Twice a week this offseason Blaine Grisak and Jake Ellenbogen will share their top-10 players from each position in the NFL. We’ll discuss our lists and why we ranked players where we did as well as the position in general.
We also asked the rest of the Downtown Rams staff who their top-10’s were and will have a poll and its results at the end.
In this edition, Blaine and Jake unveil their top-10 offensive tackles in the NFL heading into the 2019 season and who is ready to take that next step.
Top-10 Offensive Tackles
1. Terron Armstead – NO
2. David Bakhtiari – GB
3. Lane Johnson – PHI
4. Andrew Whitworth – LAR
5. Tyron Smith – DAL
6. Joe Staley – SF
7. Mitchell Schwartz – KC
8. Ryan Ramczyk – NO
9. Taylor Lewan – TEN
10. Rob Havenstein – LAR
1. David Bakhtiari – GB
2. Terron Armstead – NO
3. Lane Johnson – PHI
4. Andrew Whitworth – LAR
5. Mitchell Schwartz – KC
6. Duane Brown – SEA
7. Ryan Ramczyk – NO
8. Rob Havenstein – LAR
9. Tyron Smith – DAL
10. Joe Staley – SF
Blaine: Alright, so the last couple of weeks we’ve had the flashy positions – the quarterbacks, running backs, and tight ends. Now we head into the trenches. Like Andrew Whitworth in Los Angeles, Terron Armstead is a large reason why the Saints and Drew Brees have been so good the last two years. I have Whitworth coming in at four. I think his play dipped towards the end of last season. He seems to get beat by speed as he gets older.
Tyron Smith didn’t allow a single sack last season and leads one of the best offensive lines in football. It’s impossible to leave a legend like Joe Staley out of the top-10, so I slate him at No. 6. Headed down to the bottom of my list, I have another Saint in Ramczyk. Taylor Lewan took a step back last year, but I still like what he brings to the table and then wrapping up the list I have our second Ram, Havenstein. He’s extremely underrated by the Rams and the rest of the NFL, but he’s turned into one of the best in the game.
Jake: Welcome to the jungle everyone. Blaine, I’m pretty hyped because I was looking at both of our rankings and I see that we agree on the exact top 10 offensive tackles; except for one guy, it’s just all about the order really. I think you and I having Terron Armstead and David Bakhtiari flip-flopped just makes so much sense. While we agree on some things we don’t agree on everything and that’s the fun part of this.
With that being said, looking at our lists, I felt Bakhtiari was someone that could become the best tackle in the game. However, it took a bit and now here we are with the best quarterback in the league (in my opinion) having the best blindside protector in the league. Armstead is phenomenal as well, although both of them would take a backseat to Joe Thomas if he were still in the NFL.
We both agree that Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson is the best right tackle and he’s third of all tackles just like we believe Andrew Whitworth is the fourth best offensive tackle despite being up there in age. You and I split apart a little bit here when you take Tyron Smith at five and I take Mitchell Schwartz; both could be argued there.
Then we both have an NFC West tackle but mine is Duane Brown from Seattle while yours is Joe Staley from the 49ers. You have Schwartz at seven while I had Ramczyk just before where you have him. Then I finish it off with Rob Havenstein, Tyron Smith and Joe Staley while you finish it off with Ramczyk, Taylor Lewan and Rob Havenstein. So enough introduction, let’s dive into this thing, shall we?
Blaine: Yes we shall! It’s crazy how similar we are on this list. Really just one difference as I have Lewan and you have Brown. We obviously saw the impact signing Andrew Whitworth was to the Rams in 2017. Having that anchor can really take a team’s offense to the next level. As they say, the game starts up front. However, while it’s important to have one good tackle, just how important is it to have that rock-solid duo to be successful in the NFL? I mean the Rams have Whitworth and Havenstein, the Saints have invested big in Armstead and Ramczyk, taking them both in the first round, the Eagles have Johnson and a guy we didn’t mention- Jason Peters. The Rams, Saints, and Eagles all made the playoffs last year.
Staying on the point of duos though, with wide receivers we ranked and listed a few of the best wide receiver corps, but when it comes to the tackle position, which teams have the best duos? Obviously you have the teams I mentioned, but you could throw Tennessee in there with Lewan and Kelly and even Green Bay with Brian Bulaga on the other side.
Jake: Great question. I think you nailed it with the Rams, Saints, Eagles, Titans, and Packers. If I were to add any more duos on that list, it would have to include San Francisco who has a top ten tackle in Joe Staley but they also have a stud in Mike McGlinchey who was drafted in the top 10 of the 2018 NFL Draft.
There are some fun ones I am looking forward to but can’t put them in the conversation yet due to the fact one or more of the guys haven’t played. In that short list, you could include the Steelers with Alejandro Villanueva and Chukwuma Okrorafor, the Broncos with Garret Bolles and JuWuan James and the Patriots with Isaiah Wynn who missed all of his rookie year due to injury and Marcus Cannon who has found his play over the last couple of years.
However, in regards to the best of the best list, you could include the Lions who have Taylor Decker, a former first-round pick and a high dollar free agency acquisition in Rick Wagner. I would also pound the table for the duo the Colts have in Anthony Castonzo and former 2018 second round pick Braden Smith.
Those are some teams and of course, you could mention the Cowboys with Tyron Smith and La’El Collins while also mentioning the Ravens with Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. but I don’t want to spend all day on this one awesome question you asked.
