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Is there a place in the NFL for the heaviest of the heavy on the offensive line?

A look at the NFL careers, or lack thereof, for the heaviest guards and tackles from the NFL combine 2000-2022

NCAA Football: Guaranteed Rate Bowl-Minnesota at West Virginia Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Faalele registered a weight of 384 lbs at the NFL combine last month. That was the third highest value for an offensive lineman at the combine in NFL history. Only Jamie Nails (387 in 1997) and Aaron Gibson (386 in 1999) were heavier at the combine. There was a time in the NFL (the 80s) when teams tried to stack their offensive lines with 330 pounds or heavier offensive lineman to just “pound the rock” on offense with a sledgehammer running game.

The modern NFL is not that game anymore. In the 80s and 90s it was not uncommon for NFL running backs to have 400 or more touches during the regular season. Since 2000, there have only been nineteen instances of a RB having 400 or more touches and only three of those happened in the last ten seasons: Demarco Murray’s 449 in 2014, Le’Veon Bell’s 406 in 2017 and Christian McCaffrey’s 403 in 2019.

Player (Age) Touch Year Tm
Larry Johnson (26) 457 2006 KAN
Eddie George (26) 453 2000 TEN
LaDainian Tomlinson+ (23) 451 2002 SDG
Edgerrin James+ (22) 450 2000 IND
DeMarco Murray (26) 449 2014 DAL
Ricky Williams (26) 442 2003 MIA
Steven Jackson (23) 436 2006 STL
Ricky Williams (25) 430 2002 MIA
Deuce McAllister (24) 420 2003 NOR
Jamal Lewis (24) 413 2003 BAL
LaDainian Tomlinson+ (24) 413 2003 SDG
Curtis Martin+ (31) 412 2004 NYJ
Tiki Barber (30) 411 2005 NYG
Chris Johnson (23) 408 2009 TEN
Le'Veon Bell (25) 406 2017 PIT
Ahman Green (26) 405 2003 GNB
LaDainian Tomlinson+ (27) 404 2006 SDG
Edgerrin James+ (27) 404 2005 IND
Christian McCaffrey (23) 403 2019 CAR

The run game in the NFL shifted from heavies blocking in power schemes in the 80s to lighter offensive linemen in zone schemes in the 90s. The place for the really heavy offensive lineman hasn’t come back though partly because the passing game has continued to became more and more dominant over the running game. With a strong reliance on passing to move the ball, defenses have countered with insanely athletic pass rushers. Many of these guys, like Von Miller, are so strong, quick and agile that they can literally run circles around the heavier linemen like we are going to be discussing later.

While the run game has gradually been de-emphasized by most NFL teams, that has been a relatively slow decrease since the 90s. The total number of runs per game hasn’t changed too much since the 90s, but the distribution of those runs has changed. Gone are the days of riding a “bellcow” back for 300 carries every season. Few teams have a single back with more than 300 touches even (there were four in 2021 - Joe Mixon, Najee Harris and Jonathan Taylor and Antonio Gibson).

Back to the offensive line though...

There have been 1253 offensive guards and tackles at the NFL combine 2000 and beyond. The average weight for guards was 314 lbs and for tackles it was 315 lbs. What I have called a “heavy boy” is a guy who is two standard deviations above the mean. The are 23 guards and 24 tackles who fit this heavy designation.

This study will look at the careers of 46 of them. Daniel Faalele might have a very good NFL career, but history is not on his side.

The Heavy Guards

These massive men have not had a good go of it in the NFL as only a few of them were ever regular starters in the league and only one ever made the Pro Bowl.

