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    Best Guards in the NFL 2023: Zack Martin, Joel Bitonio, and Quenton Nelson Battle Atop Rankings

    Who is the best guard in the NFL? Zack Martin, Joel Bitonio, and Quenton Nelson can all lay claim to No. 1.

    Interior offensive line play isn’t sexy, so even the best guards in the NFL often aren’t household names. But keeping inside pressure away from the quarterback is incredibly important, and guards are regularly utilized as battering rams in teams’ run attacks. Let’s go around the league and rank the top guards in the NFL.

    Who’s the Best Guard in the NFL?

    Zack Martin is still the best guard in the NFL. A lock to enter the Hall of Fame when he eventually retires, Martin is arguably the best guard of the past 15-20 years. He’s beyond sound in pass protection, and his athleticism is regularly on display in the Cowboys’ run game.

    Martin hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, and Dallas has now rebuilt the offensive line around him. Fans of offensive line play were treated to Martin and Tyron Smith — who shifted from left to right tackle upon his return from injury — working on combo blocks near the end of the season. Smith moved back to left tackle in 2023, and Martin has remained the standard at right guard.

    Guard Rankings 2-10

    2) Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns

    Joel Bitonio has been a first- or second-team All-Pro in five consecutive seasons. The Browns have one of the best offensive lines in the league, and Bitonio is their most talented player up front.

    The 31-year-old is an excellent communicator, as evidenced by how he coordinates blocking assignments with his linemates.

    3) Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts

    The sixth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Quenton Nelson has largely dominated since entering the league, but 2022 was his least productive campaign. Early in the season, Nelson was getting pushed back in the pocket far more frequently than in years past. However, his play seemed to rebound to its usual level over the second half of the season.

    With a $20 million annual salary, Nelson is the highest-paid guard in the NFL — no one else at the position makes more than $16.5 million. But the dominance we once saw in Nelson returned with a vengeance in 2023, and the Colts have surprised on the back of solid offensive line play.

    4) Michael Onwenu, New England Patriots

    New England’s offensive line was beset by injuries and ineffectiveness last season, and the coaching staff turnover undoubtedly hasn’t helped matters. Yet, Michael Onwenu has remained the constant through it all. Per PFF, Onwenu only gave up one sack all season, while allowing just 14 pressures.

    The Patriots stole Onwenu in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and the former Michigan Wolverine’s versatility served him well during his first two NFL campaigns as he saw time at both guard spots and right tackle. Last year, Onwenu was finally allowed to stick at one position, with all 1,044 of his snaps coming at right guard.

    But 2023 has been a different story. Onwenu may be a natural guard, but his efficiency has remained since sliding out to tackle in Week 7 for New England. That outstanding versatility should make him a LOT of money this offseason.

    5) Joe Thuney, Kansas City Chiefs

    You always know what you’re getting with Joe Thuney, and that consistency led the Chiefs to lure him away from the Patriots with a five-year, $80 million deal two years ago. He’s been worth every penny through two seasons, and he might be the best pass-blocking guard not named Zack Martin.

    MORE: PFN’s FREE NFL Playoff Predictor

    Kansas City made significant offensive line investments in 2021, drafting Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith to round out their offensive interior. Those expenditures have paid off, and Thuney — as the rugged veteran of the group — is the unit’s tone-setter week in and week out.

    6) Tyler Smith, Dallas Cowboys

    Although the Cowboys’ run game hasn’t been as explosive as the team had hoped heading into the season, it’s certainly not Tyler Smith’s fault. The second-year player has emerged as one of the league’s best interior blockers, displaying particular dominance in the run game.

    But he’s far from a backyard brawler. The outstanding athlete from Tulsa has outrageous power, but he also has grown significantly as a pass protector in his second season.

    7) Chris Lindstrom, Atlanta Falcons

    The Falcons’ offensive line may have been the most improved position group in the NFL last year, and Chris Lindstrom has been an essential part of that effort. The 14th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Lindstrom has always been solid, but he took his game to a new realm last season.

    Lindstrom received the attention he deserved in 2022, earning the first Pro Bowl and All-Pro (second team) nods of his career. He’s once again having an All-Pro-caliber season for Atlanta after signing a massive extension that made him the highest-paid guard in the NFL.

    8) Elgton Jenkins, Green Bay Packers

    Elgton Jenkins had been the only pending free agent in our top 10, but the Packers decided to lock him up in December. Green Bay gave the 26-year-old a four-year, $68 million extension that makes him the second-highest-paid guard in the league.

    MORE: Best Offensive Tackles in the NFL 2023

    Injuries have cost Jenkins time over the past two years, but his skill set is especially valuable. Since joining the Packers as a second-round pick in 2019, Jenkins played at least one snap at every offensive line position. His ability to play anywhere is an excellent asset, but stabilizing him at one position will help the Packers’ offense and Jenkins’ health.

