With the news that Terron Armstead and Cordy Glenn have each signed big-money contract extensions this week, we decided we should have a look at the best young tackles in the NFL.
The same faces have been at the top of the position league-wide for a while now, but there are some new faces breaking into the elite echelon of play. Here are the top five offensive tackles in the league right now (all players are 26 years old or younger):
1. Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys
Believe it or not, Smith is still only 25 years old, and is actually the second-youngest player on this list. He is also the most accomplished, and the one player in the league genuinely threatening to topple Joe Thomas from his position as the best left tackle in football. Last season he had the best run-blocking grade among all tackles, and only fell behind Thomas when it came to pass-blocking. Smith has been consistently improving over his time starting for the Cowboys, and has everything you look for in a top tackle. Given what surrounds him on that Dallas line, 2016 figures to be another impressive year, and may be the year he can finally edge ahead of Thomas, who has been the standard for pass-blocking tackle play pretty much since he came into the league in 2007.
2. Terron Armstead, New Orleans Saints
The youngest player on this list at 24 years old, Armstead had a major breakout season last year and was our third-rated tackle on the season, grading well both in pass protection and in the run game. Armstead allowed 20 total pressures over the season, and the Saints were able to average 5.8 yards per carry running to the outside of his blocks in the run game. Armstead hasn’t graded negatively over a full season since coming into the league, but more importantly, has improved each season, and could get even better next year. In 2015 he didn’t have a single “red” (or poorly graded) game, and only dipped into average performances three times.
3. Cordy Glenn, Buffalo Bills
Cordy Glenn just signed a blockbuster contract that makes him the second-highest-paid tackle in football, and while his play doesn’t quite justify that figure, he has been a solid presence at left tackle for the Bills. Last season he was our 10th-rated tackle, and but for two bad games book-ending his season, he would have had a really quite impressive campaign. While Armstead has improved for the Saints year on year, Glenn has been less consistent, and has yet to truly nail down his best performances over 16 games. Last season he allowed just two sacks, but he has averaged six per season throughout his career. The best of Glenn is probably worth the money the Bills just gave him, but he has yet to put that all together for a full 16-game season. Maybe he will in 2016.
4. Mitchell Schwartz, Kansas City Chiefs
The only right tackle on the list, Schwartz developed well for the Browns just in time to cash in with a big-money contract in free agency. Last season was his coming-out party, and demonstrated his ability as he saw an extremely difficult slate of edge rushers from the left side of the defensive front. His most impressive feat was almost eliminating Von Miller from the game when Cleveland faced Denver in Week 6. In 84 snaps, Schwartz allowed just one solitary pressure against a guy who averaged 5.5 per game over the season. Right tackles are seen as the less important position, but in today’s NFL there is a lot of heat coming from that side of the line, and Schwartz is the best guy manning that side.
5. Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles
Another player who is still working on ironing out the inconsistencies in his game, Johnson is excellent when his game is at its best, but there is still too much bad in it. He had to play games at left tackle last season as well as right, and those did not go well, but even in his regular spot there were poor performances. After surrendering just one sack in 2014, he was beaten for six last season, but he has three straight seasons of good run-blocking grades, and had nine games of excellent pass-protection out of 16. At 25 he still has time to develop, and could be higher up this list if he could figure out how to limit the bad days at the office.