The Bears have a lot of work to do on all sides of the ball, but the game against the Vikings made it clear that the offensive line is not where it needs to be. Last week, I looked at All-Pro defenders. Following the same rationale as before, this week I want to look at five years of All-Pro O-linemen and see if we can read the tea leaves in order to figure out what needs to happen to make Lester's job easier.
Just to review, in order to be included in this review, a player needs to have qualified as an All-Pro on the offensive line during the five-year stretch from 2010 to 2014, as listed on Pro Football Reference. This list will include first-team, second-team, and a couple of different forms of All-Pros (AP, PFF, et cetera); typically, the same names get consistent honors year-to-year.
Across five years, 46 all-pro selections have been made for players on offensive lines. Those selections include a lot or repeat names over time, and those repeats are included in order to weight the player and the team (in other words, Joe Thomas counts as more than 10% of all O-line selections over the last five years). As before, a lot of the results match common sense and conventional wisdom, but there are still some trends worth talking about.
Offensive lines are a haves/have nots business
Only seventeen teams have enjoyed an all-pro offensive lineman in the last five years, and only seven teams have enjoyed multiple individuals who have earned all-pro honors: Cleveland (Mack and Thomas), Dallas (Smith and Martin), Denver (Vasquez and Clady), New Orleans (Evans and Nicks), New England (Vollmer and Mankins), Philadelphia (Mathis and Peters), and San Francisco (Iupati and Staley).
Cleveland, New England, and New Orleans all have the greatest number of selections, and they not only have players who repeat on the list, they also have more than one player earn recognition.
The only real steals are at guard.
Except for Jason Peters, who was an undrafted free agent, every All-Pro center and tackle comes from the first two rounds of the draft. In fact, 10/14 tackles (71%) and 8/11 centers (73%) come from the first round. By contrast, only 7/21 (33%) of all-pro guards went in the first round, roughly half the number of those who went in round three or later (13 of 21, or 62%).
It's not just a number of total selections being distorted by one star, either. First-round all-pro guards include Kyle Long, Logan Mankins, Mike Iupati, and Zack Martin (5). All-pro guards from after the first two rounds include Jahri Evans, Carl Nicks, Evan Mathis, Josh Sitton, Louis Vasquez, and Marshall Yanda (6).
First-year all-pros happen, but they're rare
The selections averaged three to five years of experience at the time of inclusion, and only five of the forty-six selections went to rookies (2 centers, 2 guards, and a tackle). There has been discussion about Grasu needing time to develop, and it might generally be true that centers do need time to develop. On the other hand, the average level of experience of all-pro centers was under 3½ years, while the next closest (guard) averaged over four years of experience at the time of selection.
In general, the players on the offensive line who became all-pros did so in less time than the players on the defensive line. While there was a general tendency for one or two names to dominate the lists, there was a fair amount of variation, as well (24 different players made it onto the list, meaning that each name ‘averaged' less than two selections in five years).
A question for the community
So, I have been struggling with a question that makes me glad I'm not sitting in Ryan Pace's chair, and I think it's one that most fans might have an opinion on. I know I'm lost. Given the needs all over the field, if the Bears could draft an offensive lineman destined to be an all-pro or a defender destined to be an all-pro, which would we rather have them take?