GREEN BAY, Wis. – Who has the best personnel in the NFC North?
We took that question to a high-ranking scout whose focus is pro personnel. He ranked each team’s position groups. Part 5 of this 10-part series focuses on the offensive line, a group with a clear winner and a clear loser but an “arguable” difference between No. 2 and No. 3 on his list.
No. 1: Green Bay Packers
The Packers have one of the best offensive tackles in the business in left tackle David Bakhtiari, a top-notch center in Corey Linsley and an up-and-coming left guard in Elgton Jenkins. With three high-quality starters, Green Bay tops the scout’s list.
Bakhtiari collected his fourth consecutive All-Pro honor, including his first time on the first team. Oddly, though, it wasn’t his best season by his lofty standards. Of 57 offensive tackles to play at least 50 percent of his team’s offensive snaps, Bakhtiari ranked 20th in ProFootballFocus.com’s pass-protection metric, which measures sacks, hits and hurries per pass-protection snaps. PFF charged him with two sacks but 35 total pressures. He allowed 37 pressures in 28 games the past two years combined. He’ll be a free agent at season’s end and is due a massive payday. Jenkins didn’t allow a sack and showed he could be an excellent run blocker, as well. Linsley is a Steady Eddie who is going to get paid in free agency next offseason, as well.
The questions are on the right side. Signed to a four-year, $28 million contract in free agency last offseason, Billy Turner had an up-and-down first season at right guard. Of 63 guards to play at least 50 percent of the snaps, he allowed six sacks and finished 58th in PFF’s pass-protection metric. At right tackle, the Packers signed Rick Wagner after losing Bryan Bulaga. Among the aforementioned 57 tackles, Wagner finished 42nd in PFF’s pass-protection metric while Bulaga was 17th.
No. 2: Chicago Bears
Chicago’s projected front wall consists of left tackle Charles Leno, left guard James Daniels, center Cody Whitehair, right guard Germain Ifedi and right tackle Bobby Massie. Daniels (second round, 2018) and Whitehair (second round, 2016) give the Bears two quality, up-and-coming blockers on the interior. According to PFF, Daniels gave up only one sack. Whitehair yielded three but ranked sixth among 63 qualifying guards in PFF’s protection metric. Meanwhile of the 57 tackles who earned 50 percent playing time, Massie (two sacks) ranked 22nd and Leno (five sacks) 35th in PFF’s protection metric.
The big question is at right guard, where the Bears must replace Kyle Long. Ifedi, who was Seattle’s right tackle the past four seasons, and college free agent Rashaad Coward will compete for the job. Both players performed poorly last season.
No. 3: Detroit Lions
The Lions have two holes to fill, with right guard Garrett Glasgow signing with Denver and right tackle Wagner being released and joining the Packers. At guard, free agent Oday Aboushi, with 34 starts with four teams in six seasons, will battle third-round pick Jonah Jackson and fourth-round pick Logan Stenberg. At tackle, the Lions opened the vault for Halapoulivaati Vaitai. The five-year, $45 million contract was odd considering he started only four times the past two seasons.
Left tackle Taylor Decker, a first-round pick in 2016, gave up a career-worst seven sacks last season and ranked 35th out of 57 tackles in PFF’s protection metric. Left guard Joe Dahl gave up three sacks and ranked 30th out of 63 guards in PFF’s protection metric. Center Frank Ragnow, a first-round pick in 2018, is a high-quality starter who can be dominant in the run game.
No. 4: Minnesota Vikings
Left tackle Riley Reiff, left guard Pat Elflein, center Garrett Bradbury and right tackle Brian O’Neill are back, giving the Vikings solid continuity. On the bright side, they have a bunch of blockers well-suited for their zone run game, which showed in the Vikings ranking sixth in rushing and 12th in yards per carry. On the negative side, it’s a unit that provided leaky protection for quarterback Kirk Cousins.
O’Neill, a second-round pick, was a revelation. He allowed only one sack and finished sixth out of 57 offensive tackles in PFF’s protection metric. He’s one of the league’s better young right tackles. Reiff, a first-round pick in 2012, has been merely a decent starter in his career. In 2019, he gave up five sacks and ranked 30th in PFF’s protection metric. Elflein is looking like a potential third-round bust. While he’s started 42 of a possible 48 games in three seasons, he allowed six sacks and was 62nd of 63 guards in PFF’s protection metric. Bradbury, the team’s first-round pick in 2019, had a rough rookie season and needs to take a big Year 2 jump.
The fresh face is at right guard, with Dakota Dozier. A fourth-round pick by the Jets in 2014, he’s made only 11 career starts.