    9) Trey Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

    The Chiefs likely expected to find an immediate starter when they selected center Creed Humphrey in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, but they probably didn’t think they’d grab another starting interior player in Round 6. Trey Smith, a massive guard at 6’5″ and 330 pounds, quickly grabbed a starting spot along one of the NFL’s top offensive lines and hasn’t looked back.

    10) Wyatt Teller, Cleveland Browns

    The second Brown in our top 10, Wyatt Teller has been an absolute mauler in the run game since coming over from Buffalo in 2019. Nick Chubb is one of the best running backs in football, but he’s also been aided by Teller and Bitonio blocking in front of him. Specifically, Teller is probably the best pulling guard in the league.

    Teller’s development in Cleveland is a testament to Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan, one of the top OL instructors in the NFL. You don’t often see a former fifth-round pick change teams and then become a second-team All-Pro, and Callahan’s work with Teller should be applauded.

    Top Guards Remaining

    11) Shaq Mason, Houston Texans

    Although he’s somehow never made a Pro Bowl in eight NFL seasons, Shaq Mason is one of the best guards in the NFL. The Patriots traded Mason to the Buccaneers last offseason in a cost-cutting maneuver. Then, the Buccaneers decided to do the same thing, trading him to the Texans for fewer peanuts than they originally sent to the Patriots.

    Mason has been outstanding once again for the Texans. He’s been a big reason why C.J. Stroud has found so much success as a rookie, despite holding onto the ball long enough to properly roast a marshmallow on many occasions.

    12) Alijah Vera-Tucker, New York Jets

    Alijah Vera-Tucker went on injured reserve in Week 7 after suffering a torn triceps, but he’s done enough in his two-year career to rank just outside of the top 10 NFL guards. After a solid rookie campaign in 2021, AVT stepped up his output last year while displaying notable versatility.

    Unfortunately, the Jets once again lost their starting guard. However, Vera-Tucker tore his Achilles this time, which is another devastating injury for the young blocker.

    13) Landon Dickerson, Philadelphia Eagles

    Landon Dickerson was an absolute beast in his final collegiate season, winning nearly every offensive lineman award while winning a national championship with Alabama. Dickerson hasn’t missed a beat since he was forced into the Eagles’ starting lineup in Week 3 of his rookie season. His presence could become even more critical if Philadelphia center Jason Kelce retires this offseason.

    Dickerson had horrific injury luck in college but has remained a pillar of good health at the NFL level. Seamlessly making the move to guard has been impressive too.

    14) Kevin Zeitler, Baltimore Ravens

    Kevin Zeitler will enter his Age-33 campaign having never made an All-Pro or Pro Bowl roster, but he’s arguably been the best second-tier guard in the NFL over the past decade. He’s rarely missed action while spending time with the Bengals, Browns, Giants, and Ravens, and he adds a high floor to whichever unit he’s playing on.

    15) James Daniels, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Despite entering last year’s free agent period as a 24-year-old with 48 starts under his belt, James Daniels somehow only secured an $8.8 million salary on the open market. That deal looks like a clear win for the Steelers, as Daniels helped buoy an otherwise subpar Pittsburgh offensive line while ranking ninth among guards in pass-block win rate.

    MORE: NFL Offense Rankings 2023

    Daniels has been outstanding once again in 2023, and the addition of Broderick Jones on the right side has helped stabilize that side of the line.

    16) Brandon Scherff, Jacksonville Jaguars

    Brandon Scherff is still incredibly explosive as he enters his 30s. Scherff played alongside a rookie center in Luke Fortner last season, and he consistently looked for opportunities to help the young pivot in pass protection.

    Scherff is still playing well, but it’s difficult to flourish when both flanks are compromised by young players struggling to find their footing at the NFL level.

    17) Isaac Seumalo, Pittsburgh Steelers

    The two guard spots have been about the only bright spots for the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line in 2023. Isaac Seumalo remains steady in pass protection while maintaining positional leverage advantages in the run game.

    18) Jonah Jackson, Detroit Lions

    Penei Sewell, Taylor Decker, and Frank Ragnow are all high-profile Lions offensive linemen, so much so that Jonah Jackson sometimes gets forgotten. Injuries cost him five games last season, but he’s powerful enough to stonewall defenders in both the pass and run games. Given how much Detroit already has invested in its OL, Jackson could hit the open market next spring.

    19) Robert Hunt, Miami Dolphins

    Robert Hunt played right tackle in his rookie season and dabbled there in 2022, but the Dolphins plan to keep him at right guard moving forward. Through three years, Hunt has been a rare offensive line find for Miami.

    Hunt has missed some time with injuries in 2023, but he has been dominant in the Dolphins’ run game all season, and he’s also continuously shown improvements as a pass protector.

