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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Comer

Ranking the 25 Best Guards in NFL History

The guard position has been a cornerstone of NFL offenses since the league's inception, with players tasked with protecting the quarterback, opening up running lanes, and paving the way for offensive success. Throughout the history of professional football, the guard position has produced some of the most powerful, agile, and dominant players to ever step onto the gridiron, leaving an indelible mark on the sport.

From classic maulers with unparalleled strength to modern-day technicians who can handle the most complex blocking schemes, this list represents the very best of what the position has to offer. These elite guards have redefined the position, set new standards for excellence, and inspired generations of offensive linemen who have followed in their footsteps.

Without further ado, here is our ranking of the 25 best guards in NFL history: (If you didn’t catch Ranking the 25 Best Centers in NFL History, you can read that here.)

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Stan Jones of the Chicago Bears
Guard Stan Jones of the Chicago Bears | Photo by Associated Press

25. Stan Jones


Team(s):

- Chicago Bears (1954-1965)

- Washington Redskins (1966)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: 1991

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 7

- Pro Bowls: 7

Summary:

Stan Jones, a first-round draft pick out of the University of Maryland in 1953, became one of the most dominant guards of his era during his 13-year career with the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins. Jones' strength, agility, and tenacity made him a force to be reckoned with on the Bears' offensive line throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s.


Jones quickly established himself as a starter for the Bears and became known for his ability to overpower defensive linemen and open up running lanes for the team's potent rushing attack. His athleticism and technique allowed him to excel in both run blocking and pass protection, making him a versatile asset to the Bears' offense.


As Jones' career progressed, he became a leader on the Bears' offensive line and a respected figure in the locker room. His work ethic, toughness, and dedication to his craft earned him the admiration of his teammates and coaches alike.


Jones' peak seasons came in the late 1950s and early 1960s when he was named First-Team All-Pro seven times and selected to seven Pro Bowls. His performance during the Bears' 1963 championship season, in which he helped pave the way for a dominant rushing attack, showcased his impact on the team's success.


Throughout his career, Jones' consistency and durability were remarkable. He started 133 out of the 148 games he played, rarely missing time due to injury and always providing a reliable presence on the Bears' offensive line.


After a brief stint with the Washington Redskins in 1966, Jones retired as a player, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most dominant guards of his era. His impact on the Bears' franchise and his reputation as a fierce competitor and skilled technician earned him a well-deserved induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991.


Stan Jones' legacy is one of power, athleticism, and relentless determination. He epitomized the qualities of a true competitor, always striving to be the best and dedicating himself to his craft. Jones' impact on the Bears' franchise during his 12-year tenure was immense, as he helped anchor an offensive line that supported the team's success throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s. His place among the best guards in NFL history is secure, and his contributions to the game will always be remembered and celebrated.


Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Walt Sweeney of the San Diego Chargers
Guard Walt Sweeney of the San Diego Chargers | Photo by Charles Aqua Viva

24. Walt Sweeney


Team(s):

- San Diego Chargers (1963-1973)

- Washington Redskins (1974)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: No

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 2

- Pro Bowls: 9

Summary:

Walt Sweeney, a second-round draft pick out of Syracuse University in 1963, became a dominant force at the guard position during his 11-year career with the San Diego Chargers and Washington Redskins. Sweeney's quickness, agility, and technical prowess made him a key component of the Chargers' offensive line throughout the 1960s and early 1970s.


Sweeney quickly earned a starting role with the Chargers and established himself as one of the most athletic and skilled guards in the league. His ability to pull and trap, as well as his prowess in pass protection, made him a valuable asset to the team's offense.


As Sweeney's career progressed, he became a leader on the Chargers' offensive line and a respected figure in the locker room. His work ethic, consistency, and dedication to his craft earned him the admiration of his teammates and coaches alike.


Sweeney's peak seasons came in the mid-to-late 1960s when he was named First-Team All-Pro twice and selected to nine Pro Bowls. His performance during the Chargers' successful seasons in the 1960s, including their AFL championship in 1963, showcased his impact on the team's success.


Throughout his career, Sweeney's athleticism and technical skills set him apart from many of his contemporaries. He was known for his ability to execute complex blocking schemes and his agility in space, which made him a perfect fit for the Chargers' offensive system.


After a brief stint with the Washington Redskins in 1974, Sweeney retired as a player, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most skilled and consistent guards of his era. While he may not have received the individual accolades of some of his contemporaries, his impact on the Chargers' franchise and his reputation as a technically gifted and reliable player were undeniable.


Walt Sweeney's legacy is one of athleticism, technical excellence, and unwavering consistency. He epitomized the qualities of a true professional, always putting the team first and dedicating himself to his craft. Sweeney's impact on the Chargers' franchise during his 11-year tenure was significant, as he helped anchor an offensive line that supported the team's success throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. While he may not be a household name, Sweeney's contributions to the game and his place among the best guards in NFL history should not be overlooked.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Logan Mankins of the New England Patriots
Guard Logan Mankins of the New England Patriots | Photo by Frederick Breedon

23. Logan Mankins


Team(s):

- New England Patriots (2005-2013)

- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014-2015)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: No

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 1

- Pro Bowls: 7

Summary:

Logan Mankins, a first-round draft pick out of Fresno State University in 2005, became one of the most dominant and reliable guards of his era during his 11-year career with the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mankins' strength, toughness, and technical skills made him a cornerstone of the Patriots' offensive line throughout the late 2000s and early 2010s.


Mankins immediately stepped into a starting role with the Patriots and quickly established himself as one of the most powerful and aggressive guards in the league. His ability to overpower defensive linemen, as well as his tenacity in the run game, made him a key contributor to the Patriots' potent offense.


As Mankins' career progressed, he became a leader on the Patriots' offensive line and a respected figure in the locker room. His work ethic, durability, and dedication to his craft earned him the admiration of his teammates and coaches alike.


Mankins' peak seasons came in the late 2000s and early 2010s when he was named First-Team All-Pro once and Second-Team All-Pro five times, along with being selected to seven Pro Bowls. His performance during the Patriots' successful seasons, including their Super Bowl appearances in 2007 and 2011, showcased his impact on the team's success.


Throughout his career, Mankins' consistency and toughness were remarkable. He started 161 out of the 161 games he played, rarely missing time due to injury and always providing a reliable presence on the offensive line.


After being traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014, Mankins continued to perform at a high level, bringing his leadership and experience to a young Buccaneers team. He retired as a player after the 2015 season, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most dominant and durable guards of his era.