Year Name College Weight (lbs) NFL career?
2018 Shamire Devine Georgia Tech 380 Undrafted
2011 Carl Johnson Florida 361 Undrafted
2009 Herman Johnson Louisiana State 356 5th round, never played in NFL
2006 Max Jean-Gilles Georgia 355 4th rnd, started 26 games in 4 yrs
2002 Steve Edwards Central Florida 355 undrafted, 24 GS over 5 yrs
2015 Tayo Fabuluje Texas Christian 353 6th rnd, 0 GS in 1 yr
2006 Charles Spencer Pittsburgh 352 3rd rnd, 2 GS in 1 yr
2017 Josh Boutte Louisiana State 351 Undrafted
2020 Mike Onwenu Michigan 350 6th rnd, 24 GS in 2yrs, 1 year as full-time starter
2002 Toniu Fonoti Nebraska 349 2nd rnd, 33 GS in 4 yrs
2015 Mitchell Bell Louisiana Tech 348 Undrafted
2003 Derrick Dockery Texas 347 3rd round, 115 GS in 10 yrs
2015 Leon Brown Alabama 346 Undrafted
2012 Brandon Brooks Miami (OH) 346 3rd rnd, 108 GS in 9 yrs, 3x PB
2001 Floyd Womack Mississippi State 345 4th rnd, 71 GS in 10 yrs
2000 Matt Johnson Brigham Young 345 Undrafted
2021 Deonte Brown Alabama 344 6th rnd, 0 GS so far
2005 Chris Kemoeatu Utah 344 undrafted, 53 GS in 6 yrs
2021 Ben Cleveland Georgia 343 3rd rnd, 4 GS so far
2005 Claude Terrell New Mexico 343 4th rnd, 13 GS in 2 yrs
2018 Tyrone Crowder Clemson 342 Undrafted
2017 Gavin Andrews Oregon State 340 Undrafted
2015 Kalon Davis Clemson 340 Undrafted

Brandon Brooks had the best career of these guys. He was injured for most of the 2021 season, but he has started 108 NFL regular season games and made the Pro Bowl three times. The other four who were decent players were Derrick Dockery, Floyd Womack and Chris Kemoeatu. All three were in the league for six or more years and all started 53 or more games.

There are three guys from recent drafts who could still develop into full-time regular starters. Michael Onwenu was a full-time starter for the Patriots as a rookie (because of injuries), but only started eight games in 2021 despite being healthy all year. Deonte Brown and Ben Cleveland were rookies in 2021. Cleveland started four games on the Ravens OL that was hit hard with injuries in 2021. Brown has yet to start a game.

The Offensive Tackles

I should note that a number of these tackles slimmed way down for the combine and played at 350 or heavier in the NFL. Trent Brown weighed 355 at the combine, but is listed as 380 at PFR. Orlando Brown weighed 345 at the combine, he is listed as 363 at PFR.

Unlike guards where being too heavy can really hurt a players draft stock, it can be a selling point for offensive tackles (or at least it used to be). Five of the 23 guys who have been through the draft as heavy OTs were taken in the first round.

Many of these guys had success with four of the 23 making the Pro Bowl and one guy being named first team All-Pro.

Year OT Weight (lbs) NFL Career?
2022 Daniel Faalele 384 ?
2002 Mike Williams 375 4th overall pick, 56 GS in 5 yrs
2001 Leonard Davis 370 2nd overall pick, 155 GS, 3x PB
2004 Shawn Andrews 366 UDCFA, 57GS, 1x PB, 1x AP
2020 Mekhi Becton 364 11th overall pick, 14 GS so far
2000 Stockar McDougle 361 20th overall pick, 56 GS in 7 yrs
2003 Kareem Marshall 359 UDCFA
2011 Marcus Cannon 358 5th rnd, 73 GS in 10 yrs
2015 Trent Brown 355 7th rnd, 69 GS in 7 trs, 1x PB
2015 Tyson Chandler 354 UDCFA
2017 Zach Banner 353 4th rnd, 2 GS in 4 yrs
2020 Isaiah Wilson 350 29th overall pick, 0 GS so far
2004 Max Starks 350 UDCFA, 96 GS in 10 yrs
2001 Char-ron Dorsey 348 7th rnd, 3 GS 2 yrs
2001 Elliot Silvers 348 UDCFA
2005 Rob Petitti 347 6th rnd, 17 gs in 4 yrs
2018 Orlando Brown 345 3rd rnd, 58 GS so far, 3x PB
2012 Cordy Glenn 345 41st overall pick, 95 GS in 8 yrs
2004 Carlos Joseph 345 UDCFA
2006 Ryan O'Callaghan 344 5th rnd, 20 GS in 4 yrs
2002 Langston Walker 344 53rd overall pick, 82 GS in 9 yrs
2017 David Sharpe 343 4th rnd, 6 GS in 5 yrs
2008 Brandon Keith 343 7th rnd, 20 GS in 3 yrs
2004 Stacy Andrews 342 4th rnd, 49 GS in 8 yrs

Orlando Brown looks like his going to have a good career. He has been a starter since getting into the lineup for 10 starts as a rookie in 2018. He has also made the Pro Bowl three times in four years. He could easily surpass the success that former second overall pick, Leonard Davis, had during his career.

