Top 10 Interior Offensive Linemen Going Into the 2022 NFL Season

For our last non-QB offensive position group, we’re going to look at the guys who get overlooked more than anyone else: guards and centers. The top 10 interior offensive linemen that you see below typically get rewarded in Pro Bowl nods, All Pro selections, and holiday gifts from their QBs; their annual salaries and especially their media attention lag well behind those of other position groups. These players are what former GM Dave Gettleman called his “hog mollies”, big tough guys whose attitude and strength make their offenses go. Among interior linemen, guards are typically considered more valuable than centers, but both types of players are included here. For tackles, see this page.

1. Zack Martin, G, Cowboys
It feels like it was just yesterday that Jerry Jones had to be swayed by his son to not take Johnny Manziel and instead draft a “boring guard” named Zack Martin. No wonder Jerry keeps Stephen around! Instead of drafting a big-time bust, they selected a guy who you can plug in at right guard and forget he even exists. Nobody talks about Martin during games, which is an extreme compliment for a lineman. It means that he isn’t getting crushed by defensive tackles or committing penalties. Tony Romo and Dak Prescott have both benefitted immensely from having Martin, and it’s fair to say that nobody would be talking about the Cowboys’ line as a potential top unit if he weren’t there.

2. Quenton Nelson, G, Colts
The second of our elite Notre Dame guards in a row, Nelson appears to be on a Hall of Fame track. I don’t normally advocate for taking a guard at #1 overall as the position is a fair bit more replaceable than a left tackle, that’s exactly what I did in 2018. I thought he was a generational talent that would instantly give QB Andrew Luck the lineman he so desperately needed. Too bad he came a few years too late. Nelson is especially important at left guard, where the Colts still have an issue at LT that Nelson helps them cover up. He has that classic “nasty streak” that old-time analysts talk about when it comes to linemen. Nelson might ascend to the top spot here soon, and not just for his ridiculous pancake blocks.

3. Joel Bitonio, G, Browns

One of only two teams with two players on this list (the Chiefs are the other), the Browns make it easy to see why they have such a potent rushing offense. It’s not just the stud RBs lining up in the backfield. They possess two stellar guards, starting with Joel Bitonio. His consistency is remarkable, as evidenced by his active streak of 5 consecutive seasons without missing a game. He was a good player during his first 4 years in the NFL, but something must have clicked in 2018, as he became an elite guard. Since that 2018 season, Bitonio has earned 4 consecutive Pro Bowl nods and was a first-team All Pro for the first time in 2021. With this trajectory, he’s likely to be a premier player at his position for several more years.

4. Elgton Jenkins, ?, Packers

The first thing you probably noticed was the “?” Jenkins’ position. That’s because I’m not sure even Green Bay knows his “default” position anymore given how versatile he has been. The only position on that offensive line that Jenkins has not played during his 3 pro seasons is right guard. His natural position is left guard, where he has already earned All-Rookie and Pro Bowl honors, but you wouldn’t know is based on how good he is at the other spots as well. He filled in well at center when Corey Linsley got hurt, and just last year he was playing admirably at right tackle before he tore his ACL. Hopefully he comes back strong some time this year because he’s a real treat to watch, even if you aren’t crazy about lineman play.

5. Jason Kelce, C, Eagles

By agreeing with the Eagles to return for one more year, Kelce inadvertently returned to another spot: the highest-ranked center on this top-10 list! Ok, he probably doesn’t care about that. He might not even care about his 5 Pro Bowls and 5 first-team All Pro selections. Kelce cares about winning, and when it comes to battles at the line of scrimmage, he’s really good at winning. His communication and command of the offense have also been vital to young QBs like Carson Wentz and Jalen hurts. He is going to play only for as long as he feels like it because he’s just a different kind of guy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and something tells me he isn’t concerned whether you think so or not.

6. Corey Linsley, C, Chargers

You know you’re good when Aaron Rodgers makes a stink about the team letting you walk. It wasn’t just the Packers that underappreciated Linsley; the entire league slept on him. When he earned a first-team All Pro selection for the first time in 2020, he still didn’t have a Pro Bowl to his name. Since starting all 16 games as a 5th-round rookie, Linsley has been a reliable center for his entire career. The Chargers made him the highest-paid center last season, and I have no doubt that he played a major role in QB Justin Herbert’s progression during his second pro season. A great left tackle is comforting; a great receiver or tight end is a wonderful security blanket; but it’s a center that can be a young QB’s best friend, and LA got their QB a great one.

7. Creed Humphrey, C, Chiefs

The one and only player on this list who was a rookie in 2021, Humphrey finds himself as a top-3 center after just one season. I tried finding the reason he slid to the 2nd round of the 2021 class. His play was dominant during his time at Oklahoma, he tested with incredible athleticism, and he seemed like a plug-and-play starter. The only reasons anyone could tell me were that centers aren’t highly valued (a couple of teams have admittedly been burned with recent center picks) and that he’s…left-handed. Really. Meanwhile, he’s had one of the best block win rates among all linemen and helped lead one of the league’s most potent offenses so…I guess he’s doing alright.

8. Wyatt Teller, G, Browns

Teller is great of example of why teams should have patience. Buffalo selected him in the 5th round in 2018 and gave him limited starting experience during his rookie year. The team then subsequently traded him to Cleveland during the offseason, where he blossomed into a rock-solid right guard. Teller has a similar nasty streak to that of Quenton Nelson, which makes him a mauler in the run game. Though he’s not the best pass blocker on this list (which is why his teammate Joel Bitonio is ahead of him), that’s not his primary job. His mandate is to blow up the defensive lineman in front of him and clear lanes, and that’s exactly what he does with aplomb.

9. Joe Thuney, G, Chiefs

Bill Belichick does not like to give high-end contracts to any player, but he might be outsmarting himself this time. After trading Shaq Mason and letting Joe Thuney walk, he has lost both of his good guards. The bigger loss is Thuney, who instantly helped the Chiefs revamp their line after a disappointing 2020. He allowed only one sack in 2021…with a broken hand. Athletic enough to play left tackle (as he did in spots for KC) while stout in run blocking, he helped make an RB core without Clyde Edwards-Helaire for half the season look competent. Instead of providing Mac Jones with a premier protector during a critical rookie season, Thuney helped Patrick Mahomes reach yet another AFC Championship game and could do so again this year.

10. Brandon Scherff, G, Jaguars

Injuries have damped opinions about Scherff recently, but they shouldn’t unless they continue to persist. The Commanders endure many injuries. I’m not sure if that’s due to FedEx Field or the team’s training staff, but I suspect Scherff will stay healthier in Jacksonville. Washington clearly valued Scherff, placing franchise tags on him in back-to-back years when the two sides couldn’t reach a long-term deal. The exorbitant cost of a 3rd consecutive tag is what made the Commanders lose him. When Scherff is on the field, he’s rightly viewed as a top-tier guard, but he hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2016. If I’m right about his future health outlook, QB Trevor Lawrence will be getting a BADLY needed protector for his quest to become the Jaguars’ savior.

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