Logan Mankins' legacy is one of power, toughness, and unwavering consistency. He epitomized the qualities of a true leader, always putting the team first and dedicating himself to his craft. Mankins' impact on the Patriots' franchise during his nine-year tenure was immense, as he helped anchor an offensive line that supported the team's success throughout the late 2000s and early 2010s. His place among the best guards in NFL history is secure, and his contributions to the game will always be remembered and celebrated.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Dick Barwegen of the Chicago Bears
Guard Dick Barwegen of the Chicago Bears | Photo by Associated Press

22. Dick Barwegen


Team(s):

- Chicago Bears (1945-1951)

- New York Yankees (1951)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: No

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 4

- Pro Bowls: 4

Summary:

Dick Barwegan, an eighth-round draft pick out of Purdue University in 1945, became one of the most dominant guards of his era during his seven-year career with the Chicago Bears and New York Yankees. Barwegan's strength, agility, and tenacity made him a key component of the Bears' offensive line throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s.


Barwegan quickly earned a starting role with the Bears and established himself as one of the most powerful and athletic guards in the league. His ability to pull and trap, as well as his prowess in pass protection, made him a valuable asset to the team's offense.


As Barwegan's career progressed, he became a leader on the Bears' offensive line and a respected figure in the locker room. His work ethic, toughness, and dedication to his craft earned him the admiration of his teammates and coaches alike.


Barwegan's peak seasons came in the late 1940s when he was named First-Team All-Pro four times and selected to four Pro Bowls. His performance during the Bears' successful seasons, including their NFL championship in 1946, showcased his impact on the team's success.


Throughout his career, Barwegan's athleticism and technical skills set him apart from many of his contemporaries. He was known for his ability to execute complex blocking schemes and his agility in space, which made him a perfect fit for the Bears' offensive system.


After a brief stint with the New York Yankees in 1951, Barwegan retired as a player, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most skilled and dominant guards of his era. While he may not have received the individual accolades of some of his contemporaries, his impact on the Bears' franchise and his reputation as a technically gifted and reliable player were undeniable.


Dick Barwegan's legacy is one of power, athleticism, and unwavering dedication. He epitomized the qualities of a true competitor, always striving to be the best and dedicating himself to his craft. Barwegan's impact on the Bears' franchise during his seven-year tenure was significant, as he helped anchor an offensive line that supported the team's success throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s. While he may not be a household name, Barwegan's contributions to the game and his place among the best guards in NFL history should not be overlooked.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Riley Matheson of the Cleveland Rams
Guard Riley Matheson of the Cleveland Rams | Photo by Associated Press

21. Riley Matheson


Team(s):

- Cleveland Rams (1939-1942, 1944-1945)

- Detroit Lions (1943)

- Los Angeles Rams (1946-1947)

- San Francisco 49ers (1948)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: No

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 5

- Pro Bowls: 5

Summary:

Riley "Snake" Matheson, an undrafted free agent from Texas School of Mines (now UTEP) in 1939, became one of the most dominant two-way players of his era during his 10-year career with the Cleveland Rams, Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Rams, and San Francisco 49ers. Matheson's quickness, toughness, and football instincts made him a key contributor to the Rams' success throughout the 1940s.


Matheson initially struggled to adapt to the professional game, but after a stint with the Columbus Bullies of the American Football League, he returned to the Rams in 1940 as a more polished and confident player. He quickly established himself as a regular starter, playing guard on offense and linebacker on defense.


As Matheson's career progressed, he became known for his ability to diagnose plays and outguess the opposition. His quickness and agility allowed him to make plays all over the field, including the occasional pass interception from his linebacker position.


Matheson's peak seasons came in the mid-1940s when he was named First-Team All-Pro five times and selected to five Pro Bowls. His performance during the Rams' championship season in 1945, which culminated in a thrilling 15-14 victory over the Washington Redskins, showcased his impact on the team's success.


Throughout his career, Matheson's toughness and dedication to the game were legendary. He earned the nickname "Snake" after surviving two rattlesnake bites, with teammates joking that the snakes had died instead. His rugged demeanor and fan-favorite status were celebrated with a "Riley Matheson Day" ceremony, where he received $1,225 and a gold watch.


After a brief stint with the San Francisco 49ers in 1948, Matheson retired as a player, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most versatile and dominant two-way players of his era. While he may not have received the individual accolades of some of his contemporaries, his impact on the Rams' franchise and his reputation as a tough, instinctive player were undeniable.


Riley Matheson's legacy is one of toughness, versatility, and unwavering dedication. He epitomized the qualities of a true ironman, excelling on both sides of the ball and always putting the team first. Matheson's impact on the Rams' franchise during his nine-year tenure was significant, as he helped anchor a team that found success throughout the 1940s. While he may not be a household name, Matheson's contributions to the game and his place among the best guards in NFL history should not be overlooked.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Jahri Evans of the New Orleans Saints
Guard Jahri Evans of the New Orleans Saints | Photo by Stacy Revere

20. Jahri Evans


Team(s):

- New Orleans Saints (2006-2016)

- Green Bay Packers (2017)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: No

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 4

- Pro Bowls: 6

Summary:

Jahri Evans, a fourth-round draft pick out of Bloomsburg University in 2006, became one of the most dominant and consistent guards of his era during his 12-year career with the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers. Evans' strength, athleticism, and technical proficiency made him a cornerstone of the Saints' offensive line throughout the late 2000s and early 2010s.


Evans quickly earned a starting role with the Saints and established himself as one of the most powerful and agile guards in the league. His ability to generate push in the run game, as well as his excellent pass protection skills, made him a key contributor to the Saints' high-powered offense.


As Evans' career progressed, he became a leader on the Saints' offensive line and a respected figure in the locker room. His work ethic, consistency, and dedication to his craft earned him the admiration of his teammates and coaches alike.


Evans' peak seasons came from 2009 to 2012 when he was named First-Team All-Pro for four consecutive years and selected to six consecutive Pro Bowls from 2009 to 2014. His performance during the Saints' championship season in 2009, which culminated in a Super Bowl victory over the Indianapolis Colts, showcased his impact on the team's success.


Throughout his career, Evans' durability and consistency were remarkable. He started 169 out of the 183 games he played, rarely missing time due to injury and always providing a reliable presence on the Saints' offensive line.


After 11 seasons with the Saints, Evans spent his final NFL season with the Green Bay Packers in 2017, bringing his experience and leadership to a new team before retiring as a player. He left behind a legacy as one of the most dominant and reliable guards of his era.


Jahri Evans' legacy is one of power, athleticism, and unwavering consistency. He epitomized the qualities of a true professional, always putting the team first and dedicating himself to his craft. Evans' impact on the Saints' franchise during his 11-year tenure was immense, as he helped anchor an offensive line that supported the team's success throughout the late 2000s and early 2010s, including a Super Bowl championship. His place among the best guards in NFL history is secure, and his contributions to the game will always be remembered and celebrated.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Quenton Nelson of the Indianapolis Colts
Guard Quenton Nelson of the Indianapolis Colts | Photo by Dylan Buell

19. Quenton Nelson


Team(s):

- Indianapolis Colts (2018-2023)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: No

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 3

- Pro Bowls: 4

Summary:

Quenton Nelson, the sixth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of Notre Dame, has quickly established himself as one of the most dominant and technically proficient guards in the league during his first four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. Nelson's strength, athleticism, and nasty demeanor have made him a cornerstone of the Colts' offensive line and a key contributor to the team's success.


