NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2021" premieres Sunday, Aug. 15 and will air over three consecutive weekends. Players ranked 100-41 will be revealed Sunday over the course of six hours -- each one-hour episode unveiling a new set of 10 honorees -- beginning at 4 p.m. ET. Four offensive tackles make an appearance on the list, which is voted on by the players themselves, between Nos. 90 and 71. With that in mind, NFL Network analyst Joe Thomas -- a 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle -- provides his own ranking of the league's top 10 offensive tackles heading into the 2021 regular season.
The Browns paid Conklin big money last offseason, and now we know why: his production. As a major player in Cleveland's impressive front, he earned an offensive grade from Pro Football Focus that placed him in the top 10 among offensive tackles for the first time in his career. Conklin isn't a guy who uses traditional technique, but he's as productive as any tackle on this list, thanks to his quickness and football IQ, which allow him to take advantage of angles and leverage that make him nearly unbeatable. He also utilizes his super long arms and powerlifter-like hips to open huge holes in the run game for the dynamic RB duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Expect more from Conklin in his second season in Kevin Stefanski's offense.
Brown struggled a bit in 2019 but bounced back in 2020 with one of his best seasons. The veteran is looking for a new contract as he enters the last year of his current deal, something Pete Carroll said the team is trying to get done before the start of the season. Even at 35 years old, Brown is playing at a high level. His nickname should be Big Smooth, because his effortless style makes him look like he's barely trying -- until you see defensive linemen laying in a puddle after being balled up and dribbled all over the field.
Moton -- who made 16 starts in each of the last three seasons and is one of four OTs with at least 3,000 offensive snaps since 2018 -- is a great all-around tackle who's finally getting some respect. The Panthers served their trusty tackle a new contract in July after placing the franchise tag on him earlier in the offseason, securing for an additional four years a player who's steady and patient, with great, strong hands and hips. Once this guy gets his hands on the defender, it's over.
Brown replaces the departed Eric Fisher at left tackle for a Chiefs front that's looking to improve from its last on-field performance, in Super Bowl LV. He primarily played right tackle in Baltimore but switched to Lamar Jackson's blindside midway through last season after Ronnie Stanley went down with an ankle injury -- and he proved he was up for the task, not allowing a single sack or QB hit at left tackle in Weeks 9-17, according to PFF. Brown's size (6-foot-8, 345 pounds) makes it look like he's barely trying at everything he does. The only way to beat him is to run around him -- and he knows it! He uses patient technique to force rushers around the edge, then leans on his good short-area quickness to accelerate and push the rusher past the quarterback. Brown should be a great addition in Kansas City.
The Colts' fourth-year right tackle is among the most underappreciated and unheralded players in the league. He's a rock-steady run blocker -- helping rookie Jonathan Taylor run to a top-three finish in 2020 -- who's worked hard to improve his pass blocking. His work in pass pro paid off down the stretch last season, as he allowed zero pressures in five of his last six regular-season games. Not coincidentally, Smith also literally got paid this offseason, landing a four-year, $70 million extension from Indy. The banged-up Colts need the same kind of production from Smith this fall right out of the gate.
Stanley is the smoothest pass protector in the entire NFL, as he's rarely ever out of balance. The one-time All-Pro hadn't given up a single sack in 20 starts since 2019 before a season-ending ankle injury in Week 8 of last season. He looks to pick up where he left off before his injury to help a Ravens offense that ranked 19th overall in 2020 get back on track.
The super steady bookend was rewarded by the Saints this offseason with a five-year, $96 million extension, which made him the league's highest-paid right tackle. He's definitely deserving of his payday as an excellent pass blocker with terrific footwork and balance. The Saints have one of the best offensive tackle duos in the league, with Ramczyk and left tackle Terron Armstead. Speaking of ...
Armstead has been one of the most steady and consistent left tackles since taking over as a starter for the Saints in 2014. Over the last three seasons specifically, the three-time Pro Bowler has allowed a total of four sacks on 1,347 pass-blocking snaps. A new era at quarterback begins in New Orleans this season, but I'm feeling really great about the protection up front if I'm Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill.
Williams is still a very solid pass protector, but he makes his reputation as a bone-chilling killer in the run game. Most wide zone blockers use speed and angles to win, but the perennial Pro Bowler combines speed and angles with ridiculous power and intensity -- plus a desire to steal the souls of defensive linemen and linebackers. Steer clear of this freight train when he's turned in your direction. The 49ers were wise to lock him up this offseason with a deal that made him the NFL's highest-paid O-lineman in terms of average salary per year.
Bakhtiari has been the NFL's best pass-protecting tackle for several years, evidenced by the five straight years in which he's ranked in the top five in PFF's pass-blocking grade. In 2020, the veteran improved his run-blocking significantly to help the Packers' eighth-ranked rushing attack. He's the most balanced all-around tackle in the NFL -- but one thing to note is that he has yet to practice following an ACL injury late last season that forced him to miss the postseason. The two-time first-team All-Pro has had "no hiccups" in his rehab, and the hope is he'll be back for the season-opener when Green Bay travels to take on the new-look Saints in New Orleans.