Rating the offensive line positions based on difficulty
Posted: Friday April 4, 2008 11:53AM; Updated: Monday April 7, 2008 2:21AM
Browns fans ridiculed my thought process. Wall Street financial analysts suggested I incorporate the Monte Carlo method. Multiple NFL scouts want to discuss the quantitative analysis of NFL players with me.
Last week's article struck quite a chord with many readers. My thesis was simply that I do not believe the exorbitant amount given to a left guard like Alan Faneca is worth it in regards to the impact his performance will have on the win/loss column.
If a team is going to pay a huge premium for the increase in performance that a good player delivers over an average one, that player should play a position that has a greater opportunity to significantly impact the outcome of a game. In order to clarify my beliefs regarding the salary structure among offensive linemen, I decided to list in order the positions among the front five that I feel are most worthy of receiving big money. Having played all five positions at different points in my career, and starting at least four games at all three interior spots, I am uniquely qualified to assess the difficulties associated with playing these positions. Just to be safe and unbiased, however, I solicited the opinions of several other linemen around the league.
1. LEFT TACKLE
Picking the left tackle at the top of this list was not as easy as one might think. Most teams in the NFL often slide their protection to the quarterback's blind side, which is almost always the left. The center is able to provide inside help for the left guard and the left guard is able to protect the left tackle's inside as the three work in concert to block the two defensive linemen while eyeing their other responsibility, the weak-side linebacker. That often leaves the right guard and right tackle one-on-one. For this reason, I briefly considered putting the right tackle at the top of this list.
Ultimately, however, the left tackle still has to block the elite pass rushers around the NFL play after play, week in and week out. If the left tackle makes a mistake, it can result in not only a sack but also quite often a fumble as the defensive end strips the quarterback from behind. Turnovers always play a big part in determining the outcome of a game, increasing the importance of the blind-side protector.
Certain offensive lineman, like Chris Samuels of the Redskins, can provide enormous additional value by rarely receiving any help from his interior linemates. This allows them to solidify the interior of the offensive line. The Redskins' confidence in leaving Samuels on an island without typically receiving any help whatsoever is a luxury many teams cannot afford.
2. RIGHT TACKLE
The consensus among the linemen with whom I spoke reinforced my belief in the importance of right tackles. The position, in most offenses, receives less aid from fellow linemen than the left tackle. This is somewhat balanced, however, by the reality that right tackles are more likely to have the tight end on their side of the formation, which can create an additional obstacle for a defensive lineman to consider.
Though right tackles go up against top-flight rushers like the Seahawks' Patrick Kerney and the Packers' Aaron Kampman, there is not the same consistency in terms of quality of opponent as there is for the left tackle. Right tackles also are more likely to receive help from a running back in the form of a "chip." Finally, the likelihood that their mistake will cause a game-altering turnover is somewhat lessened since the rusher is usually in the quarterback's line of sight.