Fantasy football owners know everything there is to know about skill position players. They have parsed over cheats sheets and fantasy football rankings to find their favorite sleepers and busts and know exactly which of them they’d like to select during fantasy football drafts. However, offensive lines are often overlooked in this process.
Look, offensive linemen don’t rack up stats like skill position players, but knowing the state of offensive lines can be helpful. O-Line rankings shouldn’t change your fantasy rankings at their core, but they can help identify undervalued players or potential busts that could have trouble behind mediocre-looking lines.
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Take Najee Harris, for example. The first-round back out of Alabama is a popular top-25 choice, but can you really trust him behind the Steelers’ now-depleted offensive line? It’s a question worth asking at the very least, and those wary of Harris’ blocking can slide him down accordingly in fantasy rankings.
2021 STANDARD FANTASY RANKINGS:
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Conversely, quality sleepers — and top handcuffs — often emerge because they play behind good offensive lines. There are players that routinely overcome offensive line shortcomings to become contributors, just like Russell Wilson did for many years, but those types of transcendent players aren’t always easy to find.
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At the end of the day, offensive lines are important. Even if they aren’t the ones scoring the points, they’re the ones setting them up.
Without further ado, let’s kick off our O-Line rankings, starting with another new unit in the No. 1 spot.
2021 FANTASY SLEEPERS:
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1. Cleveland Browns
Last year, the Browns were nearly able to make the AFC Championship Game. Why? Because their offensive line improved immensely. After failing to live up to expectations in 2019, the Browns spent a first-round pick on Jedrick Wills and signed Jack Conklin in a free agency to bolster their tackle situation. That decision paid off in spades. The Browns allowed just 26 sacks on the season and averaged 145.2 rushing yards per game, good for the fourth-most in the NFL. They are a well-rounded unit that will allow Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt a chance to find room while Baker Mayfield should have plenty of time to target his top receiving weapons downfield.
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2. Baltimore Ravens
There’s a lot to like about the Ravens offensive line. Sure, they traded away Orlando Brown Jr., but they’re getting left tackle Ronnie Stanley back. Stanley is arguably the best tackle in the league, and the Ravens signed a veteran bookend, Alejandro Villanueva, to help offset the loss of Brown. Adding Ben Cleveland in the draft could prove to be an astute move as well and at the very least will add more young, talented depth to an offensive line that racked up a league-high 1,866 yards before contact last season. The continued strength of the offensive line should help Lamar Jackson, JK Dobbins, and Gus Edwards produce big numbers in the run-heavy Baltimore offense.
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3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
One of the biggest reasons that the Buccaneers were able to win the Super Bowl was the excellent performance of their offensive line. The team drafted Tristan Wirfs to upgrade the last remaining hole on its offensive line at right tackle and saw their play improve immensely. Brady was pressured on just 17.6 percent of his drop-backs and the Bucs allowed just 22 sacks on the season, good for the fourth-fewest in the NFL last season. The team is bringing back all five of its starters and that will give them a chance to find success once again, especially if Wirfs can continue to play at a Pro Bowl level. The only area that they need to improve in is run blocking. They logged a league-low 671 yards before contact, but part of that was due to the team’s struggles running the ball.
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4. New Orleans Saints
New Orleans may have lost Drew Brees and several other key players on their defense, but it is still bringing back its entire starting offensive line from last year. That should bode well for Jameis Winston/Taysom Hill, as the Saints ranked fourth-lowest in the league in pressure rate allowed at 17.5 percent. Additionally, they ranked fifth league-wide in yards before contact (1,380) and have one of the better tackle tandems in the NFL (Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk). If Erik McCoy and Cesar Ruiz continue to develop on the interior, the Saints should have a chance to field a top-five offensive line once again.
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5. New England Patriots
Another year, another top-10 ranking for the Patriots. They may have lost Joe Thuney, one of the NFL’s best guards, during the offseason, but they have a more than capable replacement in Mike Onwenu. They also reacquired Trent Brown to provide a boost for the team at right tackle and re-signed Ted Karras to serve as a top interior backup. New England is strong and deep on the offensive line. That should help them improve after allowing 37 sacks and a 26 percent pressure rate last season. They totaled 1,394 yards before contact last season, the third-most in the NFL, so that bodes well for the team’s running game.
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6. Kansas City Chiefs
You can throw all of last year’s numbers out the window for the Chiefs and their 2021 offensive line. It’s almost entirely different. Mike Remmers is the only returning starter, but the Chiefs have made some solid-looking upgrades to their team. Among them are Orlando Brown Jr., who will primarily play left tackle for the first time in his career, and Joe Thuney, arguably the best guard in the league and at the least, one of the most durable. Those two plus Austin Blythe, Kyle Long, and Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff will provide plenty of great experience to go along with the rookie talent like Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith. After watching Patrick Mahomes run for his life in last year’s Super Bowl, Chiefs fans can take solace in knowing that their franchise quarterback will be better protected in 2021.
