In Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick Dallas boasts three of the league's top offensive linemen
Offensive linemen in the NFL don't get near the same amount of attention or credit compared to quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers or even tight ends when it comes to the success a team has on offense, but their importance should not be overlooked.
Take the NFC East, for example. The division's top two teams last year – Dallas and Philadelphia – have a combined seven offensive linemen ranked in Athlon Sports' top 10 at their respective positions (tackle, guard, center) entering the 2019 season. The Eagles, who won the Super Bowl in 2017, are the only team with four while the Cowboys have the league's No. 1 guard (Zack Martin) and No. 2 center (Travis Frederick). Certainly guys like Ezekiel Elliott, Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, and Zach Ertz, among others, are crucial to their team's success. But don't overlook the big guys up front that keep their quarterbacks upright and pave the way on the ground.
Athlon's player rankings are just one of the features that appear in the 2019 NFL Preview magazine.
2019 NFL Tackle Rankings
1. David Bakhtiari, Green Bay
Might have done his best work in 2018 considering it took Aaron Rodgers an average of almost three seconds to fire off a pass, which ranked as the NFL's fourth-slowest release time last season. He is Green Bay's first first-team All-Pro tackle selection since Forrest Gregg in 1967, although as one long-time NFL offensive lineman said: "He still probably doesn't get the credit he deserves."
2. Mitchell Schwartz, Kansas City
Pro Football Focus proclaimed him the NFL's best lineman last season after he allowed just 23 pressures on 687 drop-backs and was one of only three tackles to rank in their top 10 for both run and pass blocking. Has never missed an NFL snap with his streak now at 7,000-plus entering his eighth season.
3. Andrew Whitworth, Los Angeles Rams
He must be drinking from the Tom Brady Fountain of Youth. Still among the best all-around blockers and pass protectors at age 37.
4. Ryan Ramczyk, New Orleans
Picked up the baton from mainstay Zach Strief in 2017 and hasn't stopped running with it since. Speaking of which, Ramczyk was voted the NFL's best run-blocking offensive lineman in 2018 by Pro Football Focus.
5. Terron Armstead, New Orleans
A six-game absence in 2018 continued a brutal injury history that has forced Armstead out of 21 games the past three seasons. But he was dominant as usual when healthy, not allowing a sack and committing just one penalty for five yards in 10 regular-season starts.
6. Lane Johnson, Philadelphia
Translated the skills learned from the grave-digger job he held in high school into burying defensive linemen, as Houston and Chicago experienced in two huge 2018 Eagles victories. Admitted disappointment at not being voted to the 2018 Pro Bowl will provide fuel for the 2019 season.
7. Tyron Smith, Dallas
Was arguably the NFL's best tackle until injuries forced him to miss three games each of the past three seasons. But even when he was ailing in 2018, the Cowboys credited Smith with not allowing a sack in 15 games (13 regular season and two playoff).
8. Joe Staley, San Francisco
The longest-tenured 49ers player by a wide margin (2007) remains an imposing force on San Francisco's offensive line at age 34. Retirement isn't in the cards, either, with Staley stating this offseason that he wants "to play as long as I can" — although his 49ers contract is set to expire after the 2019 campaign.
9. Taylor Lewan, Tennessee
Flipping off an overhead television camera while being treated for an injury during a prime-time game symbolizes his rugged approach to football. With three straight Pro Bowl selections, he’s the franchise's most productive left tackle since Leon Gray roughly 40 years ago.
10. Jason Peters, Philadelphia
The Eagles have so much trust in Peters and respect for what he provides as part of the team's fabric that he’s back for a 16th NFL season. "He still plays well," one longtime offensive line coach says.
11. Laremy Tunsil, Miami
12. Trent Williams, Washington
13. Eric Fisher, Kansas City
14. Mike McGlinchey, San Francisco
15. Marcus Cannon, New England
16. Trent Brown, Oakland
17. Donovan Smith, Tampa Bay
18. Jake Matthews, Atlanta
19. Alejandro Villanueva, Pittsburgh
20. Charles Leno Jr., Chicago
2019 NFL Guard Rankings
1. Zack Martin, Dallas
Should return to elite status provided the knee injuries that hindered his 2018 season don't linger. Still gutted his way through 82 percent of the Cowboys' offensive snaps and committed only one penalty — a false start.