    20) Nate Davis, Chicago Bears

    Nate Davis joined the Bears as a free agent this offseason. The former third-round pick has typically been better in the run game than as a pass protector, but the Bears would prefer to bludgeon opponents on the ground anyway.

    21) Alex Cappa, Cincinnati Bengals

    The Bengals wasted no time in attempting to improve their offensive line last offseason, making Alex Cappa their first free-agent addition just seconds after the market opened.

    Cappa is the definition of a mid-level starter in the NFL. He’s someone you can count on not to completely destroy your offense, but he won’t necessarily elevate it to new heights, either.

    22) Will Fries, Indianapolis Colts

    The entire Colts offensive line underperformed in 2022, and the whole unit is either playing at their expected level or outperforming expectations in 2023. Shane Steichen gets the best from his blockers, somehow.

    Like Ben Powers, Fries has proven to be an assignment-sound guard who won’t physically dominate opponents like his guard-mate, but who will almost always be in the correct position.

    23) Will Hernandez, Arizona Cardinals

    It took a very long time, but Will Hernandez has finally lived up to the expectations set for him when he was drafted in 2018. Maybe the New Jersey weather wasn’t a good fit for the Las Vegas native who played his college ball at UTEP.

    MORE: Best Offensive Lines in the NFL 2023

    We know the drill with Hernandez. He is a backyard brawler who loves to antagonize defenders, but the behemoth guard can back it up with outrageous physicality. He’s still not a perfect pass protector, but he’s improved drastically since moving back south.

    24) Ben Powers, Denver Broncos

    Ben Powers isn’t all that exciting, but he’s sound — and that’s what most teams are searching for in guard play. He’s been a smart blocker in Baltimore’s run-heavy scheme, starting 29 games over the past two seasons.

    He’s been a solid upgrade for the Broncos interior in 2023. Blocking for Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson in pass protection is no simple task, but Powers survives in the passing game while remaining an incredibly assignment-sound run blocker.

    25) Ezra Cleveland, Jacksonville Jaguars

    One of the more athletic guards in the league, Ezra Cleveland is a devastating blocker in space. Fresh off the best season of his career, Cleveland was dealt at the deadline to Jacksonville, where he quickly caught on at left guard when Cam Robinson went down with an injury at left tackle, which slid Walker Little to the outside.

    26) Teven Jenkins, Chicago Bears

    Teven Jenkins’ rookie season was a disaster. A back injury forced him to miss most of the year, and he started just two games. But the Bears moved Jenkins to guard during the 2022 preseason, and he experienced a total resurgence. He’s much better playing in a phone booth than he was on the edge.

    27) Jon Runyan Jr., Green Bay Packers

    Jon Runyan Jr. comes from a good lineage, as his father was a longtime NFL offensive lineman with the Titans, Eagles, and Chargers. A 33-game starter over the past two seasons, Runyan played at left guard in 2021 before splitting his time between the right and left sides last season. Amidst a season of offensive line reconfiguration in Green Bay, Runyan was a consistent presence.

    28) Damien Lewis, Seattle Seahawks

    Damien Lewis is one of the more underrated guards in the NFL. He’s gotten better each season, especially as a pass blocker. Last year, Lewis worked between a rookie left tackle (Charles Cross) and a new center (Austin Blythe).

    29) Quinn Meinerz, Denver Broncos

    At this point, Meinerz might be the only member of the 2022 Broncos offensive line guaranteed to return next season. A third-round pick out of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2021, Meinerz has displayed incredible physicality over 22 career starts.

    30) Samuel Cosmi, Washington Commanders

    The former Texas Longhorns left tackle played on the right side of the Commanders offensive line in 2021 and 2022 but slid inside as the starter at right guard in 2023. Since moving to guard, he has been about the lone bright spot on the Washington offensive line.

    31) Greg Van Roten, Las Vegas Raiders

    If you’re surprised to see Greg Van Roten — or any non-Kolton Miller offensive lineman on a top list — you’re not alone. However, the Raiders’ offensive line has outperformed expectations this season, and Van Roten is no exception. He’s consistently put together impressive pass-protection performances this season against some stiff competition.

    32) Dalton Risner, Minnesota Vikings

    A center and tackle in college at Kansas State, Dalton Risner has played exclusively at left guard since joining the Broncos as a second-round pick in 2019.

    MORE: NFL Defense Rankings 2023

    After spending a longer time on the couch than expected, he ended up in Minnesota, stepping in for Cleveland. Although he hasn’t been perfect in Minnesota, he’s improved as he’s gotten his feet underneath him after a long hiatus.

    Want to predict the rest of the 2023 season with our FREE NFL Playoff Predictor? Looking for the most up-to-date NFL standings? What about a breakdown of team depth charts or the NFL schedule? Pro Football Network has you covered with that and more!

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