Oakland Raiders offensive lineman Mike Brisiel at 2012 mini camps (photo by Levi Damien)
I won't lie, this was the most difficult position group to rank. For a couple reasons. 1. Interior lineman have little to no stats which can make difficult decisions a bit easier. 2. There isn't a single Pro Bowler among the interior offensive lineman in the AFC West. Only one has ever made a Pro Bowl at his position-- Chargers center, Nick Hardwick in 2006.
Overall, there is a lot of young players and somewhat unknowns. There are six new starters at their positions among these teams and three others entering their second year as a starter. Leaving just two players returning to play the same position on the same team with at least two years experience there.
With that said, through much toiling and debate (with myself), I have come up with my rankings:
LG Tyronne Green, C Nick Hardwick, RG Louis Vasquez
It was impossible to judge this group based on last year's numbers. Half the line was decimated by injury, one of whom was Pro Bowl guard Kris Dielman who is now gone. For the most part it is Hardwick who puts this group at the top of the rankings. He is one of the best centers in the game. The question mark of this group is Green who has been given the task of taking over for Dielman. Vasquez has been solid in his three seasons at right guard for the Chargers.
Second year offensive lineman Wisniewski is bookended by two stout veterans of the zone blocking scheme. No other AFC West team can claim two more well established guards than the Raiders. Although, Carlisle is getting up there in age (34) and he has not performed well in a power blocking scheme. Brisiel has had injury issues throughout much of his career but when healthy is one of best zone guards in the NFL. If Wisniewski can play as well at center as he did at guard, Carlisle can return to form in the zone, and Brisiel can stay healthy, the Raiders will have a really nice trio in the middle.
Asamoah looked to have some strong skills and potential at the right guard position last season. After that, things are less certain. Hudson is a second-year player who has started just one game in the NFL and Lilja could be losing his job to rookie round two pick Jeff Allen. Chiefs running backs had an AFC West worst 3.9 yards per carry in 2011.
Kuper is a long time solid starter and the best offensive lineman the Broncos have. But neither Beadles nor Walton have shown they can get the job done. Beadles has not been offering left tackle Ryan Clady the help he needs and Walton has had issues with holding the point of attack from the center position. Being the center for Peyton Manning is pretty important (See: Jeff Saturday). The team is also moving from a run oriented offense to a passing attack which raises more questions.