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7. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts were our top-ranked offensive line last season, and they didn’t disappoint. This year, they’re returning four of five starters. However, the lone departure, Anthony Castonzo, was one of the team’s steadiest performers and one of the game’s most important positions, left tackle. Eric Fisher and Sam Tevi will combine to replace him. If Fisher can recover from a torn Achilles’ and play well next to All-Pro Quenton Nelson, Carson Wentz should benefit from the blocking in front of him. Of course, both Nelson and Wentz are injured, so that brings questions to the Colts’ left side and quarterback situation. After all, the Colts allowed just 21 sacks last season, tied for the second-fewest in the NFL with the Packers. Considering that Indy had the ever-immobile Philip Rivers at QB, that’s a big achievement. They also blocked well in the running game, averaging the ninth-most total rushing yards per game (127). If not for the Nelson injury, they’d be the third-best line here. But in wake of that problem, they have to be downgraded a bit.
8. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have a pair of great bookends in Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey. The interior of the offensive line is a bit shakier, but they still racked up a respectable 1,105 yards before contact total, a slightly above average mark. That’s impressive considering that Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard started most of the games at QB for the 49ers last year. With better QB play from Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance, the offensive line should naturally cut down on the 39 sacks it allowed last year. It could prove to be a rock-solid unit, especially with a stable, veteran center in Alex Mack now holding down the fort.
9. Tennessee Titans
The Titans have a couple of things going for them up front. First of all, they have Taylor Lewan. When healthy, he’s a great blindside blocker and is a well-rounded player. They also are an excellent run blocking team. Last season, they totaled 1,386 yards before contact, the fourth-most in the NFL. Yes, they ran a lot because of Derrick Henry’s presence, but they still averaged 2.7 yards before contact per run. That tied for the seventh-best mark in the NFL. The Titans are returning four starters with the lone switch coming at right tackle. Tennessee’s 2021 second-round pick Dillon Radunz will battle veteran Kendall Lamm for the starting role. The North Dakota State rookie is a solid-looking prospect and if he finds early success, he could bolster a top-10 line for the Titans.
10. Los Angeles Chargers
Despite allowing the third-highest pressure percentage last season (28.5 percent) and creating an average of just 2.2 yards before contact on the ground, the Chargers offense hummed along thanks to Justin Herbert. They should be better in 2021 because they spent resources to upgrade their offensive line. The team signed center Corey Linsley away from the Packers and guard/tackle Matt Feiler from the Steelers. Then, they added Rashawn Slater in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. These additions should help the Chargers improve, so that’s a stock up for Herbert, Austin Ekeler, and the team’s supporting cast.
11. Green Bay Packers
No team was better at preventing pressure than the Packers were last year. They allowed pressure on just 14.4 percent of their dropbacks, good for No. 1 in the NFL. Between David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, and second-round pick Josh Myers, it seems that they have the makings for a solid left side of the line. The right side is a bit more of a question mark, however. Lucas Patrick and Billy Turner are set to be the starters out there after Bryan Bulaga left in free agency. Additionally, last year’s left guard Lane Taylor left, so Jenkins may have to kick out to left guard to allow Myers to play center. The shuffling up front isn’t ideal, but the Packers still have talent that should allow Aaron Rodgers to make some plays. And the Packers posted 1,107 yards before contact last year. If they can stay at that level, they should be just fine, though Bakhtiari’s late-season ACL tear is cause for concern as well.
12. Detroit Lions
Don’t look now, but the Lions are actually building a pretty strong-looking offensive line. They drafted Penei Sewell No. 7 overall during the 2021 NFL Draft and he projects as an elite tackle. Left tackle Taylor Decker has long been an underrated asset while center Frank Ragnow just made a Pro Bowl and played through a throat fracture in 2020. They’ll have their work cut out for them protecting Jared Goff, but if Jonah Jackson and Logan Stenberg step up in their second seasons, this could be a top-10 unit. Their depth, headlined by swing tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, is strong as well. That’s good news for D’Andre Swift as he looks to become Detroit’s bell cow.
13. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys line is starting to decline a bit. Tyron Smith and La’el Collins have both dealt with injury issues in recent seasons. That said, Dallas still has talent up front and possesses, arguably, the best guard in the league in Zack Martin. The concern is just staying healthy, as the team’s depth isn’t as good as it once was. They generated just 912 yards before contact, including 2.1 yards before contact per carry. They also tied for the seventh-most sacks allowed, so if Prescott’s ankle injury sapped any of his mobility, his average number of sacks suffered could increase.
