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.
|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|
If you add the line for touches (min 335), it tracks fairly well and tells the same story for the most part. pic.twitter.com/lX6556lLhR— Joseph Mahoney (@ndjomo76) April 2, 2022
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|
|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|
|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|
|2017||Gavin Andrews||Oregon State||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?|
|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|
|2011||Marcus Cannon||358||5th rnd, 73 GS in 10 yrs|
|2015||Trent Brown||355||7th rnd, 69 GS in 7 trs, 1x PB|
|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|
|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|
|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.
If (when!) the Broncos finally draft a tackle this year, he will be
This poll is closed
really light (like Bolles - under 300)
a little light (~305)
average weight (315)
a little heavy (325)
a heavy boy (335 or more)