Blaine: Love it! And I’m sure we’ll talk about some of these guys more as we get into our honorable mentions later on. When it comes to the offensive line, specifically tackle, the transition from college to the NFL is so difficult. Maybe it’s getting somewhat easier with NFL offenses becoming more like college offenses, but there’s still a huge learning curve. The Rams struggled with Greg Robinson a few years ago even though he’s finally starting to find his footing. What do you think makes that transition so difficult and who were some tackles that came out this year that you think may take some time to transition but will turn out to be studs? I think you immediately look at Jawaan Taylor out of Florida and then I look at a guy that the Rams drafted in David Edwards who was a 2nd round pick by many before an injury last year.
Jake: Really good points there. I think Taylor for sure, I love Edwards but he’s more polished than say the other tackle the Rams got in Bobby Evans. I think someone like Tytus Howard who was picked way too early for my liking might catch fire if the Texans actually develop him. It’s going to take Calvin Anderson UDFA of the Jets to get in a rotation but he’s good enough and I think that’s another guy to watch out for. Sioux Falls offensive tackle Trey Pipkins is another one that could really find his footing if developed properly with the Chargers. So there are definitely some guys that are under the radar that can thrive but it might take some time to do so.
Blaine: Those are some great points. I do want to touch on this with a more Rams related spin on it. Last year the Rams take Joseph Noteboom in the middle of the draft. With a lot of teams, you see them throw these guys in the fire right away and maybe that hurts their development initially. With the Rams, they gave Noteboom an entire year to sit and develop. Heck, you can even throw Edwards and Evans in that conversation this year because they won’t start.
These guys have one of the best offensive line coaches in the game in Kromer coaching them, Whitworth is there to mentor as well. How much does having that year of development help do you think and what are you expecting from Noteboom and his move inside?
Jake: It almost makes me think the Rams grabbed David Edwards and Bobby Evans because they intend on leaving Joseph Noteboom at guard. Is that fair to Noteboom? Maybe not, but I think the Rams see him in a position where they are stuck if he ends up being a pro bowl guard in his first year because it’s the whole idea of “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” kind of thing.
However, I have gone on record numerous times saying Noteboom will be the Rams bookend left tackle after Andrew Whitworth. I see someone that has great athleticism, is ruthless, can get to the second level and just take out the trash. He didn’t give up much pressure in college while playing the tackle position either.
The way I see it, Austin Blythe may or may not be extended and so that would leave another guard spot for either Edwards, who I see more as a tackle, or Evans who I see more as a guard. I think the Rams have positioned themselves well for all occasions and occurrences because while we are talking about these guys, you cannot forget Jamil Demby who was waived, signed onto the Lions roster and then promptly brought back to the Rams. Demby has worked at all five positions and while he could be the Jamon Brown type of player that gets the unfortunate short end of the stick, he could also end up being the guy that comes out of nowhere and carves out a starting role for himself.
A lot can happen here but I’ll say this right now, if I’m the Rams in 2020 my offensive line should be Noteboom at left tackle, Edwards at left guard, Brian Allen at center, Blythe at right guard and Rob Havenstein at right tackle. You would essentially have Demby and Evans off the bench and that’s not including a potential unforeseen return one-year contract for Andrew Whitworth who would be 39-years old. I don’t see it happening but you never know!
Blaine: Definitely. If anything the Rams have certainly set themselves up for the future. Now Jake, as always before we go, let’s hit our honorable mentions, shall we? For me, I think you have to throw Jason Peters in there. He’s dealt with injuries the past couple of years, but still one of the best. Villanueva has been good it Pittsburgh and then I might go with Ronnie Stanley.
Jake: Yeah my honorable mentions in no order would likely be Jake Matthews of the Atlanta Falcons who has really found consistency over the last few years, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Alejandro Villanueva who needs to get better as a run blocker but he’s as solid of a pass protector as you can ask for, Ronnie Stanley of the Baltimore Ravens another guy that needs to improve on his run blocking but is a stellar pass protector, Taylor Moton of the Carolina Panthers who I loved in college but now he’s gotten that opportunity and really played well last year, and lastly I would say Taylor Lewan of the Tennessee Titans and Anthony Costonzo of the Indianapolis Colts. I think this time next year we will be talking highly and maybe as top 10 talents in guys like Patriots tackle Isaiah Wynn and Jacksonville’s rookie as mentioned before Jawaan Taylor.
Blaine: Awesome! Well, Jake, I think we covered the tackles. We’ll move inside to guard and center on Friday.
DTR Top-10 (First Place Votes)
1. David Bakhtiari – GB (4)
2. Andrew Whitworth – LAR
3. Lane Johnson – PHI
T4. Terron Armstead – NO (1)
T4. Mitchell Schwartz – KC
6. Tyron Smith – DAL
7. Trent Williams – WAS
8. Ryan Ramczyk – NO
9. Joe Staley – SF
10. Jason Peters – PHI
Alex Washburn: 1. David Bakhtiari, 2. Andrew Whitworth, 3. Trent Williams, 4. Terron Armstead, 5. Joe Staley, 6. Tyron Smith, 7. Mitchell Schwartz, 8. Lane Johnson, 9. Jason Peters, 10. Rob Havenstein
Bill Riccette: 1. David Bakhtiari, 2. Jason Peters, 3. Trent Williams, 4. Mitchell Schwartz, 5. Andrew Whitworth, 6. Alejandro Villanueva, 7. Lane Johnson, 8. Trent Brown, 9. Tyron Smith, 10. Daryl Williams
Max Perez: 1. David Bakhtiari- GB, 2. Andrew Whitworth- LAR, 3. Mitchell Schwartz- KC, 4. Lane Johnson- PHI, 5. Ryan Ramczyk- NO, 6. Tyron Smith- DAL, 7. Taylor Lewan- TEN, 8. Terron Armstead- NO, 9. Rob Havenstein- LAR, 10. Trent Williams- WASH