1. New England Patriots
Projected Starter: Logan Mankins
Recent reports of Logan Mankins demanding a trade, likely has AFC East defensive lineman’s hopes up, as Mankins has been just as affective as his counterpart Stephen Neal. Mankins contributes exceptional pass and run blocking to what has been the best guard duo in football. The Pats would be wise to lock him up long term, but if they are forced to deal the Pro Bowl guard, it’s safe to say one of the better offensive lines in the league, will take a significant hit.
2. Buffalo Bills
Projected Starter: Andy Levitre
Although, Levitre struggled heavily being thrown into the mix as a rookie, he gives the Bills the edge over the possible rookie starting Jets and Dolphins. Make no mistake though, the Dolphins’ John Jerry and the Jets’ Vladimir Ducasse won’t have their hands full trying to top Levitre’s rookie performance. Because Levitre was dreadful attempting to run block for Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson last season. This ranking by default, is assuming Levitre makes strides in his second year, and Ducasse and Jerry have a rookie learning curve. In time though, I expect both to be better than Levitre.
3. New York Jets
Projected Starter: Vladimir Ducasse
I’m giving the Jets the edge over the Dolphins because Ducasse was taken a round ahead of Jerry. That, obviously, will have no barring on which rookie actually performs better, but with so much uncertainty surrounding both, it’s the only conceivable way to rank the two this early. Ducasse should eventually excel on one of the most talented offensive lines in football, and his powerful upper body probably will translate into him being a very solid run blocker.
4. Miami Dolphins
Projected Starter: John Jerry/Cory Procter/Nate Garner
Yes, it seems like I have been talking about Jerry like he is already the starter, but he will have to earn that honor in camp. Because the Dolphins recently signed former Cowboy Cory Procter, who has been competing with Jerry throughout OTA’s and minicamp. Procter was a reliable backup in Dallas, and will likely stay the same in Miami, unless Jerry’s potential doesn’t materialize. Again though, don’t count out the do everything Nate Garner, who has been injured this offseason. Garner can play both guard positions, center, and even spot up duty at tackle. We still don’t know where he will compete at during camp though, or if he will be given the opportunity to compete at all. Looking at left guard though, probably the most unsettled position on the line, I could easily see Garner getting the chance to compete with Jerry and Procter. Jerry meanwhile, has received high remarks all offseason, and it’s a good sign he’s already getting first team reps. Of course, it’s near impossible to judge lineman without pads, so we will have to wait until camp to see his powerful frame go to work.