I just finished up my list of the top 20 NFL quarterbacks in 2011, and you were probably shocked to see Drew Brees at No. 3 and Joe Flacco all the way down at No. 13. Today, I am going to take a look at the men who protect those signal-callers by ranking the NFL’s top 20 offensive tackles.
As with the quarterbacks, note that these rankings will combine both my own film study and advanced statistics from sites like Advanced NFL Stats and Pro Football Focus. Be aware that these rankings are also for the 2011 season only, and that I value pass protection far more than run blocking ability. I generally discredit sack totals, though, as these are very susceptible to randomness, and focus primarily on pressures as a way to judge tackle performance.
If you would like, compare this list to the offensive tackle rankings I did prior to the 2010 season to see how things have changed.
1. David Stewart, Tennessee Titans
Stewart is perhaps the league’s most versatile offensive tackle, flourishing in both pass pro and run blocking. He yielded only eight pressures in 931 snaps last year–by far the best rate in the NFL. Those numbers could be at an All-Pro level for a guard, so the fact that he’s protecting like that outside is unreal.
2. Tyson Clabo, Atlanta Falcons
Clabo had one of the top pressure rates in the NFL, allowing pressure on just 1.41% of snaps. As a comparison, he still gave up twice the pressures (16) as Stewart.
3. Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles
Peters was PFF’s top-rated tackle due to his run blocking ability. The Eagles averaged a remarkable 7.1 YPC when running behind Peters. Seven, point, one.
4. Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns
Thomas didn’t have much help, but Cleveland averaged only 3.1 YPC when running behind him. Still, he allowed only 15 pressures in 1,087 snaps.
5. Branden Albert, Kansas City Chiefs
One of the league’s most versatile players was ranked at just No. 21 by PFF, but he was solid in run blocking and yielded only 13 pressures in 1,071 snaps–one of the lowest pressure rates in the NFL.
6. Eugene Monroe, Jacksonville Jaguars
Monroe graded out as PFF’s sixth-best run blocker. He allowed nine sacks, which is actually poor, but only 12 pressures. He’s the perfect example of how (really) good pass protection can get overlooked by fluky sack numbers.
7. Jake Long, Miami Dolphins
Long had a down year by his standards, but still allowed pressure on just 1.87% of snaps.
8. Sebastian Vollmer, New England Patriots
Since this is ranking of efficiency, I put Vollmer on the list. He played only 346 snaps in New England, but he was excellent in the run game and yielded just three pressures all season.
9. Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys
I talked up Smith all year, and although he gave up eight sacks, his overall pressure rate of 1.96% is still great. He was also a beast in the run game.
10. Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati Bengals
One of the league’s more underrated tackles struggles against the run, but his three sacks and 14 pressures allowed in nearly 1,100 snaps is stellar.
11. Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay Packers
Bulaga will likely make the switch to left tackle in 2012, in which case we will see a decrease in efficiency. In 2011, he graded out as PFF’s third-best run blocker.
12. Eric Winston, Houston Texans
Checking in right behind Bulaga in terms of run blocking efficiency is Winston. Running backs averaged nearly five yards-per-carry when Winston was at the point of attack in 2011.
13. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, New York Jets
Most might rate Ferguson higher, but he actually struggled some in 2011 with a mediocre 22 pressures yielded and inconsistent run blocking.
14. Trent Williams, Washington Redskins
Trent Williams? Despite criticism, his 2.03% pressure rate is pretty good.
15. Andre Smith, Cincinnati Bengals
Rated at only No. 29 by PFF, Smith was solid in the run game and allowed pressure on 1.73% of snaps.
16. Duane Brown, Houston Texans
Rated sixth overall by PFF, Brown didn’t allow a sack all season. He did yield 22 pressures, though, and the Texans averaged a pedestrian 4.4 YPC behind him.
17. Michael Roos, Tennessee Titans
Once the league’s premiere offensive tackle, Roos is still productive. In 2011, he allowed pressure on 2.35% of snaps–a number that is pretty good but doesn’t compare to the one sack he allowed all year.
18. Matt Light, New England Patriots
Something wasn’t “right with Light” this season, but he still turned in a decent campaign.
19. Joe Staley, San Francisco 49ers
Staley had a really good, but not elite season. He was average in the run game and allowed pressure on 2.13% of snaps.
20. Marcus Gilbert, Pittsburgh Steelers
Probably a surprise on this list, Gilbert was decent as a run blocker and allowed a top-notch 1.32% pressure rate. He’d be higher if he played the left side.
Notably Absent: Jordan Gross (Carolina), Donald Penn (Tampa), Phil Loadholt (Minnesota), Michael Oher (Baltimore), Doug Free (Dallas)