From the moment he stepped onto the field as a rookie, Nelson demonstrated a level of skill and intensity that belied his youth. His ability to overpower defensive linemen, execute complex blocking schemes, and provide top-tier pass protection made him an immediate standout.


As Nelson's career has progressed, he has continued to refine his technique and establish himself as a leader on the Colts' offensive line. His work ethic, dedication to his craft, and competitive nature have earned him the respect and admiration of his teammates and coaches.


Nelson's peak seasons have come early in his career, as he was named First-Team All-Pro in each of his first three seasons (2018-2020) and earned Second-Team All-Pro honors in 2021. He has also been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons, showcasing his consistency and dominance.


Throughout his career, Nelson's impact on the Colts' offense has been immense. His ability to create running lanes and protect the quarterback has been a key factor in the team's offensive success, particularly in the run game.


As Nelson continues his career, he has the potential to cement his place among the all-time great guards in NFL history. His rare combination of size, strength, athleticism, and technical skill sets him apart from his peers and suggests that he will continue to perform at an elite level for years to come.


Quenton Nelson's legacy, while still in its early stages, is one of dominance, technical excellence, and unwavering intensity. He epitomizes the qualities of a true mauler, imposing his will on defensive linemen and setting the tone for the Colts' offensive line. As he continues to grow and develop, Nelson's impact on the Colts' franchise and the league as a whole is likely to only increase, solidifying his place among the best guards in NFL history.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Dick Stanfel of the Washington Redskins
Guard Dick Stanfel of the Washington Redskins | Photo by Associated Press

18. Dick Stanfel


Team(s):

- Detroit Lions (1952-1955)

- Washington Redskins (1956-1958)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: Yes

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 5

- Pro Bowls: 5

Summary:

Dick Stanfel, a second-round draft pick out of the University of San Francisco in 1951, became one of the most dominant and technically proficient guards of his era during his seven-year career with the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins. Stanfel's quickness, agility, and football IQ made him a key contributor to the success of both franchises throughout the 1950s.


Stanfel quickly earned a starting role with the Lions and established himself as one of the most athletic and intelligent guards in the league. His ability to pull and trap, as well as his excellent pass protection skills, made him a valuable asset to the Lions' offense.


As Stanfel's career progressed, he became known for his leadership and his ability to make quick, decisive adjustments at the line of scrimmage. His football intellect and technical proficiency earned him the respect and admiration of his teammates and coaches.


Stanfel's peak seasons came from 1953 to 1957, when he was named First-Team All-Pro for five consecutive years and selected to five consecutive Pro Bowls. His performance during the Lions' championship seasons in 1952 and 1953 showcased his impact on the team's success.


After four seasons with the Lions, Stanfel was traded to the Washington Redskins in 1956, where he continued to perform at an elite level. He helped lead the Redskins to an NFL championship appearance in 1958, further cementing his status as one of the league's premier guards.


Throughout his career, Stanfel's technical skills and football intelligence set him apart from his peers. He was known for his ability to make split-second adjustments and for his mastery of complex blocking schemes.


After retiring as a player in 1958, Stanfel's legacy as one of the greatest guards of his era was secure. However, it wasn't until 2016, nearly 60 years after his playing career ended, that he was finally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a long-overdue recognition of his immense contributions to the game.


Dick Stanfel's legacy is one of technical excellence, football intelligence, and unwavering leadership. He epitomized the qualities of a cerebral player, always thinking one step ahead of his opponents and making the necessary adjustments to ensure his team's success. Stanfel's impact on the Lions and Redskins franchises during his seven-year career was immense, as he helped anchor offensive lines that powered both teams to championship-level success. His place among the best guards in NFL history is unquestioned, and his long-awaited induction into the Hall of Fame serves as a fitting tribute to his enduring legacy.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers
Guard Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers | Photo by James Flores

17. Jerry Kramer


Team(s):

- Green Bay Packers (1958-1968)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: Yes

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 5

- Pro Bowls: 4

Summary:

Jerry Kramer, a fourth-round draft pick out of the University of Idaho in 1958, became one of the most iconic and dominant guards of his era during his 11-year career with the Green Bay Packers. Kramer's strength, athleticism, and leadership made him a cornerstone of the Packers' offensive line and a key contributor to the team's unprecedented success under head coach Vince Lombardi.


Kramer quickly earned a starting role with the Packers and established himself as one of the most powerful and versatile guards in the league. His ability to generate push in the run game, as well as his excellent pass protection skills, made him a vital asset to the Packers' offense.


As Kramer's career progressed, he became known for his toughness, leadership, and ability to perform in clutch situations. His famous block on Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Jethro Pugh in the "Ice Bowl" during the 1967 NFL Championship Game has become one of the most iconic plays in NFL history.


Kramer's peak seasons came in the 1960s when he was named First-Team All-Pro five times (1960, 1962-1963, 1966-1967) and selected to three Pro Bowls (1962-1963, 1967). His performance during the Packers' five NFL championship seasons (1961-1962, 1965-1967), including victories in the first two Super Bowls, showcased his impact on the team's success.


Throughout his career, Kramer's consistency and durability were remarkable. He started 130 out of the 139 games he played, rarely missing time due to injury and always providing a reliable presence on the Packers' offensive line.


After retiring as a player in 1968, Kramer's legacy as one of the greatest guards of his era was secure. However, despite his numerous accolades and his status as a key member of the Packers' dynasty, Kramer was not inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame until 2018, 50 years after his playing career ended.


Jerry Kramer's legacy is one of strength, leadership, and clutch performance. He epitomized the qualities of a true champion, always rising to the occasion when his team needed him most. Kramer's impact on the Packers' franchise during his 11-year career was immense, as he helped anchor an offensive line that powered the team to an unprecedented level of success. His place among the best guards in NFL history is unquestioned, and his long-overdue induction into the Hall of Fame serves as a fitting tribute to his enduring legacy.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Joe DeLamielleure of the Buffalo Bills
Guard Joe DeLamielleure of the Buffalo Bills | Photo by Associated Press

16. Joe DeLamielleure


Team(s):

- Buffalo Bills (1973-1979, 1985)

- Cleveland Browns (1980-1984)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: Yes

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 3

- Pro Bowls: 8

Summary:

Joe DeLamielleure, the 26th overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft out of Michigan State University, became one of the most dominant and durable guards of his era during his 13-year career with the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns. DeLamielleure's strength, athleticism, and technique made him a cornerstone of both franchises' offensive lines throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.


