Last week, I posted my list of the NFL’s top 20 NFL offensive tackles. That list caused some stir, particularly with the absence of Jordan Gross, Phil Loadholt and Donald Penn. The rankings were for 2011 only, however, and the same is true of my list of the top 20 NFL guards.
Note that, although I still value pass protection more than run blocking, the run blocking ability of guards is weighted more heavily than it was for tackles. Also be aware that I generally discredit sack totals and focus more on pressures yielded. Many of the stats were gathered from Pro Football Focus.
1. Marshal Yanda, Baltimore Ravens
As one of the league’s top run blockers, Yanda also excelled in pass protection, yielding only six pressures in 1066 snaps. That 0.56% pressure rate is outstanding.
2. Carl Nicks, New Orleans Saints
Nick’s pressure rate of 0.68% is right behind Yanda, and he’s every bit the run blocker.
3. Evan Mathis, Philadelphia Eagles
Mathis isn’t the third-best guard in the NFL, but he played like it in 2011. I think his run blocking gets aided by the nature of the Eagles’ offense, but he was still the best in the league last year. Philly backs averaged 4.9 yards-per-carry when Mathis was at the point-of-attack, which is nuts for an interior lineman. His 1.17% pressure rate isn’t shabby, either.
4. Josh Sitton, Green Bay Packers
In pass protection, Sitton is about as good as any guard in the league. His run blocking is also really good, just not at the same level as Mathis.
5. Mike Iupati, San Francisco 49ers
Iupati is quickly becoming one of the more well-rounded guards in the NFL. A 1.04% pressure rate and really good run blocking.
6. Brian Waters, New England Patriots
Almost everyone will have teammate Logan Mankins ahead of Waters, and looking at the two from a career standpoint, that’s probably right. In 2011, though, Waters was pretty good as a run blocker and allowed only seven pressures in 1139 snaps (0.62% pressure rate compared to 1.50% for Mankins).
7. Jake Scott, Tennessee Titans
Generally stout in the run game, Scott struggled some in that department in 2011. Some of that could be due to Chris Johnson’s decline, though, and Scott’s 11 pressures in 1045 snaps was really good.
8. Andy Levitre, Buffalo Bills
Levitre struggled badly when he first entered the league, but he’s now on the fast track to becoming a top five guard.
9. Chad Rinehart, Buffalo Bills
Levitre’s teammate could actually be higher on this list, as he allowed only eight pressures in 868 snaps. Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller & Co. averaged nearly 5.0 yards-per-rush when he was at the point-of-attack. On an efficiency basis, that rivals the NFL’s elite.
10. Steve Hutchinson, Minnesota Vikings
Hutchinson is still getting it done, protecting the passer at a Pro Bowl level (nine pressures in 907 snaps).
11. Jahri Evans, New Orleans Saints
Make no mistake about it. . .Evans is undoubtedly a top 10 NFL guard. He’s perhaps the best run-blocking interior lineman in the NFL. In 2011 alone, though, he allowed 26 pressures. If this list was based solely on pass protection, Evans and his 2.28% pressure rate wouldn’t even make this list. The key question for New Orleans is if this will be a recurring trend now that Evans got paid the big bucks, or if he simply had a down season. I think it is the latter.
12. Logan Mankins, New England Patriots
A 1.50% pressure rate and pretty good run blocking from one of the league’s most consistent guards.
13. Jeremy Zuttah, Tampa Bay Bucs
Zuttah was injured for part of the 2011 campaign, but he still turned in slightly above average pass protection and good run blocking.
14. Richie Incognito, Miami Dolphins
The former fullback is underrated as a guard. He needs to improve at the point-of-attack, but his 0.95% pressure rate was one of the top numbers in 2011.
15. Mike Brisiel, Houston Texans
Brisiel is an underrated player on one of the league’s most underrated lines.
16. Leroy Harris, Tennessee Titans
Harris was really poor as a run blocker last year. So how is he on this list? A 0.79% pressure rate.
17. Brandon Moore, New York Jets
One of the league’s better guards in pass protection needs to improve as a run blocker, but it doesn’t help that the Jets’ offense is so predictable.
18. Ben Grubbs, Baltimore Ravens
Grubbs played only 677 snaps in 2011, but his 0.89% pressure rate was outstanding. He’d be higher if he was on the field more.
19. Stephen Peterman, Detroit Lions
Peterman and teammate Rob Sims (No. 20) both played 1143 snaps, putting up nearly identical numbers.
20. Rob Sims, Detroit Lions
Sims’ pressure rate was slightly better than Peterman’s (0.96% to 1.14%), but the Lions averaged just 3.7 YPC running behind Sims.
Notably Absent: Justin Blalock, Atlanta Falcons; Davin Joseph, Tampa Bay Bucs; Chris Snee, New York Giants
Let the fury begin. Here is my reasoning: Blalock was a really poor run blocker in 2011, with Falcons’ backs averaging only 3.5 YPC behind him. His pressure rate of 1.40% isn’t good enough to make up for that.
Supporters of Joseph will point to the fact that he allowed only two sacks and was solid in the run game. Yielding 21 pressures will generally result in a greater sack rate, though, so Joseph was really lucky to give up just two last year.
Chris Snee is a top 20 guard in the league, but he had a poor 2011 season. I debated putting him on the list, but he’s on the outside looking in with 18 pressures and below average run blocking. He should return in 2012.
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