Davis was the second overall in 2001 by the Cardinals. He didn’t really “blossom” until late in his career with the Cowboys. He made the Pro Bowl in three straight seasons from 2007-2009, but his knees were done some after that and he was out of the league after the 2012 season when he played only 138 snaps. He missed the entire 2011 season with injuries.

Trent Brown went from an afterthought 7th round pick (largely because of his weight) to making the Pro Bowl (2019 with the Raiders). He was a starting tackle for that 2018 Patriots team that won the Super Bowl.

Cordy Glenn had a nice career (that ended in 2019) starting 95 games over eight seasons. At least according to PFF, he was one of the better LTs in the league during his early seasons. His overall PFF grade was in the high 70s for most of his seasons early in his career. Oddly, his best season for PFF grade was his rookie year (82.3).

Marcus Cannon is a great feel-good story as cancer survivor. He has been a marginal starter for most of his career. He was 358 at the combine but his playing weight in the NFL is about 20 lbs below that. He was the swing tackle and backup guard for the Patriots for many seasons, twice being forced to start 15 games for them.

The two heavy tackles that were drafted in 2020 have both been disappointments so far. Mekhi Becton was only started 14 games in two seasons, but much of that was because he missed most of the 2021 season with injury. He was decent in 2020 (691 snaps and a PFF overall grade of 74.4). The more disappointing of the two is Isaiah Wilson, who was the 29th overall pick of the Titans in 2020. He has played three offensive snaps in career at this point.

While this is interesting, don’t expect the Broncos to go after heavy boyz in the draft. The zone blocking scheme that Nathaniel Hackett and his dad favor tends to employ lighter quicker guards and tackles. The Denver Broncos projected starting offensive line for 2021 looks to be on the light side or at least average.

  • LT - Garett Bolles - 297 lbs
  • LG - Dalton Risner - 312 lbs
  • C - Lloyd Cushenberry III - 312 lbs
  • RG - Quinn Meinerz - 320 (Graham Glasgow - 310) lbs
  • RT - Billy Turner - 310 lbs

When Hackett has had his choice, he has opted for lighter quicker offensive linemen, he has used larger guys if he had them. His starting offensive line in Buffalo in 2014 has Cordy Glenn (345 lbs) and Seantrel Henderson (351 lbs) as starting offensive tackles along with 323 lb Craig Urbik starting at RG. He got Kelvin Beachum (308 lbs) as his starting left tackle in Jacksonville for 2016, but the Jags drafted 331 lb Cam Robinson the following year to pair with 326 lb Jeremy Parnell who they had at RT for both 2016 and 2017.

Hackett’s OLs with the Packers (which he inherited) was a fairly light (and highly drafted) group. For 2019, Bryan Bulaga (314 lbs) was the heaviest guy among their starters (who all started 14 or more games for them that year), but they were all abou t the same size (301-314 lbs). Corey Linsley was the lightest of the group. When Bulaga moved on in free agency for 2020, Lucas Patrick (313 lbs) took over as the starting RG and and Billy Turner moved to starting RT. The rest of the starting line remained unchanged for the Packers relative to 2019. For 2021 injuries really shook up the Packer OL, but the guys who ended up as their starters were all average or smaller. Yosh Nijman (314 lbs) joined Patrick, Elgton Jenkins (311), Turner and Royce Newman (310 lbs). At 329 lbs, current Bronco, Ben Braden, was the heaviest offensive lineman on the Packers in 2021.

It’s hard to say how much control Hackett had over the players that he got for the OL in Buffalo and Jacksonville, but I certain he has a preference for the lighter guys that he had a hand in finding/acquiring while in Green Bay.

Poll

If (when!) the Broncos finally draft a tackle this year, he will be

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    really light (like Bolles - under 300)
    (21 votes)
  • 18%
    a little light (~305)
    (81 votes)
  • 56%
    average weight (315)
    (249 votes)
  • 13%
    a little heavy (325)
    (58 votes)
  • 7%
    a heavy boy (335 or more)
    (32 votes)
441 votes total Vote Now