Interior offensive line play is often overlooked in the grand scheme. The position is filled with gritty maulers that consistently get into minor car crashes as they meet at the line with a 300-plus-pound human wrecking ball on the other end. And as the 2021 NFL Combine showed, the defensive linemen are evolving athletically. Here are the 32 best suited to handle them.
Top NFL interior offensive linemen in 2022
Unfortunately, one of the top-10 interior blockers in the NFL decided to sip mojitos by a beach somewhere at 28 years old. Ali Marpet is gone, but he is not forgotten. Congratulations are in order for a fantastic career.
1) RG Zack Martin, Dallas Cowboys
Zack Martin isn’t the best player in football. However, part of his allure comes from the legendary battles he and Aaron Donald had at the Reese’s Senior Bowl all the way back in 2014.
Since then, Martin has been an absolute machine at right guard for the Dallas Cowboys. He even had to slide out to right tackle in 2020, where he looked like he hadn’t missed a beat from his days playing at Notre Dame.
When you build an interior blocker in a lab, they look like Martin. He has the perfect frame and athletic ability for the position, with the technical wizardry of a future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
2) LG Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis Colts
And now, for the left guard version of Martin. Quenton Nelson isn’t where Martin is technically, but it’s difficult to envision a more physically imposing interior blocker. There aren’t many blockers, especially on the interior, who could produce a highlight reel impressive enough to keep attention away from some of the receivers in the league, but Nelson can.
His power is overwhelming, and he’s a disrespectful finisher with outstanding athletic ability. Many would like to crown the youngster, but he’s not quite as consistent as Martin, who plays more mistake-free football than Jim Clark did around a Formula 1 circuit back in his day.
Still, Nelson has only allowed four sacks in his four seasons in the league, and once Martin decides to start descending from the mountain top, Nelson will fill plant his flag.
3) C Ryan Jensen, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ryan Jensen is the best offensive lineman in the league to show high school and college linemen. One would think his (relative) lack of explosiveness would preclude him from being the best center in football, but it doesn’t.
America has an issue with boundaries in the workplace, and Jensen might be the reason why. The man looks for work that isn’t even his. The minute he finishes an assignment at his cubical, he’s immediately walking around to see if there’s another team project he can help with.
Jensen is an old-school “rub dirt in it” interior blocker who can pick away at defensive linemen or toss them into the following zip code. He’s as heady a processor as they come, and he’s been as reliable as any offensive linemen in the league over the past five seasons.
4) C Creed Humphrey, Kansas City Chiefs
No fan or analyst outside of Kansas City should ever forgive the league for allowing Creed Humphrey to fall to pick 63. It’s one of the more revolting things that’s happened over the past five years or so in the NFL draft. Well, aside from every ESPN montage highlighting the most tragic moments of a prospect’s life.
No center prospect in the past five years could match Humphrey’s résumé. He was a stud from the minute he stepped onto the field at Oklahoma as a redshirt sophomore, and nothing changed after that talented offensive line all went on to the NFL after that season.
Then, the young man went out and tested as the most athletic center of all time during a national pandemic. Humphrey is technically proficient with his hands, has a consistently powerful base, and is an instant processor of DL games. He allowed just one sack and 10 total pressures as a rookie.
And the league didn’t like him…because he is left-handed.
5) LG Joe Thuney, Kansas City Chiefs
It certainly that Humphrey plays between Joe Thuney and Trey Smith, who finds his name later on the list. Thuney broke his hand in Week 5 and had to face Jonathan Allen and the slew of talented interior defenders Washington has on the roster. He allowed three pressures but no sacks during the game.
In fact, the former Patriot only allowed one all season. He also slid out to left tackle in Week 17 and proceeded to give up just two pressures with his broken right hand. Reliability can be challenging to find in offensive linemen, but Thuney has never missed a game in his six-year career.
6) RG Wyatt Teller, Cleveland Browns
It took a few seasons for Wyatt Teller to find sturdy footing at the NFL level. Bills general manager Brandon Beane is one of the best personnel men in the league, but he traded the Virginia Tech product to Cleveland for a pack of peanuts and a few tickets to the Cleveland Orchestra.