2. David DeCastro, Pittsburgh
A key contributor in an offense that produced a franchise-record 54 TDs in 2018. He amassed 958 snaps without allowing a sack despite playing with an injury.
3. Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis
Already considered a generational-caliber guard despite a self-admitted lapse in technique late in the 2018 season. Nelson and linebacker Darius Leonard became the first pair of rookies from the same team to earn first-team All-Pro honors in more than five decades.
4. Brandon Scherff, Washington
The Redskins' postseason chances were shot when Scherff and his some of his deputies along the line went down with injuries. He should be playing at a blue-chip level again after returning from a torn pectoral muscle.
5. Kevin Zeitler, New York Giants
The NFL's first $12 million-a-year guard was traded after two seasons in Cleveland by GM John Dorsey, who needed to surrender a quality player to land coveted Giants defense end Olivier Vernon. Zeitler is an outstanding pass protector, which is critical with a quarterback of limited mobility like Eli Manning under center.
6. Marshal Yanda, Baltimore
Run-blocking ability was on display when the Ravens switched to a ground-based offense under rookie QB Lamar Jackson.
7. Joe Thuney, New England
Spearheaded the Patriots' successful effort to nullify the Rams' Aaron Donald in Super Bowl 53. The first player in NFL history to start three Super Bowls in his first three seasons.
8. Brandon Brooks, Philadelphia
Brooks' ultimate return from an Achilles injury will add some oomph to a running game bolstered by the offseason trade for Chicago’s Jordan Howard.
9. Rodger Saffold, Tennessee
Standout 2018 season led to a big contract ($22.5 million guaranteed) from the Titans. Saffold was key to the Rams boasting the only offense to finish in the NFL’s top five in rushing and passing yards.
10. Shaq Mason, New England
The Patriots, who are notoriously shy about paying offensive linemen, knew Mason's value when signing him to a five-year, $50 million extension during the 2018 preseason.
11. Kelechi Osemele, New York Jets
12. Trai Turner, Carolina
13. Andrew Norwell, Jacksonville
14. Andrus Peat, New Orleans
15. Ali Marpet, Tampa Bay
16. Ramon Foster, Pittsburgh
17. Gabe Jackson, Oakland
18. Ron Leary, Denver
19. Larry Warford, New Orleans
20. Frank Ragnow, Detroit
2019 Center Rankings
1. Jason Kelce, Philadelphia
The first Eagles player to receive consecutive first-team All-Pro nods since 1991-92.
2. Travis Frederick, Dallas
The NFL's top center the previous few seasons is expected to recover from Guillain-Barre syndrome to anchor the Cowboys' vaunted offensive line in 2019.
3. Alex Mack, Atlanta
The best player on a line that helped Atlanta finish fourth in passing (284.9 ypg) and eighth in total offense (389.1 ypg) in 2018.
4. Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh
Earned the seventh Pro Bowl of his nine-year NFL career. Has avoided injury the past three years after having two seasons (2013 and 2015) wiped out by leg ailments.
5. Rodney Hudson, Oakland
An outstanding pass blocker who was named a Pro Bowl alternate while playing every snap at center in 2018 despite dealing with knee and ankle problems.
6. Mike Pouncey, Los Angeles Chargers
Enjoyed a wildly successful first season with the Chargers. He's a big reason why Los Angeles averaged almost 20 more rushing yards per game (117.1) than the previous year.
7. Matt Paradis, Carolina
Suffered a lower leg injury that caused the Broncos to cool on re-signing him. There was no hesitation by the Panthers, who needed a strong replacement for Ryan Kalil.
8. Brandon Linder, Jacksonville
Nasty, no-nonsense blocker who was sorely missed after becoming one of four Jaguars starting offensive linemen to land on injured reserve in 2018.
9. Mitch Morse, Buffalo
The Bills wanted a top-tier center to help in the development of young quarterback Josh Allen. Morse fits the bill.
10. David Andrews, New England
Has earned gushing praise from Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, particularly for being adept at recognizing defensive fronts and helping to set New England's pass protections.
11. Ryan Kelly, Indianapolis
12. Corey Linsley, Green Bay
13. Justin Britt, Seattle
14. Ryan Jensen, Tampa Bay
15. Pat Elflein, Minnesota
16. Weston Richburg, San Francisco
17. Matt Skura, Baltimore
18. Ben Jones, Tennessee
19. J.C. Tretter, Cleveland
20. Nick Martin, Houston