Part 2 of the Top 50 Trench Players entering 2022 (1-25)
Featuring soundbites from the people that know them best
Now that the first installment (26-50) of my top 50 trench players has been posted, it is time to unveil the top 25 offensive and defensive linemen entering the 2022 season. This is a mixture of all-time great, soon-to-be Hall of Famers (Aaron Donald, Zack Martin, Jason Kelce, etc.), superstars in their primes (Myles Garrett, Joey Bosa, T.J. Watt, Quenton Nelson, etc.), up and coming superstars just entering their primes (Nick Bosa and Tristan Wirfs), underrated stars (Ryan Jensen and Jonathan Allen), sensational second-year players on the cusp of superstardom (Rashawn Slater and Micah Parsons) and players that fall into a mixture of these labels.
Studying these players for a living allows me to provide unique insight and analysis into what makes them great, but I also added the perspectives of 21 (35 total including part 1) former or current teammates, opponents, analysts and writers using a new audio feature from Substack. Below my own analysis you will see the option to play the soundbites from these interviews that help encapsulate the value of these fantastic players and what makes them special.
Tier 1 - Unique
Generational, first-ballot Hall of Famer and arguably the best ever at his position
Tier 2 - Elite
These players win essentially all reps against any level of competition below ‘elite’ while splitting them evenly with other elite players. There are very few players inside this tier at any position in a given season. This rarified group produces scheme transcendent players that regularly play at an All-Pro level regardless of the situation around them.
Tier 3 - Very good/trending up
These players are impact starters that win the majority of their reps against lower tiers of players, split them among other tier 2 players, and can compete with tier 1 players in spurts. This group is where most All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections come from and are often referred to as ‘blue chip’ starters.
*Age* = Week 1 of the 2021 season
*All stats via TruMedia
Tier 1 - Unique
1. Aaron Donald - DT - Rams - Year 9 - 31-years old
Donald is head and shoulders the best lineman in the NFL from a consistency, production and accolades standpoint. Donald was selected as a First-Team All-Pro for the seventh consecutive season in 2021 and was the best player on a Super Bowl winning team. Over the last five seasons, Donald leads all defensive linemen in sacks, QB hurries and pressures (Donald has 100+ more pressures than second-place Chandler Jones over that span).
Jourdan Rodrigue who covers The Rams for the Athletic shares stories on Donald
Tier 2 - Elite
2. Trent Williams - LT - 49ers - Year 13 - 34-years old
Williams has an unrivaled combination of size, movement skills and power at tackle with refined technique that he routinely uses to lock up rushers on an island and dominate in the run game. Williams is coming off of one of the best and most dominant seasons we have seen from an offensive linemen over the last decade, securing his first First-Team All-Pro selection in the process after starting 15 of 17 regular season games and three playoff games.
Williams is in a system perfectly tailored to his strengths and despite being 34-years old, remains in prime position to prolong his peak as a player while securing more accolades that would go a long way towards strengthening his already viable case for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Trent Williams’ longtime agent and CEO of Elite Loyalty Sports Vincent Taylor on the unique background and makeup that distinguishes Williams from his peers
3. Myles Garrett - Edge - Browns - Year 6 - 26-years old
Garrett is the most physically gifted and imposing edge-rusher in football with an arsenal of pass-rush moves and an intimate understanding of how to set blockers up that consistently maximizes his talent. He is coming off back-to-back First-Team All-Pro selections and set career highs in tackles (51), sacks (16, nine of them high-quality), and tackles for loss (17) in 2021, plus the former first overall pick posted double-digit sacks for the fourth year in a row.
Bengals LT Jonah Williams on facing Garrett twice a year and what makes him such a unique player
4. Zack Martin - RG - Cowboys - Year 9 - 31-years old
Martin is the quintessential ‘technician’ at his position and best overall guard in football.
Former Cowboys’ teammate of Martin’s from 2014-2016 Ronald Leary on how quickly everyone knew Martin was different
5. Joey Bosa - Edge - Chargers - Year 7 - 27-years old
The older Bosa is a silky smooth rusher with rare processing skills and a deep repertoire of moves to capitalize on whatever opening his opponent presents to him. Over the last four seasons, Bosa ranks second overall in pressure percentage on all downs at 15.9%, trailing only Shaquil Barrett at 16.0%. During those same four seasons, no rusher in football has a better pressure percentage on third and fourth downs than Bosa (22.6%). No other rusher cracks 20%.