DeLamielleure immediately earned a starting role with the Bills and established himself as one of the most powerful and reliable guards in the league. His ability to create running lanes, as well as his excellent pass protection skills, made him a key contributor to the Bills' potent offense, which featured running back O.J. Simpson.


As DeLamielleure's career progressed, he became known for his consistency, durability, and leadership. He started 185 consecutive games, showcasing his toughness and reliability, and was respected by teammates and opponents alike for his strong work ethic and dedication to the game.


DeLamielleure's peak seasons came in the mid-to-late 1970s when he was named First-Team All-Pro three times (1975-1977) and selected to six consecutive Pro Bowls (1975-1980). His performance during the Bills' successful seasons in the 1970s, including a trip to the playoffs in 1974, showcased his impact on the team's success.


After six seasons with the Bills, DeLamielleure was traded to the Cleveland Browns in 1980, where he continued to perform at an elite level. He helped lead the Browns to two playoff appearances during his five seasons with the team before returning to the Bills for his final NFL season in 1985.


Throughout his career, DeLamielleure's technique and consistency set him apart from his peers. He was known for his excellent hand placement, footwork, and ability to maintain leverage against defensive linemen.


After retiring as a player in 1985, DeLamielleure's legacy as one of the greatest guards of his era was secure. In 2003, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a fitting recognition of his immense contributions to the game.


Joe DeLamielleure's legacy is one of strength, durability, and technical excellence. He epitomized the qualities of a true ironman, starting 185 consecutive games and consistently performing at an elite level. DeLamielleure's impact on the Bills and Browns franchises during his 13-year career was immense, as he helped anchor offensive lines that powered both teams to success. His place among the best guards in NFL history is unquestioned, and his well-deserved induction into the Hall of Fame serves as a testament to his enduring legacy.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Marshal Yanda of the Baltimore Ravens
Guard Marshal Yanda of the Baltimore Ravens | Photo by Justin K. Aller

15. Marshal Yanda


Team(s):

- Baltimore Ravens (2007-2019)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: No

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 2

- Pro Bowls: 3

Summary:

Marshal Yanda, a third-round draft pick out of the University of Iowa in 2007, became one of the most dominant and consistent guards of his era during his 13-year career with the Baltimore Ravens. Yanda's strength, technique, and football IQ made him a cornerstone of the Ravens' offensive line and a key contributor to the team's success throughout the late 2000s and 2010s.


Yanda quickly earned a starting role with the Ravens and established himself as one of the most reliable and versatile guards in the league. His ability to generate push in the run game, as well as his excellent pass protection skills, made him a vital asset to the Ravens' offense.


As Yanda's career progressed, he became known for his leadership, toughness, and consistency. He played through numerous injuries and always gave his all on the field, earning the respect and admiration of his teammates and coaches.


Yanda's peak seasons came in the mid-2010s when he was named First-Team All-Pro twice (2014-2015) and Second-Team All-Pro five times (2011-2013, 2016, 2018). He was also selected to eight Pro Bowls (2011-2016, 2018-2019), showcasing his sustained excellence throughout his career.


Throughout his career, Yanda's technical proficiency and football intelligence set him apart from his peers. He was known for his ability to make pre-snap reads, communicate with his teammates, and execute complex blocking schemes.


Yanda's impact on the Ravens' success cannot be overstated. He was a key member of the team's offensive line that helped lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory in 2012 and multiple playoff appearances throughout his career.


After retiring as a player following the 2019 season, Yanda's legacy as one of the greatest guards of his generation was secure. His inclusion on the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team further cemented his place among the elite players of his era.


Marshal Yanda's legacy is one of toughness, consistency, and technical mastery. He epitomized the qualities of a true leader, always putting the team first and setting an example for his teammates with his work ethic and dedication. Yanda's impact on the Ravens' franchise during his 13-year career was immense, as he helped anchor an offensive line that consistently ranked among the best in the league. While he may not be eligible for the Hall of Fame yet, Yanda's contributions to the game and his place among the best guards in NFL history are undeniable.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Dan Fortmann of the Chicago Bears
Guard Dan Fortmann of the Chicago Bears | Photo by Associated Press

14. Dan Fortmann


Team(s):

- Chicago Bears (1936-1943)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: Yes

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 7

- Pro Bowls: 2

Summary:

Dan Fortmann, an eighth-round draft pick out of Colgate University in 1936, became one of the most dominant and revolutionary guards of his era during his eight-year career with the Chicago Bears. Fortmann's speed, agility, and football IQ made him a key contributor to the Bears' success throughout the late 1930s and early 1940s.


Fortmann immediately earned a starting role with the Bears and established himself as one of the most athletic and intelligent guards in the league. His ability to pull and trap, as well as his excellent pass protection skills, made him a vital asset to the Bears' innovative "T-formation" offense.


As Fortmann's career progressed, he became known for his leadership, toughness, and ability to outsmart opponents. Despite his relatively small size for a lineman at 6'0" and 210 pounds, Fortmann used his quickness and technique to outmaneuver larger defenders.


Fortmann's peak seasons came in the late 1930s and early 1940s when he was named First-Team All-Pro for seven consecutive years (1936-1942). His performance during the Bears' championship seasons in 1940, 1941, and 1943 showcased his impact on the team's success.


Throughout his career, Fortmann's football intelligence and versatility set him apart from his peers. In addition to his duties as a guard, he also served as the Bears' linebacker and was known for his ability to diagnose plays and make quick, decisive adjustments.


Fortmann's impact on the game extended beyond his on-field performance. He was one of the first players to bring a more cerebral approach to the guard position, paving the way for future generations of technically proficient and strategically minded linemen.


After retiring as a player in 1943 to focus on his medical career, Fortmann's legacy as one of the greatest guards of his era was secure. In 1965, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a fitting recognition of his immense contributions to the game.


Dan Fortmann's legacy is one of innovation, intelligence, and adaptability. He revolutionized the guard position with his speed, agility, and strategic approach, setting a new standard for what could be expected from an offensive lineman. Fortmann's impact on the Bears' franchise during his eight-year career was immense, as he helped lead the team to three NFL championships and established himself as one of the most dominant players of his era. His well-deserved induction into the Hall of Fame and inclusion on the NFL 1930s All-Decade Team serve as testaments to his enduring legacy and place among the best guards in NFL history.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Larry Little of the Miami Dolphins
Guard Larry Little of the Miami Dolphins | Photo by Associated Press

13. Larry Little


Team(s):

- San Diego Chargers (1967-1968)

- Miami Dolphins (1969-1980)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: Yes

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 5

- Pro Bowls: 9

Summary:

Larry Little, an undrafted free agent out of Bethune-Cookman University in 1967, became one of the most dominant and physically imposing guards of his era during his 14-year career with the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins. Little's strength, agility, and tenacity made him a cornerstone of the Dolphins' offensive line and a key contributor to the team's unprecedented success throughout the 1970s.


