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2018 NFC North preview: Ranking the offensive lines

Which teams have the best and worst front five in the division?

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NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

In a lot of ways, a team’s success starts and finishes with the competence of the offensive line. Win the battle in the trenches, and you’re likely in good shape for the game. Whether it’s protecting your quarterback or establishing the run, offensive line play is absolutely critical when it comes to building a team.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the offensive lines stack up in the NFC North. Catch up on our other positional breakdowns here:

(Note: I’m only listing the projected starters for each team, but depth is considered in these rankings.)

1. Chicago Bears (Charles Leno Jr., James Daniels, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long, Bobby Massie)

For the second time in three years, the Bears have gone interior offensive line early in the draft. After stealing Cody Whitehair late in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Bears added to the group by taking Iowa’s James Daniels in this year’s second round. This will undoubtedly help recover from the loss of one of their better offensive linemen, Josh Sitton.

Overall, this is a pretty solid group of players who all ranked at least average according to PFF (outside of Bobby Massie). Leno is an underrated left tackle who has been constantly improving:

2. Detroit Lions (Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, TJ Lang, Rick Wagner)

Listen, I know it sounds crazy putting the offensive line that allowed the most sacks in the division and was partially responsible for the league’s worst running game at No. 2 here, but the truth is the Lions don’t have any pressing questions about their offensive line.

Their starting lineup is pretty much set, and there’s no reason this shouldn’t be a pretty solid offensive line, other than its inexperience. The biggest question is how first-round rookie Frank Ragnow will play at guard, but other than that, this should be one of the most improved units in the entire division. Throw in a new offensive line coach, and the hype around this group is justified.

3. Green Bay Packers (David Bakhtiari, Lane Taylor, Corey Linsley, Justin McCray, Bryan Bulaga)

Speaking of underrated left tackles, David Bakhtiari is one of the league’s best. He’s been named second-team All Pro in back-to-back seasons now, and has the third-highest pass blocking efficiency of all offensive tackle from 2006 to 2017.

But questions remain about the rest of the crew. The Packers struggled with health last year (welcome to the club), having nine different offensive linemen play at least 200 snaps. As a result of such inconsistency, nearly every offensive lineman not named Bakhtiari graded out in the red per PFF: Taylor (68.7), Linsley (51.7), McCray (40.4) and Bulaga (68.9).

Still, this unit can run block, as they boasted arguably the best running game in the division last year, rushing for 4.5 yards per carry (t-third) and 107.8 yards per game (17th).

4. Minnesota Vikings (Riley Reiff, Tom Compton, Pat Elflein, Mike Remmers, Rashod Hill)

How this unit managed to keep their head above water in 2017 is a miracle. Not only did all five starters grade out poorly last season, but they were abhorrent. Check out these PFF grades:

  • Reiff: 48.6
  • Compton: 45.7
  • Elflein: 43.2
  • Remmers: 69.6
  • Hill: 43.6

Nobody knows what’s going to happen with the Vikings’ offensive line right now. They drafted tackle Brian O’Neill in the second round this year to potentially take over at right tackle, but there’s little clarity if he’ll be ready by the beginning of the year.

The real confusion is in the middle. It looks like Mike Remmers is kicking inside, but will it be at left or right guard? Pat Elflein is almost certainly the starting center, but he’s coming off ankle surgery. Meanwhile, the other guard position is up for grabs between 2017 failure Tom Compton, Nick Easton—a player they almost didn’t even give an RFA tender to—and Danny Isidora, a 2017 fifth-round pick.

In other words, no one knows what the formation of this offensive line is going to look like, and on paper the talent isn’t there. This should be the Vikings’ primary concern headed into the 2018 season.


Where does the Lions’ offensive line rank in the division?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    (604 votes)
  • 25%
    (278 votes)
  • 13%
    (148 votes)
  • 5%
    (55 votes)
1085 votes total Vote Now

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