Projecting the NFL’s best and worst pass-protecting offensive lines: 1-32 ranking

A few years ago, ESPN Analytics developed pass block win rate (PBWR) to measure how often individual players and teams sustained their pass blocks for at least 2.5 seconds, using player tracking data from NFL Next Gen Stats. That was backward-looking, but let’s flip it forward to project every team’s pass block win rate for the 2021 season.

To achieve this we used a regression model that considers every projected starter’s individual pass block win rate over the past two seasons. Players who did not play in either or both seasons (including rookies) were assigned a below-average PBWR for their position, and anyone who failed to meet the qualifying threshold had their win rate regressed toward that below-average target.

We’ll go 1-32 based on projected PBWR for 2021, using ESPN fantasy analyst Mike Clay’s offensive line starter projections to give us each team’s starting five. The expected starters are listed along with their 2020 PBWR rank (if they qualified). For reference, there were 62 qualifiers at tackle, 70 at guard and 35 at center last season.

You can see last season’s PBWR rankings here. We’ll have a similar list of teams’ projected run block win rates (RBWR) out in a couple of weeks. But now we’re focusing on pass-blocking …

1. Cleveland Browns
Projected PBWR: 65%

Projected offensive line (left to right) and 2020 PBWR ranks at position: Jedrick Wills Jr. (ninth), Joel Bitonio (first), JC Tretter (third), Wyatt Teller (20th), Jack Conklin (fifth)

From Myles Garrett to Odell Beckham Jr. to Denzel Ward to Nick Chubb, Cleveland’s roster is loaded. And that absolutely extends to the offensive line, which should give Baker Mayfield every opportunity to execute an efficient passing game. The talent is there, and so is the continuity: This group started a collective 73 games out of a possible 80 for Cleveland last season.

One more note: While Bucs first-round pick Tristan Wirfs drew plenty of praise for his role with the Super Bowl champs, it was actually Wills who best performed in PBWR among the 2020 crop of rookie tackles.

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