Little began his career with the Chargers, where he quickly earned a starting role and established himself as a powerful and athletic guard. After two seasons in San Diego, he was traded to the Dolphins, where he would become a vital component of the team's dynasty under head coach Don Shula.


As Little's career progressed, he became known for his ability to overpower defenders and create massive running lanes for the Dolphins' ground attack. His combination of size, strength, and agility made him nearly impossible for defensive linemen to handle one-on-one.


Little's peak seasons came in the early-to-mid 1970s when he was named First-Team All-Pro for five consecutive years (1971-1975) and selected to five Pro Bowls (1970, 1972-1975). His performance during the Dolphins' three consecutive Super Bowl appearances (1971-1973), including victories in Super Bowls VII and VIII, showcased his impact on the team's success.


Throughout his career, Little's physicality and durability were unmatched. He started 152 consecutive games for the Dolphins, a testament to his toughness and reliability in the trenches.


Little's impact on the Dolphins' success cannot be overstated. He was a key member of the team's offensive line that paved the way for running backs Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris during the Dolphins' perfect 17-0 season in 1972, a feat that remains unmatched in NFL history.


After retiring as a player in 1980, Little's legacy as one of the greatest guards of his generation was secure. In 1993, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a fitting recognition of his immense contributions to the game.


Larry Little's legacy is one of power, durability, and physical dominance. He epitomized the qualities of a true mauler, using his strength and agility to overwhelm defenders and create opportunities for his teammates. Little's impact on the Dolphins' franchise during his 12-year tenure was immense, as he helped lead the team to three Super Bowl appearances and two championships. His well-deserved induction into the Hall of Fame and inclusion on the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team serve as testaments to his enduring legacy and place among the best guards in NFL history.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Billy Shaw of the Buffalo Bills
Guard Billy Shaw of the Buffalo Bills | Photo by Associated Press

12. Billy Shaw


Team(s):

- Buffalo Bills (1961-1969)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: Yes

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 5

- Pro Bowls: 5

Summary:

Billy Shaw, a second-round draft pick out of Georgia Tech in 1961, became one of the most dominant and technically proficient guards of his era during his nine-year career with the Buffalo Bills in the American Football League (AFL). Shaw's strength, agility, and football IQ made him a cornerstone of the Bills' offensive line and a key contributor to the team's success throughout the 1960s.


Shaw immediately earned a starting role with the Bills and established himself as one of the most athletic and intelligent guards in the AFL. His ability to pull and trap, as well as his excellent pass protection skills, made him a vital asset to the Bills' high-powered offense.


As Shaw's career progressed, he became known for his leadership, consistency, and ability to outsmart opponents. His technical prowess and football instincts allowed him to excel against even the toughest defensive linemen.


Shaw's peak seasons came in the mid-to-late 1960s when he was named First-Team All-Pro for five consecutive years (1964-1968) and selected to eight consecutive Pro Bowls (1962-1969). His performance during the Bills' AFL championship seasons in 1964 and 1965 showcased his impact on the team's success.


Throughout his career, Shaw's consistency and durability were unmatched. He never missed a game due to injury, starting all 119 games he played for the Bills and earning a reputation as one of the most reliable players in the league.


Shaw's impact on the Bills' success during the AFL era cannot be overstated. He was a key member of the team's offensive line that helped lead the Bills to three consecutive AFL championship game appearances (1964-1966) and two titles (1964-1965).


After retiring as a player in 1969, Shaw's legacy as one of the greatest guards of his era was secure. However, due to the fact that he played his entire career in the AFL, his achievements were often overlooked by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It wasn't until 1999, 30 years after his retirement, that Shaw was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame, a long-overdue recognition of his immense contributions to the game.


Billy Shaw's legacy is one of technical excellence, consistency, and leadership. He set the standard for guard play in the AFL, using his athleticism, intelligence, and toughness to dominate opponents and pave the way for his team's success. Shaw's impact on the Bills' franchise during his nine-year career was immense, as he helped lead the team to two AFL championships and established himself as one of the most dominant players of his era. His well-deserved induction into the Hall of Fame and inclusion on the AFL All-Time Team serve as testaments to his enduring legacy and place among the best guards in football history.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Steve Wisniewski of the Oakland Raiders
Guard Steve Wisniewski of the Oakland Raiders | Photo by Associated Press

11. Steve Wisniewski


Team(s):

- Los Angeles Raiders/Oakland Raiders (1989-2001)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: No

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 2

- Pro Bowls: 3

Summary:

Steve Wisniewski, a second-round draft pick out of Penn State University in 1989, became one of the most dominant and technically sound guards of his era during his 13-year career with the Los Angeles Raiders and Oakland Raiders. Wisniewski's strength, agility, and work ethic made him a cornerstone of the Raiders' offensive line and a key contributor to the team's success throughout the 1990s.


Wisniewski quickly earned a starting role with the Raiders and established himself as one of the most powerful and reliable guards in the league. His ability to generate push in the run game, as well as his excellent pass protection skills, made him a vital asset to the Raiders' offense.


As Wisniewski's career progressed, he became known for his consistency, technique, and nasty streak on the field. His attention to detail and commitment to his craft earned him the respect and admiration of his teammates and opponents alike.


Wisniewski's peak seasons came in the early-to-mid 1990s when he was named First-Team All-Pro twice (1991, 1994) and Second-Team All-Pro six times (1990, 1992-1993, 1995-1997). He was also selected to eight consecutive Pro Bowls (1990-1997), showcasing his sustained excellence throughout the decade.


Throughout his career, Wisniewski's technical proficiency and work ethic set him apart from his peers. He was known for his flawless footwork, hand placement, and ability to maintain leverage against even the strongest defensive linemen.


Wisniewski's impact on the Raiders' success during the 1990s cannot be overstated. He was a key member of the team's offensive line that helped lead the Raiders to multiple playoff appearances and a trip to Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002, which would be his final game as a professional.


After retiring as a player in 2001, Wisniewski's legacy as one of the greatest guards of his generation was secure. His inclusion on the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team further cemented his place among the elite players of his era.


Steve Wisniewski's legacy is one of consistency, technical mastery, and toughness. He epitomized the qualities of a true Raider, combining skill and grit to dominate opponents and inspire his teammates. Wisniewski's impact on the Raiders' franchise during his 13-year career was immense, as he helped anchor an offensive line that consistently ranked among the best in the league. While he may not have received the individual accolades of some of his peers, Wisniewski's contributions to the game and his place among the best guards in NFL history are undeniable.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Steve Hutchinson of the Minnesota Vikings
Guard Steve Hutchinson of the Minnesota Vikings | Photo by Tom Dahlin

10. Steve Hutchinson


Team(s):

- Seattle Seahawks (2001-2005)

- Minnesota Vikings (2006-2011)

- Tennessee Titans (2012)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: Yes

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 5

- Pro Bowls: 4

Summary:

Steve Hutchinson, a first-round draft pick out of the University of Michigan in 2001, became one of the most dominant and technically proficient guards of his era during his 12-year career with the Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings, and Tennessee Titans. Hutchinson's strength, athleticism, and football IQ made him a cornerstone of the offensive line for each team he played for and a key contributor to their success throughout the 2000s.