14. Denver Broncos
Heading into 2020, the Broncos had some questions at tackle. Garret Bolles answered one of them when he stepped up to establish himself as a solid left tackle. At right tackle, Ja’Wuan James couldn’t stay healthy, so the Broncos moved on from him and replaced him with the duo of Bobby Massie and Cameron Fleming. If that right tackle spot is solidified, the Broncos will have a strong line, as their interior blocking — featuring Dalton Risner, Lloyd Cushenberry, Graham Glasgow, and rookie Quinn Meinerz — should be very good. The team may be slightly lacking tackle depth, but that’s the only issue you can see with Denver.
15. Los Angeles Rams
Opinions on the Rams’ offensive line vary. They have a couple of good tackles in Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein and numerous recent draft picks on the interior. The interior line has been inconsistent from player to player. David Andrews has emerged as a solid starter while Austin Corbett and Bobby Evans are still rounding into form. If those players make the leap this year, the Rams could have a top-10 unit. If not, they’ll rank about average. They created a solid 2.6 yards before contact last season, so they should do well enough to give Darrell Henderson a boost.
16. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals made a trade with the Raiders to upgrade their offensive line. They were able to acquire three-time Pro Bowler Rodney Hudson to center their line. Hudson is 32 but he remains one of the game’s strongest centers and has allowed just two sacks since 2015. Hudson will be a huge upgrade there and Brian Winters, who figures to start at right guard, was a nice get as well. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Cardinals’ offense improve a year after they totaled 1,505 before contact, the second-most in the NFL. Stock up for Kyler Murray and Chase Edmonds. Their only issue is that they don’t really have any depth.
17. Philadelphia Eagles
Talent-wise, the Eagles are good up front, especially on the right side of the line where Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, and Lane Johnson are all upper-echelon talents at their positions. However, things aren’t as strong on the left side and the Eagles dealt with countless injuries last season. That’s why they gave up a league-high 65 sacks. Maybe that changes with Wentz gone. Maybe they stay healthy and vault back into the top-10 among O-Lines. For now, though, this seems like the right spot to rank them. They are the ultimate boom-or-bust team up front.
18. Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson demanded that the Seahawks add to his offensive line this offseason. Well, he got his wish. Seattle added Gabe Jackson to start at right guard for them. Jackson has played in 100 NFL games with 99 starts and is a strong run blocker who didn’t give up a sack last year. That’s an upgrade for Seattle and will give the team a solid three-man interior featuring Jackson, Ethan Pocic, and Damien Lewis. The Seahawks should do a lot better than the 48 sacks allowed and 27.3 pressure rate they gave up last year.
19. New York Jets
The Jets continue to rebuild their offensive line. They added Alijah Vera-Tucker to the team during the draft and then signed Morgan Moses to play right tackle after Washington cut him. They have some big, physical linemen, including 2020 first-round pick Mekhi Becton, who looked excellent as a rookie. The upside is certainly there for New York and if they come together quickly, that could provide a boost for the rookie tandem of QB Zach Wilson and RB Michael Carter.
20. Buffalo Bills
The Bills’ offensive line blocks well for Josh Allen, but they didn’t play well against the run last year. They created just 794 yards before contact in 2020, good for the fourth-lowest among NFL teams. They drafted a couple of tackles in Spencer Brown and Tommy Doyle to increase their depth, but the team’s interior line is merely decent. They should still do well enough to win games, but don’t expect them to magically find success running it with Devin Singletary and Zack Moss.
21. Washington Football Team
Washington checked in as our bottom-ranked offensive line last year, but they ended up being a pleasant surprise. Brandon Scherff, Chase Roullier, and Wes Schweitzer formed a solid interior offensive line while Cornelius Lucas and Morgan Moses held up well on the edge. Moses is gone now, but Washington still has Lucas, signed Charles Leno Jr., and drafted Samuel Cosmi in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. They also traded for Ereck Flowers to add more depth at guard. Washington lacks top-tier tackles, but this unit should block well enough to move the ball on the ground. They’ll just need to cut down on the 50 sacks they allowed last year, but Ryan Fitzpatrick should be able to dodge those better than Washington’s 2020 quarterback group.
22. Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders made the curious decision to move on from three offensive linemen last year — Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson, and Trent Brown. All have been solid throughout their careers, so seeing Vegas move on from all three was a bit odd. Alex Leatherwood was drafted in Round 1 of the 2021 draft to replace Brown, but the interior replacements are coming internally. That could work, but it could also leave Derek Carr, who was pressured just 19.6 of the time last year, under a lot more heat if things don’t go to plan.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville has a decent offensive line. It’s unspectacular, but they have retained continuity in recent seasons with Cam Robinson, Andrew Norwell, Brandon Linder, AJ Cann, and Jawann Taylor comprising the starting lineup. They’re not very deep and they lack high-end blockers, but they’re good enough to get the job done in front of Trevor Lawrence. As such, he won’t be negatively affected by his blocking unit.
