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As former Viking enters Hall, current Viking paces group of top linemen

It is quite ironic on the eve of Randall McDaniel's induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame that one of his contemporaries is considered by some to be the best offensive lineman in the game.

Since the passing game evolved into the preferred method of moving the ball, the offense tackle position has long been considered the backbone to the offensive line. Moreover, left tackles have always been viewed as the premier players of the offensive line due to the importance of protecting the quarterback's blindside in pass protection.

With that premise in mind, front office executives often rattle off the names of the league's best offensive tackles when identifying the top offensive linemen in the game. Personnel men tied to that rigid school of thought are unable to view interior blockers in the same regard as offensive tackles.

However, those tied to that opinion should revisit the history of the game, and the greats that have manned the position through the years. Hall of Famers Larry Little, Gene Upshaw and Forrest Gregg all led their respective teams to titles by playing the guard position in superb fashion.

While is it true that all great offensive lines should include a talented edge blocker on the quarterback's backside, the presence of a dominant interior blocker is just as important.

With talent, production and dominance as critical factors, here is my take on the top five offensive linemen in the league:


1. Steve Hutchinson, Vikings, OG

The five-time Pro Bowler is unquestionably the premier guard in the game today. A masterful technician with exceptional strength and power, Hutchinson is seemingly flawless as a blocker. The eight-year veteran is an overpowering force at the point of attack and his ability to create seams has paved the way for two record-breaking runners (Shaun Alexander and Adrian Peterson) during his career. In pass protection, Hutchinson shows good patience and hand skills while dealing with skilled interior rushers. Though he currently plays for a Vikings' team that operates as a run-first unit, Hutchinson still displays the outstanding pass protection skills and talent that stood out during his days with the Seahawks. With a game that doesn't feature any distinguishable holes, Hutchinson deservedly ranks as the top blocker in the league.


2. Walter Jones, Seahawks, OT

The 12-year veteran has long been considered the top tackle in the game. As a dominant big man with superb overall skills, Jones has been a model of consistency and earned eight Pro Bowl nods. Although nagging injuries have started to affect his performance against top rushers, he continues to man the Seahawks' left side in stellar fashion. While some would argue that a host of young offensive tackles are bearing down on Jones for his spot as the top tackle, the grizzled veteran's consistency and dominance over the past few years still makes him worthy of the spot on this list.


3. Jordan Gross, Panthers, OT

The six-year veteran finally earned Pro Bowl recognition for his superb play on the edge, but he has long been regarded as one of the top players at the position. As a skillful technician with outstanding footwork and hand skills, Gross displays exceptional ability as a pass blocker. Gross is rarely caught out of position, despite routinely facing the opposition's top rusher. He is also an outstanding run blocker capable of generating a push or securing the corner in the running game. Buoyed by his stellar play, the Panthers field the league's third-best rushing attack with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Whereas some on the list may possess flashier skills, it is hard to find a more complete player than Gross.


4. Jason Peters, Eagles, OT

The former college tight end has blossomed into a Pro Bowler at offensive tackle. As a behemoth with nimble feet and athleticism, Peters has the capability to overpower edge pass rushers and the agility to handle quicker defensive ends. The veteran also flashes dominant ability as a run blocker. Peters routinely blows defenders off the ball and his underrated athleticism allows him to work effectively on the second level. Though some argue that his play dropped a bit last season, he still remains an all-star worthy of his place among the game's elite.


5. Michael Roos, Titans, OT

Roos has ascended to the ranks of the elite after putting together three solid seasons manning the Titans' left side. Roos is powerful at the point of attack and excels at generating a push in the running game. Although he specializes in blowing defenders off the ball, the four-year veteran has the patience, footwork and hand skills to nullify rushers in pass protection. With a stellar combination of skills for the position, Roos is unquestionably one of the top young offensive linemen in the game.

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