Ranking The AFC West Offensive Tackle Groups
We are back for an AFC West positional ranking! This time, I’ll be dissecting the division’s offensive tackles. If you know me, you know how much I love to talk about the trenches so this is a fun one for me. As always, I’ll be using the top four projected offensive tackles according to the fine folks over at Ourlads.
Overall, this group was a little challenging to properly rank because each of the four teams had a weakness along their respective offensive lines at right tackle, so it was difficult at times to weigh that weakness vs the strength of the tackle on the opposite side and vice versa. That being said, let’s dive in.
Fourth: Kansas City Chiefs – Orlando Brown Jr, Andrew Wylie, Lucas Niang, Geron Christian
As of writing this, Brown has still not signed his franchise tag and is reportedly not close to a long-term deal with the Chiefs because he believes he is a market-setting caliber player. Every player in the league believes they are worth more than reality actually states, but Brown’s estimation is extremely far off. Brown had the most pass-blocking snaps in the league last season in his first as a Chief, so his pressure statistics are a little skewed but still, his 45 pressures allowed was tied for 10th most in the league. PFF’s Pass Blocking Efficiency Rating (PBE) is generally a number more indicative of an offensive lineman’s effectiveness in pass protection because it takes into account the number of snaps you play vs the number of times you allow a pressure. Brown’s 97.0 rating is a solid number that placed him tied for 21st best among qualified offensive tackles (min. 50% of snaps).
Brown definitely deserves credit for at least maintaining his level of play as a pass protector in Kansas City, which was a big concern for pretty much everyone around the league after he played in Baltimore’s run-heavy scheme for the first three years of his career. That being said, he is definitely not an elite player at the position and for my money, he is the worst starting left tackle in this division.
Outside of Brown, the Chiefs have capable but uninspiring options at the other three spots. This is why they check in at number four on this list.
Third: Las Vegas Raiders – Kolton Miller, Alex Leatherwood, Brandon Parker, Jermaine Eluemunor
After being one of the worst offensive tackles in the league as a rookie, Miller has developed into a very reliable and above-average player for the Raiders. He is earning that three-year, $54 million extension that he signed in 2020. He’s more efficient on a play-to-play basis as a pass protector than Brown, more reliable as a run blocker, and has accumulated fewer penalties than Brown has over the last two seasons. So while the Raiders’ options at right tackle are far worse than the Chiefs, I think Miller is comfortably better enough than Brown to merit ranking them higher than the Chiefs.
Second: Chargers – Rashawn Slater, Storm Norton, Trey Pipkins, Foster Sarrell*
The Chargers have a bonafide superstar left tackle in Slater, who played at such a high level as a rookie that he earned second-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors. Rookie left tackles generally struggle out of the gate, and yet not only did Slater come in and play well right away, but he was also DOMINANT. I figured that Slater would be good as a rookie because of how technically refined he was at Northwestern but as soon as I saw him eviscerate Chase Young to the point where Young actively avoided that side of the Chargers’ line, I knew Slater was going to have a special rookie season.
Left tackle has been a problem spot for the Charges ever since Marcus McNeill moved on from the team, but Slater should hold down that spot and challenge for All-Pro honors every year for the next 10+ years. Take solace in that fact, Chargers fans.
The problem with ranking the Chargers is the other side of the line at right tackle. Ourlads projects Pipkins as the starter, and there’s been a lot of positive buzz about Pipkins due to him spending the entire offseason in Dallas working with renowned offensive line guru Duke Manyweather. Some of which I have heard myself.
Whether or not Pipkins is able to secure the starting role, and how much (if at all) he has improved remains to be seen.
If Pipkins really has improved as much as Manyweather and others have said, then he should have no problem beating out Norton, who was one of the worst right tackles in the league last year. Regardless, I have a tough time being super optimistic about either one of these options for the Charges at right tackle.
I wouldn’t say it’s as dire as the Raiders’ outlook but it’s not that far off. If the Chargers had managed to sign a solid veteran, they would comfortably be atop this ranking because that’s how much better I think Slater is than the rest of the other tackles on this list.
I have to remain skeptical of the Chargers’ plan at right tackle until I see the improvement for more than two games against bad/injured pass rushers.
First: Denver Broncos – Garett Bolles, Billy Turner, Calvin Anderson, Tom Compton
I would rank Bolles and Miller very similarly overall as players, personally. This makes sense because their body types and backgrounds on the field mirror each other quite closely. They’re even right next to each other in the PBE rankings, at 16th (Miller) and 17th (Bolles). I would ultimately give the edge to Miller though because he’s a little bit better as a run blocker and Bolles can be a walking penalty at times.
Still, I think the Broncos have the best solution at right tackle in the division by a wide margin. This is really sad honestly because Turner isn’t even a very good player. But in the AFC West, an average tackle is a huge advantage and that’s what the Broncos have in Turner.
He struggled to find a home in the NFL and even looked like he wasn’t going to last in Green Bay after they signed him to play right guard in 2019. However, they had to switch him to right tackle in 2020 due to injury and that proved to unlock a little something in his play. Over the last two seasons for the Packers, he allowed a combined 64 total pressures and averaged a PBE of 96.7, which again is the best mark in the division. He’s returning to Denver to play under Nathaniel Hackett again so it should be a seamless transition for both parties. (And I swear I’m not jealous at all.)
There ya have it! Let me know what you think of these rankings and where you would have placed the Bolts! Next up: interior offensive line.