Former Chiefs All-Pro RT Mitchell Schwartz on facing Bosa and what made it such a challenge
6. Nick Bosa - Edge - 49ers - Year 4 - 24-years old
The younger Bosa brother has a scary blend of power, strength and refinement. Similarly to his brother, Nick can adapt on the fly using extraordinary fluidity to take advantage of whatever the blocker presents him with. He is also a stud run-defender that plays all over the line of scrimmage. When I asked former Rams All-Pro LT Andrew Whitworth to describe Bosa to me, Whitworth called Bosa a “Combination of James Harrison and Terrell Suggs in their primes.”
Kyle Posey from NinersNation.com on what makes Bosa special
7. Lane Johnson - RT - Eagles - Year 10 - 32-years old
Johnson has unique athletic ability, length and body control to mirror and matchup with elite edge-rushers on an island. Despite missing four games last season Johnson still earned second-team All-Pro recognition thanks in large part to some phenomenal performances against top competition (Maxx Crosby, Joey Bosa) and dominating other quality rushers. Johnson has always been a true shut down pass-protector, but the most impressive part of his year was how impactful he was as a run-blocker. Here is the highlight package from 2021 that I put together for OL Masterminds that showcases a little bit of what makes Johnson such a special player.
Johnson’s personal trainer Gabe Rangel on his rare combination of athletic ability and power
8. T.J. Watt - Edge - Steelers - Year 6 - 27-years old
Watt combines elite explosiveness, a deep library of moves to draw from and relentless effort into warp play speed that wears on opponents over the course of a game. Watt won his first Defensive Player of the Year award in 2021, leading the NFL in sacks (22.5), and he leads all rushers over the last four seasons in sacks with 60 (second is Aaron Donald with 59). Watt is also tied for first with Joey Bosa over the last two seasons in pressure percentage at 16.2%.
Steelers Depot’s Alex Kozora on Watt’s journey as a former tight end convert at Wisconsin to the NFL’s 2021 Defensive Player of the Year
9. Tristan Wirfs - RT - Bucs - Year 3 - 23-years old
Wirfs is a physical freak with refined technical skills that translated into an elite player since his rookie season. Wirfs began his career about as well as anyone, winning a Super Bowl, not missing a single start or snap and earning First-Team All-Pro honors in 2021. Of course it helps to be protecting the best QB of all-time in Tom Brady who is unmatched in how efficient he is inside the pocket, but Wirfs doesn’t receive help and regularly goes toe-to-toe with elite competition.
Former Bucs and NFL Draft analyst for Pewter Report Jon Ledyard detailing the physical traits, skill-set and and intangibles that make Wirfs a once-in-a-decade type of player
10. Quenton Nelson - LG - Colts - Year 5 - 26-years old
Nelson has prototypical physical traits, unique processing skills and exceptional competitive toughness make him a coach and scout’s dream offensive guard. Nelson had his 51 consecutive game starting streak snapped early last season due to an ankle injury that kept him out for four games, but he has been incredibly durable over his career and is in the early stages of his prime.
Former Notre Dame offensive lineman and host of the GoJo Show Mike Golic Jr. giving an overview of the perennial All-Pro
11. Terron Armstead - LT - Dolphins - Year 10 - 31-years old
Armstead is one of a select few left tackles that can thrive on an island in the drop-back passing game while also bringing impact ability as a run-blocker. This isn’t even factoring in Armstead’s renown leadership qualities off the field and in the locker room, which will reverberate throughout the offensive line room and organization in Miami. Playing in new head coach Mike McDaniel’s OL-friendly system will only solidify and amplify Armstead’s rare skill-set in 2022.
Former teammate from 2019-2021 and current Saints center Erik McCoy on Armstead’s special blend of physical traits, mental toughness and leadership qualities
12. Ryan Ramczyk - RT - Saints - Year 6 - 28-years old
Ramczyk missed seven games last season due to a nagging knee injury that hampered him throughout the year, causing his ability to play with power and strength to take a dip. Even at less than 100% for the bulk of the season, he remains a lock for tier 1 at right tackle due to impeccable technique, efficiency from the ground up and well-roundedness. Ramczyk has a strong case for being the best run-blocking right tackle in football and he can thrive on an island against top competition when healthy.
Former teammate of five years, Dolphins All-Pro LT Terron Armstead on what makes Ramczyk special
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