The last 365 days have both flown by and dragged on for forever; it’s hard to remember where things stood at this point exactly a year ago.
If you rewound to early August of 2019 you’d see that Ezekiel Elliott was holding out while the Cowboys were in Oxnard, but soon enough extensions would be quite popular by way of Jaylon Smith, La’el Collins, and eventually Elliott himself.
That La’el Collins deal looks like one of the wisest that the Cowboys have pulled off in recent memory. He was among the best offensive lineman on the team last year and is one of the biggest bargains in the league now.
Dallas obviously boasts another great tackle in Tyron Smith, though. Where do they rank across the rest of the league as we enter 2020? Some bright minds offered their opinion.
PFF has Tyron Smith and La’el Collins both as top 20 NFL tackles
When you consider that left tackle is generally regarded as the premium of the two tackles and that each team has one, there is a thought that the 32 of them should be the best offensive linemen in the NFL. Obviously it doesn’t work that way.
There are many important positions along the offensive line, they all serve their role. While right tackle doesn’t have the same appeal as the other side it is critical as well. This is why Dallas is so fortunate to have Smith and Collins on the outside.
PFF has been ranking people and position groups for a few weeks now and they recently took a stab at ranking tackles across the NFL. Smith and Collins both landed in the top 20, the former at number seven and the latter at number 19.
7. TYRON SMITH, DALLAS COWBOYS
Smith is coming off a bit of a down year in 2019 after producing the second-lowest PFF grade (76.6) and the lowest run-block grade (67.0) of his career, but the former mark was still good enough to rank 14th among tackles. He got hurt at the end of Week 4, missed Weeks 5 and 6 and then had sub-60.0 grades in pass protection over the next three games. However, Smith very much looked like the top-tier pass-blocker we all know to start and close out the year. A fully healthy Smith is one of the stingiest pass-blockers in the league.
19. LA’EL COLLINS, DALLAS COWBOYS
Collins didn’t have high expectations coming into the NFL as a UDFA, and he didn’t seem like he’d ever be a top-25 tackle until his fifth-year breakout in 2019. His 89.4 run-block grade was the third-best at the position, and he posted above-average marks as a pass-blocker. If we see Collins maintain that premier play, he’ll continue to rise up this list in years to come.
This list was very kind to the New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens, and Indianapolis Colts as each of their tackle pairs both finished higher than La’el Collins. There is certainly room for debate there as La’el Collins is, in fact, somewhat underrated across the league.
As hard as it is to admit, given his health over recent seasons, we are closer to the end of Tyron Smith’s career than the beginning and while his game has, in that sense, dipped minimally, he is still far better than most. A ranking of number seven feels fair for him.
Again, though, La’el Collins is really good. It’s true that he has never had gigantic expectations and so perhaps that is some of the narrative that goes into his game, but by PFF’s own standard he was third-best at the position in run-blocking. He is very good.
Do you think these rankings are fair for the Cowboys tackles? Should one be higher? Lower? They’ll hopefully have an opportunity in a little over a month to prove it on the field.