Teller doesn’t quite have the same highlight reel that Nelson has produced, but he’s as nasty as they come on the interior. His superb athleticism was why he was a draft pick despite lacking much nuance as a prospect. His work ethic, Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan’s teaching ability, and Cleveland’s downhill nature unlocked a special player.
And while he’s still not the perfect pass protector, Teller’s game has been good enough to earn him second-team All-Pro honors two years running.
7) C Corey Linsley, Los Angeles Chargers
Adding Corey Linsley to the offensive line in Los Angeles was one of the organization’s first steps to ensure they gave Justin Herbert a fighting chance. While the right tackle position looks a bit… cloudy… the rest of the line now looks secure.
After putting together an excellent career in Green Bay starting in 2014, Linsley went to infinity and beyond in 2020, when he suddenly became arguably the best center in the game. After back-to-back second-team All-Pro nominations, he’s proven 2020 was no fluke. He’s an outstanding technical run blocker, and his IQ is through the roof, which takes mental pressure off Herbert.
8) C Frank Ragnow, Detroit Lions
Frank Ragnow gets lost in the shuffle because he plays for the Lions and missed most of 2021, but he is one of the best interior blockers in the NFL. He checks every mark of an elite-level blocker in size, athleticism, strength, and processing ability.
It’s a shame he missed so much time last season because he looked well on his way to proving he belonged in the conversation with Jensen and Humphrey. Ragnow’s strike timing, placement, and ability to keep interior defenders on their toes proved the growth in his game since switching from left guard to center in 2019.
9) Literally any OL position Elgton Jenkins, Green Bay Packers
We often say, “this isn’t Madden,” when we talk about moving offensive linemen around. In 99% of cases, that is the rule. Elgton Jenkins is the exception to the rule. Calling him a Swiss Army knife might be disrespectful to Jenkins.
But moving around can also come at a price, and that price can be health. Blocking is a technical process, and the movements across the board are different. It’s a bit like lifting weights. An overhead press or a snatch is not a natural movement.
And while there is undoubtedly generalized footwork and strike training, linemen must work day in and day out to be proficient at their primary spot. So going from guard to tackle and changing so many techniques could raise the risk of injury.
That said, if Jenkins can finally settle into any position, he’ll prove himself one of the best in the game.
10) LG Joel Bitonio, Cleveland Browns
Joel Bitonio has remained one of the most consistent blockers in the league throughout his eight-year career with the Browns. Like Thuney, Bitonio had to bump out to left tackle for a spell during last season in Cleveland. He allowed one of his two sacks for the season during that stretch, and when he moved back inside, he had to face Cameron Hayward and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And while looks mean nothing, the fact that Bitonio is rocking the caveman beard makes him and Jensen the only two who look like the gritty interior blockers they are. Alongside Teller, the Browns boast the league’s best guard tandem, one of the reasons they’re so successful on the ground with Nick Chubb in the backfield.
Top NFL interior offensive linemen in 2022 | 11-32
11) C Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles
12) RG Shaq Mason, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
13) LG Laken Tomlinson, New York Jets
14) RG James Daniels, Pittsburgh Steelers
15) LG/RG/OT Michael Onwenu, New England Patriots
16) RG Brandon Scherff, Jacksonville Jaguars
17) RG Kevin Zeitler, Baltimore Ravens
18) C Ben Jones, Tennessee Titans
19) RG Chris Lindstrom, Atlanta Falcons
20) RG Trey Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
21) LG/C Bradley Bozeman, Carolina Panthers
22) C Ryan Kelly, Indianapolis Colts
23) C/LG Ted Karras, Cincinnati Bengals
24) RG Alex Cappa, Cincinnati Bengals
25. C JC Tretter, Free Agent
26) LG Matt Feiler, Los Angeles Chargers
27) LG Alijah Vera-Tucker, New York Jets
28) LG Kevin Dotson, Pittsburgh Steelers
29) LG Quinton Spain, Free Agent
30) C Connor McGovern, New York Jets
31) LG Connor Williams, Miami Dolphins
32) LG Roger Saffold, Buffalo Bills