Hutchinson quickly earned a starting role with the Seahawks and established himself as one of the most powerful and agile guards in the league. His ability to generate push in the run game, as well as his excellent pass protection skills, made him a vital asset to the Seahawks' offense.


As Hutchinson's career progressed, he became known for his consistency, leadership, and ability to execute complex blocking schemes. His technical prowess and football instincts allowed him to excel against even the toughest defensive linemen.


Hutchinson's peak seasons came in the mid-to-late 2000s when he was named First-Team All-Pro for five consecutive years (2003-2007) and selected to seven consecutive Pro Bowls (2003-2009). His performance during the Seahawks' Super Bowl XL appearance in 2005 and the Vikings' playoff runs in the late 2000s showcased his impact on his teams' success.


Throughout his career, Hutchinson's consistency and durability were remarkable. He started 169 out of the 169 games he played, a testament to his toughness and reliability in the trenches.


Hutchinson's impact on the success of the Seahawks and Vikings cannot be overstated. He was a key member of the offensive lines that paved the way for running backs like Shaun Alexander and Adrian Peterson to achieve incredible success, including Alexander's MVP season in 2005 and Peterson's 2,000-yard rushing campaign in 2012.


After retiring as a player in 2012, Hutchinson's legacy as one of the greatest guards of his generation was secure. In 2020, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a fitting recognition of his immense contributions to the game.


Steve Hutchinson's legacy is one of technical excellence, consistency, and leadership. He set the standard for guard play in the 2000s, using his athleticism, intelligence, and toughness to dominate opponents and pave the way for his teammates' success. Hutchinson's impact on the Seahawks, Vikings, and Titans franchises during his 12-year career was immense, as he helped lead each team to playoff appearances and established himself as one of the most dominant players of his era. His well-deserved induction into the Hall of Fame and inclusion on the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team serve as testaments to his enduring legacy and place among the best guards in NFL history.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Mike Munchak of the Houston Oilers
Guard Mike Munchak of the Houston Oilers | Photo by George Gojkovich

9. Mike Munchak


Team(s):

- Houston Oilers (1982-1993)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: Yes

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 2

- Pro Bowls: 4

Summary:

Mike Munchak, the eighth overall pick in the 1982 NFL Draft out of Penn State University, became one of the most dominant and reliable guards of his era during his 12-year career with the Houston Oilers. Munchak's strength, technique, and leadership made him a cornerstone of the Oilers' offensive line and a key contributor to the team's success throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.


Munchak quickly earned a starting role with the Oilers and established himself as one of the most powerful and consistent guards in the league. His ability to generate push in the run game, as well as his excellent pass protection skills, made him a vital asset to the Oilers' potent offense.


As Munchak's career progressed, he became known for his durability, work ethic, and ability to mentor younger linemen. His leadership and technical expertise earned him the respect and admiration of his teammates and coaches.


Munchak's peak seasons came in the mid-to-late 1980s when he was named First-Team All-Pro twice (1987, 1988) and Second-Team All-Pro four times (1984, 1985, 1989, 1991). He was also selected to nine Pro Bowls (1984-1991, 1993), showcasing his sustained excellence throughout his career.


Throughout his tenure with the Oilers, Munchak's consistency and reliability were unmatched. He started 156 out of the 159 games he played, a testament to his toughness and ability to stay healthy in the trenches.


Munchak's impact on the Oilers' success during his career cannot be overstated. He was a key member of the offensive line that paved the way for Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon and the team's prolific run-and-shoot offense, which helped the Oilers reach the playoffs seven times during Munchak's career.


After retiring as a player in 1993, Munchak's legacy as one of the greatest guards of his generation was secure. In 2001, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a fitting recognition of his immense contributions to the game.


Mike Munchak's legacy is one of consistency, durability, and leadership. He epitomized the qualities of a true professional, using his strength, technique, and football IQ to dominate opponents and inspire his teammates. Munchak's impact on the Oilers' franchise during his 12-year career was immense, as he helped anchor an offensive line that consistently ranked among the best in the league. His well-deserved induction into the Hall of Fame and inclusion on the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team serve as testaments to his enduring legacy and place among the best guards in NFL history.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Will Shields of the Kansas City Chiefs
Guard Will Shields of the Kansas City Chiefs | Photo by Tim Umphrey

8. Will Shields


Team(s):

- Kansas City Chiefs (1993-2006)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: Yes

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 2

- Pro Bowls: 4

Summary:

Will Shields, a third-round draft pick out of the University of Nebraska in 1993, became one of the most dominant and consistent guards of his era during his 14-year career with the Kansas City Chiefs. Shields' strength, athleticism, and durability made him a cornerstone of the Chiefs' offensive line and a key contributor to the team's success throughout the 1990s and 2000s.


Shields quickly earned a starting role with the Chiefs and established himself as one of the most reliable and versatile guards in the league. His ability to excel in both run blocking and pass protection made him a vital asset to the Chiefs' balanced offensive attack.


As Shields' career progressed, he became known for his consistency, work ethic, and leadership. His commitment to excellence and ability to stay healthy year after year earned him the respect and admiration of his teammates, coaches, and opponents.


Shields' peak seasons spanned over a decade, as he was named First-Team All-Pro twice (1999, 2003) and Second-Team All-Pro an astonishing nine times (1995-1998, 2000-2002, 2004-2005). He was also selected to 12 consecutive Pro Bowls (1995-2006), a testament to his sustained excellence throughout his career.


Throughout his time with the Chiefs, Shields' durability and consistency were unmatched. He started an incredible 223 out of the 224 games he played, setting an NFL record for most consecutive starts by a guard (223) and solidifying his status as one of the most reliable players in league history.


Shields' impact on the Chiefs' success during his career cannot be overstated. He was a key member of the offensive line that paved the way for running backs like Marcus Allen, Priest Holmes, and Larry Johnson, each of whom achieved significant milestones behind Shields' blocking.


After retiring as a player in 2006, Shields' legacy as one of the greatest guards of his generation was secure. In 2015, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a fitting recognition of his immense contributions to the game.