24. Houston Texans
The Texans’ offensive line has one top-notch player on it. That would be left tackle Laremy Tunsil. Aside from him, the team is largely trying to cobble spare parts together, and the right side of the line looks particularly rough. Tytus Howard hasn’t developed since being a first-round pick and committed 11 penalties last year. Marcus Cannon was acquired via trade, but he didn’t play last season and will be playing a new position, guard. Cannon and free-agent signing Justin Britt could pan out, but Britt has been oft-injured during his career. If that falls apart, the Texans’ right side of the line won’t be in good shape. They gave up 50 sacks and a 26.1 percent pressure rate last year anyway, so they’re not going to do much to improve their fantasy assets.
25. Chicago Bears
The Bears added a tackle in the draft — Oklahoma State product Teven Jenkins — then proceeded to lose both of their starters from last season, Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie. The team’s interior offensive line looks good, but now the pressure will be on Jenkins and UMass’ Elijah Wilkinson to hold up on the edge. Unless Ryan Pace has another trick up his sleeve, that doesn’t look too inspiring and could cause issues for Justin Fields in terms of pressure when he sees the field.
26. Atlanta Falcons
Chris Lindstrom has turned into a quality right guard for the Falcons. Outside of him, they’re relying on two young players with little to no starting experience — Jalen Mayfield and Matt Hennessy — to anchor the interior line. The tackle situation isn’t ideal either. Jake Matthews has regressed a bit since his heyday while Kaleb McGary played well in 2020 but was inconsistent as a rookie in 2019. If McGary continues to make strides, the Falcons could be better, but they’re banking on a lot of player development to anchor them.
27. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are relying on a lot of recent draft picks to carry their line. There are three 2020 picks that should be starters — Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt, and Solomon Kindley — while Liam Eichenberg, a 2021 second-round pick, will likely start sooner than later. If all pan out, this could go well. But the Dolphins are banking on potential, so they have a high chance of busting, at least this year.
28. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings offensive line allowed a league-high 30.2 percent pressure rate last season. They were much better at opening running lanes, but they can’t allow Kirk Cousins to be pressured that consistently if they want a chance to make the playoffs. The Vikings drafted Christian Darrisaw to replace Riley Reiff at left tackle and drafted Wyatt Davis, a guard, in the third round. Aside from those changes, the offensive line remains the same. It could improve, but it will rely almost entirely on Darrisaw being a plug-and-play starter.
29. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers generated just 864 yards before contact last season. That ranked as the sixth-fewest in the NFL. They did little to upgrade their blocking unit though; all they did was sign Pat Elflein, who has performed at a subpar level during his career. Taylor Moton is a great right tackle but the rest of the unit isn’t exactly inspiring. The left tackle spot is particularly concerning, as Greg Little, Brady Christiensen, and Cameron Erving are the top options there right now.
30. Cincinnati Bengals
Adding Riley Reiff and drafting Jackson Carman should both help the Bengals’ line. Still, they don’t have any top-tier players, and their left tackle, Jonah Williams has often been injured during his young career. The Bengals probably should’ve drafted Penei Sewell over Ja’Marr Chase to shore up their O-Line and better protect Joe Burrow. Chase will be a big-time fantasy weapon, but Burrow will continue to take big hits. Make sure you have a quality backup if you draft Burrow in re-draft or best-ball leagues.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers
What a precipitous fall for the Steelers. They had a top-five offensive line last season. Now, they have one of the worst in the league. How did this happen? Well, when you lose four starters up front, things tend to get a bit troublesome. The Steelers lost Alejandro Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Matt Feiler to a combination of retirement and free agency. They replaced DeCastro with Trai Turner, who is coming off a down year, but they didn’t do much at the other positions. They added Kendrick Green and Dan Moore in the third and fourth rounds of the draft, but will they be able to start right away? It’s a question worth asking. All told, the Steelers lack continuity and it will take some time for their line to come together. Their line didn’t live up to expectations last year, but they didn’t do nearly enough to improve it during the 2021 offseason. That could spell trouble for Najee Harris and Ben Roethlisberger.
32. New York Giants
The Giants looked like they were building the foundation of a strong offensive line last season. However, Andrew Thomas didn’t work out as a rookie, and the No. 4 overall pick saw several tackles drafted after him outplay him. Generally, Dave Gettleman’s “hog mollies” performed poorly. Unless Thomas and Matt Peart take big steps forward at tackle, Daniel Jones will be under pressure a lot once again. The Giants allowed him to be pressured 29.7 percent of his dropbacks last season. That’s not a recipe for success, so it may be best to stay away from New York’s passing attack — and potentially, Saquon Barkley.