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NFL Offensive Line Projections for 2021: AFC and NFC North

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Every season, NFL teams are made and broken by the backbone of every team, the offensive line. It’s important to know how changes will affect your team.


In this article, I will be cataloging NFL offensive line signings and cuts (starters lost to free agency will also be noted), and how these moves affected the line overall. Any teams not listed did not have any Free Agent additions to their offensive line. (Grades thanks to PFF. Grades from 60-65 are average, 65.1-69.9 grades are above average, and anything over 70 is great).

 

AFC

Baltimore Ravens

Kevin Zeitler, G: 1,003 snaps, 4 penalties, 2 sacks; pass blocking 68.7, run blocking 63.0

Alejandro Villanueva, OT: 1,098 snaps, 4 penalties, 3 sacks; pass blocking 77.1, run blocking 60.9

Overall Feeling: This line was pretty bad last year — they accounted for 38 of the team’s 117 penalties. The loss of Matt Skura and Orlando Brown, and Ben Powers returning to a backup role should help reduce these totals. The replacements of Zeitler and Villanueva both are higher penalty guys, but we should see a reduction in overall penalties.

Stability at the guard position from Zeitler will be huge, as guards accounted for 21 of the 38 offensive line penalties. Last season was the worst of his career from a PFF standpoint, if Zeitler can return to his average, and Villanueva can maintain his high level of play, this line could be one of the most improved.

 

Bengals

Riley Reiff, OT: 1,003 snaps, 1 penalty, 1 sack; pass blocking 74.9, run blocking 60.8

Quinton Spain, G: 720 snaps, 4 penalties, 1 sack; pass blocking 44.8 (Career low), run blocking 62.4

Overall feeling: The Bengals low-key improved their offensive line with these additions. Reiff has been solid his whole career, and if Spain can return to even just his average, Burrow should feel safe in the pocket.

 

Cleveland Browns

No additions

Overall Feeling: The Browns retained almost their entire line. There is no reason to think this will not be one of the best units in the league.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Zach Banner, OT: 302 snaps since being drafted in 2017

Trai Turner, G: 539 snaps, 2 penalties, 1 sack; pass blocking 51.3, run blocking 29.8

J.C. Hassenauer, C: 303 snaps, 5 penalties, 6 sacks; pass blocking 68, run blocking 52.6

Overall Feeling: This is an “all-new” line. None of this season’s starters started in week 1 last year. There are two returning players who were on the roster last year, Okorafor and Dotson. They also added an Allen Iverson look-a-like contest winner Trai Turner, who is coming off the worst season of his career, and Zach Banner, who is most likely a warm body.

J.C. Hassenuar is the most exciting guy here, but even the Steelers’ beat writers think he is replaceable. This is a very young line, and that can go either way. However, I don’t see any reason to think they are going to be better than the bottom 10 this season.

 

NFC

Chicago Bears

Germain Ifedi, OL: 1,066 snaps, 5 penalties, 2 sacks; pass blocking 63.7, run blocking 62.8

Elijah Wilkinson, OT: 503 snaps, 1 penalty, 2 sacks; pass blocking 52.8, run blocking 50.3

Rookie: Teven Jenkins, OT.

Cut: Bobby Massie, OT – signed by Denver

Overall Feeling: This line is going to be worse than last season — losing Massie and replacing him with a downgrade in Wilkinson hurts. Adding a rookie as a starter ensures growing pains. Look for this line to get better as the season goes on.

 

Detroit Lions

Rookie: Penei Sewell, T.

Overall feeling: For the last few seasons, the Lions have quietly had one of the better lines in the league, finishing 2019 as PFF’s 11th best. They finished 2020 as the 13th best while starting rookie Jonah Jackson. This year the Lions added the best rookie lineman in the draft, Penei Sewell. He should make up for the huge hole that the Lions had at right tackle.

Last season, we saw overpaid and underperforming Halapoulivaati Vaitai play 477 snaps in the position while allowing second-year man Tyrell Crosby to take over the starting spot. Sewell will take over the tackle spot, and should see Crosby kick inside to guard, but there are rumors that backup Logan Stenberg could earn the starting job. No matter who starts at guard this line should be firmly planted in the top 12.

 

Green Bay Packers

Cut: Rick Wagner, OT – free agent

Overall Feeling: There are no new players on this team who are projected starters, which is good. The Packers have had one of the best lines in the NFL for years, and this season should be no different. However, the loss of one of the best centers in the NFL, Corey Linsly to the Chargers, should really hurt this team, even though we have already seen this team without him.

Last season Wagner appeared in only 13 games and missed the entire playoffs with a knee injury. What we saw from this line is that it can survive just fine without him. The Packers got great play from the entire line. Even with an aging David Bakhtiari, we can expect great things here again for Rodgers or Love.

 

Minnesota Vikings

Rookie: Christian Darrisaw, T. 

Rookie: Wyatt Davis, G.

Overall Feeling: Minnesota has had struggles with their offensive line for a long time, and has cost them playoff runs. Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, and Dakota Dozier were so bad last year that, on any other team in the NFL, they would have been backups. The front office has been working to address this issue, by drafting first or second-round linemen in every draft since 2018.

In 2021 they took two: Christian Darrisaw in the first round, and then Wyatt Davis in the third. Davis fell to the third to due issues with communication on the line, which caused sacks, TFL’s, and pressures that shouldn’t have happened. I don’t expect that to continue in 2021. Both Davis and Darrisaw are incredible blockers.

The addition of those two should help move this line out of the dungeon. The big concern here is that Cleveland and Bradbury have not been great at pass blocking. If Davis does not turn around his communication issues, we will see the same issues this year that we saw last year.

 

Those are my offensive line projections for the AFC/NFC North.

You can find my AFC/NFC West offensive line projections here, and check back for my AFC/NFC East and AFC/NFC South projections!


Thank you for investing some time in my articles. If you’d like to read more, you can visit my IDP Guys author page or follow me on Twitter at @FF_Skinnychef. If there is something you would like to see written, DM me. May the waivers be forever in your favor.

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Discussion

  1. […] can find my AFC/NFC South offensive line projections here, my AFC/NFC North offensive line projections here, and my AFC/NFC East offensive line projections […]

  2. […] can find my  AFC/NFC North offensive line projections here, and my AFC/NFC West offensive line projections […]

  3. […] can find my AFC/NFC North offensive line projections here, my AFC/NFC South offensive line projections here, and my AFC/NFC West offensive line projections […]

  4. […] they have done enough that Burrow should be less terrorized (Check out this article talking about AFC/NFC North offensive lines by @FF_SkinnyChief). The Bengals WR room has the chance to be something special. Mixon should be […]

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