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How to build a top 10 offensive line, Part 2

6. Rams (1st ALY, 6th ASR)

Whitworth (2nd), Havenstein (2nd), Saffold (2nd), Sullivan (6th), Blythe (7th)

If Jamon Brown hadn't been suspended, the Rams presumably would have had 4 starters drafted in the first 3 rounds in 2018. Sullivan's low score dragged down the Rams in PFF's rankings. Adding Whit and Sully not only gave the Rams a short term boost the last couple of years that took them all the way to the Super Bowl, but it also bought the team time to try to find longer term solutions for the LT and C positions. Whether the Rams have achieved that goal is the crux of the question we are studying, because the Rams opted not to use high draft picks on the offensive line. Instead, they used midround picks to add players such as Noteboom, Allen, Evans and Edwards.

After this season, the Rams might have only one former 2nd round pick on the line (Hav) and zero former first round selections.

7. Packers (7th ALY, 21st ASR)

Bakhtiari (4th), Bulaga (1st), L. Taylor (UDFA), Linsley (5th), Bell (UDFA), McCray (UDFA)

The Packers were good at center and had the best two pass blocking tackles in the NFL, but they really struggled at the guard positions. They thought that Taylor was going to be solid based on his play in 2017, but he slumped and took a step backwards at LG. The situation was even worse at RG. Some of the sacks were due to ARod holding the ball, but many other times it was a jail break and ARod didn't have a chance.

GB shows that you can have a pretty highly ranked line with only 3 very good players. On the other hand, maybe they would have won more games and had a better season, with less friction between the coach and the QB, if the line had been stronger. They probably would have beaten the Rams if they could have just figured out how to block Donald on one or two more plays, like the Patriots did in the Super Bowl.

8. Saints (2nd ALY, 3rd ASR)

Armstead (3rd), Ramczyk (1st), Peat (1st), Unger (2nd Hawks), Warford (3rd Lions)

This team had the potential to be the top ranked team, except that a long series of injuries, especially to the interior 3, hampered their performance. Unger retired after the season, saying that lower body injuries kept him from playing at a high level. He was the 19th ranked center in 2018. Peat broke his leg to end 2017, then had an unbelievable list of injuries starting in week 1, including to his quad, ankle, hip, shoulder, a broken hand and a concussion. He was one of the worst graded guards in the NFL, yet was named a Pro Bowl alternate (illustrating how the Pro Bowl can be more about name recognition than actual play). Warford had a concussion and back and knee injuries. Armsteaad had a torn pec, but came back in the playoffs to play against the Rams.

The Rams have been extremely lucky the last 2 years as their starters haven't missed games due to injuries. It is something of a compliment to the Saints line that they were still very good despite all of the injuries they had and it nearly ended with a Super Bowl appearance.

9. Titans (17th ALY, 29th ASR)

Conklin (1st), Lewan (1st), Q. Spain (UDFA), B. Jones (4th), J. Kline (UDFA), D. Kelly (5th Eagles)

Conklin had a very good start to his career, but has struggled to stay healthy. Spain had an outstanding PFF grade in 2016, but hasn't been able to sustain that level of play, slumping to only a 62.3 mark in 2018. Rams need to hope that Austin Blythe doesn't follow the same path as Spain.

Kelly was once traded for Dorial Green-Beckham and was surprisingly decent filling in for Conklin last season. Josh Kline, however, was very bad at RG.

10. Ravens (9th ALY, 8th ASR)

R. Stanley (1st), O. Brown (3rd), A. Lewis (4th), M. Skura (UDFA), M. Yanda (3rd), J. Hurst (UDFA)

Stanley and Yanda were the stars of this group. Lewis did some good things at guard as a rookie back in 2016, but since then has been hit by some serious injuries. Skura was below average and Hurst was also bad. Brown was okay as a rookie RT, though the Ravens had an unconventional offense with Lamar Jackson, which perhaps helped protect him.

Takeaways

Continuing the list from Part 1, I put 19 players in the Difference Maker group. From that top tier, 8 were first round picks, 4 were in the second round, 2 were in the third round, 3 were in the fourth round, and one each were selected in the 5th and 6th rounds. So, nearly two thirds of the difference makers were drafted in the first two rounds.

Eight of the top 10 offensive lines have players I'd consider to be franchise left tackles. You potentially could put a 9th team in that group if you believe Wynn will be a good LT for the Patriots. Apart from the odd ball UDFAs Peters and Villanueva, both of whom have unique backgrounds, most of the LTs were early picks.

The question marks on the Rams line for 2019 and beyond largely stem from a single decision in the draft when the Rams took Greg Robinson over Jake Matthews. Last year, Matthews had a 79.2 PFF grade, was a top 10 tackle and late in the season was named by PFF as the 14th best offensive lineman in the NFL. Meanwhile, GRob for the Browns was given a 59.6 grade as the 63rd best tackle.

Whitworth has a $16.7 million salary cap hit for 2019. Matthews has a $11 million cap hit this season and an average annual salary of $14.5 million with the Falcons. So, to plug the hole created by the GRob bust, the Rams had to pay a premium to get a short term solution. If the Rams had drafted Matthews, they would be in great shape at the tackle spots and could concentrate on the other positions, which are easier to fill with lower round draft picks and UDFAs.