Will Shields' legacy is one of consistency, durability, and excellence. He epitomized the qualities of a true ironman, using his strength, athleticism, and football IQ to dominate opponents and inspire his teammates. Shields' impact on the Chiefs' franchise during his 14-year career was immense, as he helped anchor an offensive line that consistently ranked among the best in the league. His well-deserved induction into the Hall of Fame and inclusion on the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team serve as testaments to his enduring legacy and place among the best guards in NFL history.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Gene Upshaw of the Oakland Raiders
Guard Gene Upshaw of the Oakland Raiders | Photo by Tony Tomsic

7. Gene Upshaw


Team(s):

- Oakland Raiders (1967-1981)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: Yes

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 5

- Pro Bowls: 5

Summary:

Gene Upshaw, a first-round draft pick out of Texas A&I University in 1967, became one of the most dominant and influential guards of his era during his 15-year career with the Oakland Raiders. Upshaw's strength, agility, and leadership made him a cornerstone of the Raiders' offensive line and a key contributor to the team's success throughout the 1970s.


Upshaw quickly earned a starting role with the Raiders and established himself as one of the most powerful and athletic guards in the league. His ability to generate push in the run game, as well as his excellent pass protection skills, made him a vital asset to the Raiders' potent offense.


As Upshaw's career progressed, he became known for his toughness, intelligence, and leadership on and off the field. His ability to mentor younger linemen and lead by example earned him the respect and admiration of his teammates and coaches.


Upshaw's peak seasons came in the 1970s when he was named First-Team All-Pro five times (1972-1974, 1977, 1980) and selected to seven Pro Bowls (1968, 1972-1977). His performance during the Raiders' Super Bowl victories in 1976 and 1980 showcased his impact on the team's success.


Throughout his career, Upshaw's consistency and durability were remarkable. He started 207 out of the 217 games he played, a testament to his toughness and ability to stay healthy in the trenches.


Upshaw's impact on the Raiders' success during his career cannot be overstated. He was a key member of the offensive line that paved the way for the team's bruising running attack and provided protection for quarterbacks like Daryle Lamonica, Ken Stabler, and Jim Plunkett.


After retiring as a player in 1981, Upshaw's legacy as one of the greatest guards in NFL history was secure. In 1987, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a fitting recognition of his immense contributions to the game. Upshaw's impact on the sport extended beyond his playing career, as he served as the executive director of the NFL Players Association from 1983 until his death in 2008, fighting for the rights and benefits of the league's players.


Gene Upshaw's legacy is one of power, leadership, and influence. He epitomized the qualities of a true Raider, combining skill, toughness, and intelligence to dominate opponents and inspire his teammates. Upshaw's impact on the Raiders' franchise during his 15-year career was immense, as he helped lead the team to two Super Bowl victories and established himself as one of the most dominant players of his era. His well-deserved induction into the Hall of Fame and inclusion on the NFL's 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time Teams serve as testaments to his enduring legacy and place among the best guards in NFL history.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Alan Faneca of the Pittsburgh Steelers
Guard Alan Faneca of the Pittsburgh Steelers | Photo by George Gojkovich

6. Alan Faneca


Team(s):

- Pittsburgh Steelers (1998-2007)

- New York Jets (2008-2009)

- Arizona Cardinals (2010)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: Yes

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 6

- Pro Bowls: 3

Summary:

Alan Faneca, a first-round draft pick out of Louisiana State University in 1998, became one of the most dominant and technically proficient guards of his era during his 13-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets, and Arizona Cardinals. Faneca's strength, agility, and football IQ made him a cornerstone of the Steelers' offensive line and a key contributor to the team's success throughout the 2000s.


Faneca quickly earned a starting role with the Steelers and established himself as one of the most powerful and athletic guards in the league. His ability to generate push in the run game, as well as his excellent pass protection skills, made him a vital asset to the Steelers' balanced offensive attack.


As Faneca's career progressed, he became known for his consistency, leadership, and technical prowess. His attention to detail and ability to execute complex blocking schemes earned him the respect and admiration of his teammates, coaches, and opponents.


Faneca's peak seasons came in the mid-to-late 2000s when he was named First-Team All-Pro for six consecutive years (2001-2002, 2004-2007) and selected to nine consecutive Pro Bowls (2001-2009). His performance during the Steelers' Super Bowl victories in 2005 and 2008 showcased his impact on the team's success.


Throughout his career, Faneca's consistency and durability were remarkable. He started 201 out of the 206 games he played, a testament to his toughness and ability to stay healthy in the trenches.


Faneca's impact on the Steelers' success during his tenure cannot be overstated. He was a key member of the offensive line that paved the way for running backs like Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker, while also providing excellent protection for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.


After his time with the Steelers, Faneca continued to perform at a high level with the Jets and Cardinals, earning Pro Bowl selections in each of his first two seasons with the Jets.


In 2021, Faneca was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a fitting recognition of his immense contributions to the game. His inclusion on the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team and the Steelers All-Time Team further cements his legacy as one of the greatest guards in NFL history.


Alan Faneca's legacy is one of technical excellence, consistency, and leadership. He epitomized the qualities of a true professional, combining skill, intelligence, and toughness to dominate opponents and inspire his teammates. Faneca's impact on the Steelers' franchise during his 10-year tenure was immense, as he helped lead the team to two Super Bowl victories and established himself as one of the most dominant players of his era. His well-deserved induction into the Hall of Fame serves as a testament to his enduring legacy and place among the best guards in NFL history.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Larry Allen of the Dallas Cowboys
Guard Larry Allen of the Dallas Cowboys | Photo by Mitchell Layton

5. Larry Allen


Team(s):

- Dallas Cowboys (1994-2005)

- San Francisco 49ers (2006-2007)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: Yes

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 7

- Pro Bowls: 6

Summary:

Larry Allen, a second-round draft pick out of Sonoma State University in 1994, became one of the most dominant and physically imposing guards of his era during his 14-year career with the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers. Allen's raw strength, agility, and technical prowess made him a cornerstone of the Cowboys' offensive line and a key contributor to the team's success throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.


Allen quickly earned a starting role with the Cowboys and established himself as one of the most powerful and athletic guards in the league. His ability to manhandle defensive linemen, combined with his surprising quickness for his size, made him a nightmare for opponents and a vital asset to the Cowboys' potent offense.


As Allen's career progressed, he became known for his incredible strength, with legendary tales of his weight room exploits circulating throughout the league. His rare combination of size, power, and athleticism allowed him to excel in both run blocking and pass protection.


Allen's peak seasons came in the late 1990s and early 2000s when he was named First-Team All-Pro for six consecutive years (1995-1998, 2000-2001) and selected to 11 Pro Bowls (1995-2001, 2003-2006). His performance during the Cowboys' Super Bowl victories in 1995 and 1996 showcased his impact on the team's success.


Throughout his career, Allen's consistency and durability were remarkable. He started 197 out of the 203 games he played, a testament to his toughness and ability to stay healthy in the trenches.


Allen's impact on the Cowboys' success during his tenure cannot be overstated. He was a key member of the offensive line that paved the way for running back Emmitt Smith's record-breaking career and provided excellent protection for quarterback Troy Aikman.


