Without a doubt the best offensive lineman in football in 2014 was the Baltimore Ravens guard Marshal Yanda. Yanda has been one of the players who has set the standard at the position throughout his career, with the former Iowa Hawkeye finishing three out of the past four seasons as one of our three highest-graded guards.
We saw his form take a dip in 2013, as he and the rest of the Ravens' offensive line struggled to get to grips with the new scheme, but rebounded better than ever with his 2014 showing, which was the best of his career.
A solid pass blocker, Yanda had the seventh-best pass-blocking grade of all guards in the regular season, allowing one sack, five hits and 10 hurries in 2014. Coming on 543 pass blocking snaps, that gave him a Pass Blocking Efficiency Rating of 97.7, 11th at the position.
Where he really dominated, however, was as a run blocker. We've seen Evan Mathis destroy opposing defenders in the run game in recent years, and that's exactly the level Yanda was at in 2014. He dropped off somewhat in the final few weeks of the season, but his efforts in the first 14 weeks included some of the finest run-blocking performances we've ever seen from an offensive lineman. When all was said and done nobody came close to him in 2014, with Yanda's +34.2 run-blocking grade far ahead of Mike Iupati's +18.5 in second place.
Overall, only Mathis' 2012 and 2013 single season overall grades were better than Yanda's 2014 (+43.4), with that first three quarters of the season as good as you'll see.
Best Game: Week 14 @ Miami (+5.4)
There were a couple of games in contention for Yanda's best in 2014, with a dominant performance as a run blocker against Tampa Bay in Week 6 a particular highlight. In the end, though, it was the game against Miami that saw his highest grade of the year.
He was solid in pass protection, finishing with a grade of +0.9 while surrendering a hit and a hurry. Coming on 35 pass blocking attempts that gave him a Pass Blocking Efficiency Rating of 95.7. That definitely wasn't his best pass-blocking game of the season, but then it's not where the bulk of his grade comes from.
That, unsurprisingly, came from his work as a run blocker, where he had his fourth highest run blocking grade of the season. What impressed about his performance was that he didn't have any negatively graded plays as a run blocker, just a series or impressive blocks to open up lanes for the running game.
Look at his block with 11:32 remaining in the third quarter, where he reaches and seals defensive lineman Jared Odrick inside to open the hole for Justin Forsett. It's an understated block in that it's not easy for a guard to get there and make it look so simple, but that's exactly what Yanda does.
Key Stat: 97.7 Pass Blocking Efficiency in Regular Season and Playoffs.
The model of consistency, Yanda's Pass Blocking Efficiency Rating stays at 97.7 whether or not you're looking at the regular season on its own or throwing the playoffs in there too. A safe pass blocker throughout his career, he allowed just six knockdowns (sacks and hits), and 10 hurries for 16 total pressures overall. His pass blocking was definitely not as impressive as his run blocking, but it's easy to see he was no slouch there either. Grading out amongst the Top 10 at the position in that regard, with the Pass Blocking Efficiency Rating to back it up.
That being said, it's because of his monster season as a run blocker that we have Yanda in with the five best players in football. The best offensive lineman in the league last year, he was nothing short of dominant for long stretches during the season. He'll be 31 years old not long after the season begins, so it's fair to wonder how much longer we'll see him at his best, but after getting to grips with the Ravens' blocking scheme in 2014, it's difficult to expect much drop off in 2015.
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