Football at its core is trench warfare. Protecting your quarterback is vital, and it doesn’t hurt to establish consistent running lanes for your ground attack. Who are the top guards and centers heading into the 2021 NFL season at accomplishing these two tasks?
Top 25 guards and centers in the NFL for the 2021 season | 25-16
Interior offensive linemen only get noticed when they make a mistake — let’s flip the script and appreciate these gigantic men for a change. Here are the top 25 guards and centers for the 2021 NFL season.
25. Gabe Jackson, OG, Seattle Seahawks
Gabe Jackson has had an impressive career. He is thickly built but isn’t just a pile-mover in the run game. Surprisingly, the Raiders moved on from him, but Seattle was more than willing to add this guy to their ailing offensive front. 2020 wasn’t Jackson’s best season, though, and there is reason to worry if he is now declining.
24. Ryan Jensen, OC, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There isn’t a nastier player on this list than Ryan Jensen. A trendsetter on the Super Bowl champion’s front, Jensen played more snaps than any center in the league in 2020. Playing against Jensen is no fun at all.
23. Elgton Jenkins, OG, Green Bay Packers
The Packers were one of the NFL’s best run-blocking lines last year, and Elgton Jenkins certainly helped that cause. He is versatile enough to play any of the interior positions, but Jenkins has quickly settled in admirably at guard for the Packers. He looks like a foundation player for Green Bay for years to come.
22. Rodger Saffold, OG, Tennessee Titans
Rodger Saffold fits in well in Tennessee in their Derrick Henry-centered offense. Saffold is a masher and isn’t great at adjusting to more athletic pass rushers. Somewhat quietly, Saffold has put together an impressive career.
21. Cody Whitehair, OC, Chicago Bears
After switching between center and guard early in his career, Cody Whitehair has settled in at center and has excelled in the run game. While Whitehair is obviously a quality player, his work in protection last year did leave something to be desired. That being said, he is a fine pivot to provide stability for Justin Fields.
20. Erik McCoy, OC, New Orleans Saints
During Drew Brees’ amazing tenure in New Orleans, no team in the league invested more in interior offensive linemen than the Saints. In fact, New Orleans has gotten a nice return on their second-round investment in Erik McCoy. He played a ton of snaps last year and is the youngest center on this list. The best could be yet to come.
19. Ryan Kelly, OC, Indianapolis Colts
A rarity for a center, Ryan Kelly is a former first-round pick. In truth, Kelly has lived up to that lofty draft pedigree. He is an anchor for one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Pittsburgh was the only team in the league to allow fewer sacks than the Colts last year.
18. Jason Kelce, OC, Philadelphia Eagles
Jason Kelce might be declining, but he still is a force in the run game with a rare ability to get to the second level and hit smaller moving targets in space. Kelce is one of the premier centers of his generation. He is also the oldest center on this top guards and centers list for the 2021 season (will turn 34 on November 5).
17. Kevin Zeitler, OG, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens felt the loss of Marshal Yanda’s retirement last year — so much so, they quickly remedied that situation by securing the services of Kevin Zeitler, who has been one of the top guards of this era. Amazingly, this will be his fourth team, three of them in the AFC North. But that shouldn’t be an indication that he is someone that teams grow weary of having on their roster. Zeitler will fit in nicely with the Ravens.
16. David DeCastro, OG, Pittsburgh Steelers
2020 wasn’t David DeCastro’s best season, but he still excelled in pass protection. He is the last remaining accomplished veteran on Pittsburgh’s line right now. This is a pivotal season in DeCastro’s career, and the Steelers need him to get back to a Pro Bowl-level of play, which certainly could be in the cards.