NFL Offensive Line Rankings for 2013
1. San Francisco 49ers (Best Player: Mike Iupati) (X-Factor: Joe Staley): The 49ers' game on both offense and defense is all about being big and ferocious up front; winning the battle in the trenches. They've crafted their offense well to fit that playing style with above average starters across the board.
2. Denver Broncos (Best Player: Ryan Clady) (X-Factor: Louis Vasquez): As if the Bronocs' O-line wasn't already good enough in 2012, they went out and got the second best free agent guard (Vasquez) during the offseason. They excel in pass protection. Peyton Manning will have plenty of time to throw the football (not that he needs it) and whoever is running the ball - whether it be Hillman, Ball, or Moreno - should have ample space to rush for a solid average.
3. New England Patriots: (Best Player: Logan Mankins) (X-Factor: Nate Solder): This unit proved last season that they can both protect the passer and pave lanes for the running back at a very high level, and they are bringing back all five starters from 2012. If the 25-year-old Solder can escalate his game to top 6-8 status (an attainable goal), this line could end up being the league's best.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Best Player: Carl Nicks) (X-Factor: Carl Nicks): This unit's strength is their guard play, with Nicks and Davin Joseph dominating on the interior. Of course, the unit was great last year, and those two guards missed a combined 25 games. Joseph is now fully recovered from knee surgery, and Nicks is the X-factor due to his chronic toe issues. They also have a nice left tackle in Donald Penn for pass protection.
5. Minnesota Vikings (Best Player: Matt Kalil) (X-Factor: John Sullivan): You think that Adrian Peterson ran for 2,000 yards all by himself? No sir. He had the help of one of the league's premier units - his offensive line. After a stellar rookie season despite battling pneumonia down the stretch that brought on weight loss, Kalil looks to have Hall of Fame potential. Sullivan underwent microfracture knee surgery in February. Microfracture surgery is some serious stuff, and players often come back having lost a step or experiencing setbacks. Sullivan, however, was the best center in the NFL last year according to Pro Football Focus, so if he can get near his 2012 form this season, the run blocking will continue to be ferocious.
6. Baltimore Ravens (Best Player: Marshal Yanda) (X-Factor: Bryant McKinnie): McKinnie came on as a starter midseason in 2012 and gave the Ravens' line a huge boost from the left tackle position. There are questions as to whether or not McKinnie - who has often battled weight problems - can put together a full season of dominance at the age of 34 (he turns 34 in September). If he can, this unit can continue to excel in both major facets of blocking.
7. Seattle Seahawks (Best Player: Russell Okung) (X-Factor: J.R. Sweezy): This unit doesn't have the biggest names or the most impressive array of talent, but they are maulers. They channel the personality of O-line coach Tom Cable and fit perfectly in front of the beastly running of Marshawn Lynch. Sweezy - a likely starter at guard - was a college defensive lineman and was considered a high-upside, long-term project. If he can tap into his potential, he could be a difference-maker in the Seahawks' run-first offense.
8. Cleveland Browns (Best Player: Joe Thomas) (X-Factor: Shawn Lauvao/Jason Pinkston): If not for injuries, this unit may have been ranked even higher. When healthy, the Browns boast above average talent at all five offensive line positions, but two starting-caliber guards (Lauvao and Pinkston) are going to miss regular season action. If one of them returns to action at a high level in a timely manner, running back Trent Richardson has no reason not to put up gaudy numbers.
9. New York Giants (Best Player: Will Beatty) (X-Factor: Justin Pugh): Head coach Tom Coughlin preaches discipline first and foremost, so it makes sense that his O-lines are generally effective. The injury to David Diehl at right tackle shouldn't hurt much, as he was already their weakest link, but it will force 2013 first-round pick Pugh to kick outside to Diehl's former spot. If Pugh can live up to the Giants' expectations, expect another great year in the trenches from the G-men.
10. Cincinnati Bengals (Best Player: Kevin Zeitler) (X-Factor: Andre Smith): To be successful in the AFC North, you have to have a good O-line. The Bengals are on the cusp of being one of the AFC's most dangerous teams, and they have done so thanks to the AFC North blueprint - strong defense and a vicious offensive line. The only major question mark is at center with Kyle Cook. Smith is coming off a great season, but it was a contract year - there is question as to how hard he plays when money is not on the line.