphasis on the run down the stretch is what really caused his dip in production. Even with a better line, Cousins won't see the passing volume to make him a consistent fantasy starter.

24. Detroit Lions

Pos. Starter
LT Taylor Decker
LG Kenny Wiggins
C Frank Ragnow
RG Graham Glasgow
RT Ricky Wagner

Depth: Joe Dahl, Oday Aboushi, Tyrell Crosby, Leo Koloamatangi, Andrew Donnal

  • The Lions' line was one of the most underwhelming units in the league last season. Losing veteran T.J. Lang to injured reserve really hurt, as the group fell apart in the second half of the year, allowing the second-most QB hits from Weeks 9 to 16. That included 16 sacks over a two-game span at midseason against the Vikings and Bears. With Lang now retired, the team is shifting pieces around the interior in hopes of finding a spark. Last year's first-rounder, Ragnow, will go back to center, where he was dominant in college, with Glasgow sliding one spot over to right guard and Wiggins flipping sides to left guard.
  • Decker and Wagner are supposed to be the stalwarts on the outside, and yet it was their shortcomings that often created issues. Both tackles struggled at times as run blockers - the area where the Lions are trying to build an identity. But new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is doubling down on Matt Patricia's plans to go run-heavy, so Kerryon Johnson and the line will need to power this offense. Johnson is an excellent upside pick in the late third or early fourth round.
  • Much like Cousins, Matthew Stafford will be asked to throw less as the team focuses its efforts on a ground-and-pound approach. It seems odd to say this about a player who was once among the game's highest-scoring fantasy quarterbacks, but owners can let Stafford go undrafted this season.

23. Seattle Seahawks

Pos. Starter
LT Duane Brown
LG Mike Iupati
C Justin Britt
RG DJ Fluker
RT Germain Ifedi

Depth: George Fant, Ethan Pocic, Phil Haynes (R), Joey Hunt, Jordan Simmons

  • Once a laughingstock around the league, the Seahawks' line has established itself as a steady unit anchored by Brown, and it rose to a new level under O-line coach Mike Solari. With four starters returning and with Iupati taking over the left guard spot, we might be undervaluing this group.
  • No one should be surprised that Iupati's tour of the NFC West made its latest stop in Seattle after five years with the Niners and four years with the Cardinals. Iupati is a prototypical Seahawks lineman, receiving a top-seven run-blocking grade by Pro Football Focus to go with one of the worst pass-blocking grades the site gave out. Even so, he'll be a welcome addition for an offense that ran the ball more than any other team in 2018.
  • Brown and Iupati are a formidable tandem on the left side of the line and will be an excellent launching point for Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny, who could both be fantasy starters given the team's expected volume of carries.

22. Los Angeles Chargers

Pos. Starter
LT Russell Okung
LG Dan Feeney
C Mike Pouncey
RG Michael Schofield
RT Sam Tevi

Depth: Trey Pipkins (R), Forrest Lamp, Scott Quessenberry, Spencer Drango, Cole Toner

  • There may not be another NFL team with as much of a discrepancy between its run blocking and its pass blocking. The Chargers found success creating holes for Melvin Gordon and Co. on the ground last year, generating the fifth-most Adjusted Line Yards, but ranked 29th in Pro Football Focus' pass-blocking efficiency. In fact, it was the 12th consecutive year they appeared in the bottom half of that list. Okung and Pouncey are pillars, but the Chargers need to find other contributors.
  • Behind this line, Gordon was on pace for more than 1,800 yards from scrimmage in 2018, which would have been a career year if he'd suited up for all 16 contests. He belongs in the conversation as a top-five fantasy pick.
  • Despite the pass-blocking woes, Rivers has been a top-15 fantasy quarterback in six straight seasons. But with the team winning more games thanks to a stacked defense and a solid rushing attack, Rivers doesn't need to sling it like he used to, making him more of a high-end QB2 in fantasy.

21. New York Giants

Pos. Starter
LT Nate Solder
LG Will Hernandez
C Jon Halapio
RG Kevin Zeitler
RT Mike Remmers

Depth: Chad Wheeler, Spencer Pulley, Chad Slade, Nick Gates, George Asafo-Adjei (R)

  • The acquisition of Zeitler is an offseason storyline that should be getting more publicity. After all, the Giants' transformation into a run-first team that's centered around Saquon Barkley was completed when Odell Beckham Jr. was traded to Cleveland. Solder and Hernandez already formed a competent tandem on the left side, and now Zeitler and Remmers will be asked to be the solution on the right. Zeitler graded out as Pro Football Focus' sixth-best guard in 2018.
  • When you watch Barkley play, it seems as though he could run behind any collection of offensive linemen. His rookie season featured 352 touches, 2,028 yards from scrimmage, 15 touchdowns, and 91 receptions. There's not much room for his volume to increase, and he's going to see more defenders in the box with Beckham no longer around to draw attention away, so the Zeitler addition will be key to Barkley's efficiency. Even with all the moving parts, Barkley is locked in as the top player on my fantasy draft board.
  • Eli Manning shouldn't be anywhere near your fantasy team, but this line is talented enough to let the 38-year-old support a couple of receiving weapons. Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram will fight for weekly targets, but while their year-end numbers should be respectable, a lack of consistency in this offense will be frustrating for fantasy owners.

* - Suspended to start season
INJ - Injury that may affect Week 1 availability
R - Rookie

Offensive Line Rankings
32-21 | 20-11 | 10-1

Offensive Line Rankings: NFL's best, worst protection units
  Got something to say? Leave a comment below!
Daily Newsletter
Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox