Tuesday, May 31, 2011
O-linemen fight for Power Rankings respect
By Tim Graham
Next up in ESPN.com's Power Rankings series were the best offensive players who aren't quarterbacks.
I was surprised to see only three offensive linemen appear on the ballots of our eight panelists: Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long, Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas and New York Jets center Nick Mangold.
Only four voters, including me, mentioned more than one lineman. AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky and NFC South blogger Pat Yaskinkas must have been assembling fantasy teams because they didn't name a single grunt.
- Adrian Peterson, Vikings running back
- Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals receiver
- Andre Johnson, Texas receiver
- Chris Johnson, Titans running back
- Calvin Johnson, Lions receiver
- Jake Long, Dolphins left tackle
- Antonio Gates, Chargers tight end
- Nick Mangold, Jets center
- Roddy White, Falcons receiver
- Jason Witten, Cowboys tight end
Nobody can argue against how crucial offensive linemen are to a team's success. And since we removed quarterbacks from the equation, they make even more sense to appear on this list. If a team has an established quarterback, then the next thing to do is protect him.
Without offensive linemen, there's not enough time for the star receivers to get open or lanes for running backs to bolt through.
The importance of left tackles was underscored when the Dolphins selected Long first overall in 2008. Long has lived up to the expectations at a critical position by making the Pro Bowl each of this three seasons. He was voted All-Pro last year.
Mangold is the best center in the game. While centers aren't necessarily viewed as prominent enough to draft early, Mangold's dominance is indisputable. He has been an All-Pro the past two seasons and a Pro Bowler three straight. That's why he made my list.