After his time with the Cowboys, Allen spent his final two seasons with the 49ers, where he continued to perform at a high level, earning a First-Team All-Pro selection in 2006.


In 2013, Allen was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a fitting recognition of his immense contributions to the game. His inclusion on both the NFL 1990s and 2000s All-Decade Teams further cements his legacy as one of the greatest guards in NFL history.


Larry Allen's legacy is one of unparalleled strength, athleticism, and dominance. He redefined what was possible for an offensive guard, combining raw power with technical skill to overmatch opponents and pave the way for his team's success. Allen's impact on the Cowboys' franchise during his 12-year tenure was immense, as he helped lead the team to two Super Bowl victories and established himself as one of the most dominant players of his era. His well-deserved induction into the Hall of Fame and the Cowboys' Ring of Honor serves as a testament to his enduring legacy and place among the best guards in NFL history.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Zack Martin of the Dallas Cowboys
Guard Zack Martin of the Dallas Cowboys | Photo by Ryan Kang

4. Zack Martin


Team(s):

- Dallas Cowboys (2014-2023)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: No

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 5

- Pro Bowls: 4

Summary:

Zack Martin, the 16th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft out of the University of Notre Dame, has quickly become one of the most dominant and technically proficient guards of his era during his ongoing career with the Dallas Cowboys. Martin's strength, agility, and football IQ have made him a cornerstone of the Cowboys' offensive line and a key contributor to the team's success since his rookie season.


From the moment he stepped onto the field, Martin demonstrated a level of skill and consistency that belied his youth. His ability to generate push in the run game, combined with his excellent pass protection techniques, made him an instant star and a vital asset to the Cowboys' offense.


As Martin's career has progressed, he has continued to refine his technique and establish himself as a leader on the Cowboys' offensive line. His work ethic, attention to detail, and competitive nature have earned him the respect and admiration of his teammates, coaches, and opponents.


Martin's peak seasons have spanned his entire career thus far, as he has been named First-Team All-Pro five times (2014, 2016-2019) and Second-Team All-Pro twice (2015, 2021). He has also been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven seasons (2014-2020), a testament to his consistent excellence.


Throughout his career, Martin's impact on the Cowboys' offense has been immense. His ability to create running lanes and protect the quarterback has been a key factor in the team's offensive success, particularly in the running game.


Martin's impact was recognized from the outset, as he was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2014. His continued excellence has earned him a spot on the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team, cementing his status as one of the best guards of his generation.


As Martin continues his career, he has the potential to further solidify his place among the all-time great guards in NFL history. His rare combination of strength, technique, and consistency sets him apart from his peers and suggests that he will continue to perform at an elite level for years to come.


Zack Martin's legacy, though still being written, is one of dominance, technical mastery, and leadership. He epitomizes the qualities of a true professional, combining skill, intelligence, and work ethic to excel at the highest level. Martin's impact on the Cowboys' franchise during his tenure has been immense, as he has helped anchor an offensive line that has consistently ranked among the best in the league. As he continues to build upon his already impressive resume, Martin's place among the best guards in NFL history is secure.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard John Hannah of the New England Patriots
Guard John Hannah of the New England Patriots | Photo by Manny Millan

3. John Hannah


Team(s):

- New England Patriots (1973-1985)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: Yes

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 7

- Pro Bowls: 6

Summary:

John Hannah, the fourth overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft out of the University of Alabama, is widely considered one of the greatest guards in NFL history. During his 13-year career with the New England Patriots, Hannah's strength, agility, and technique revolutionized the guard position and set a new standard for excellence.


Hannah quickly established himself as a dominant force on the Patriots' offensive line, earning a starting role in his rookie season. His rare combination of power and athleticism allowed him to excel in both run blocking and pass protection, making him a vital asset to the team's offense.


As Hannah's career progressed, he became known for his technical proficiency, work ethic, and leadership. His ability to consistently execute complex blocking schemes and overpower defenders made him the cornerstone of the Patriots' offensive line.


Hannah's peak seasons spanned the late 1970s and early 1980s, when he was named First-Team All-Pro for seven consecutive years (1976-1981, 1983) and selected to nine consecutive Pro Bowls (1976-1984). His performance during this era helped establish the Patriots as a competitive force in the NFL.


Throughout his career, Hannah's consistency and durability were remarkable. He started 183 out of the 191 games he played, a testament to his toughness and ability to stay healthy in the trenches.


Hannah's impact on the Patriots' offense during his tenure cannot be overstated. He paved the way for the team's rushing attack and provided excellent protection for quarterbacks like Steve Grogan and Tony Eason.


In 1991, Hannah was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, cementing his status as one of the greatest players in NFL history. His inclusion on the NFL's 1970s and 1980s All-Decade Teams, as well as the NFL's 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time Teams, further underscores his enduring legacy.


John Hannah's legacy is one of unparalleled excellence, technical mastery, and innovation. He redefined the guard position, combining raw strength with agility and precision to dominate opponents and elevate the play of his teammates. Hannah's impact on the Patriots' franchise and the NFL as a whole is immeasurable, as he set a new standard for offensive line play that continues to inspire and influence players to this day. His well-deserved accolades and recognition as one of the greatest guards in NFL history serve as a testament to his enduring legacy and unrivaled contributions to the game.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Randall McDaniel of the Minnesota Vikings
Guard Randall McDaniel of the Minnesota Vikings | Photo by Allen Kee

2. Randall McDaniel


Team(s):

- Minnesota Vikings (1988-1999)

- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2000-2001)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: Yes

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 9

- Pro Bowls: 5

Summary:

Randall McDaniel, the 19th overall pick in the 1988 NFL Draft out of Arizona State University, is widely regarded as one of the greatest guards in NFL history. During his illustrious 14-year career with the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, McDaniel's athleticism, technique, and consistency set him apart as a dominant force on the offensive line.


From the outset of his career, McDaniel displayed remarkable talent and versatility. His unique combination of speed, agility, and strength allowed him to excel in both run blocking and pass protection, making him an invaluable asset to the Vikings' offense.


As McDaniel's career progressed, he became known for his flawless technique, work ethic, and durability. His ability to execute complex blocking schemes and maintain a high level of play throughout the season earned him the respect and admiration of his peers and coaches.


McDaniel's peak seasons spanned the entirety of the 1990s, when he was named First-Team All-Pro for nine consecutive years (1990-1998) and selected to 12 consecutive Pro Bowls (1989-2000). His performance during this era helped solidify the Vikings as one of the most potent offenses in the NFL.


Throughout his career, McDaniel's consistency and reliability were unmatched. He started an incredible 202 consecutive games, showcasing his toughness and ability to stay healthy in the trenches.


McDaniel's impact on the Vikings' offense during his tenure cannot be overstated. He paved the way for the team's prolific rushing attack, which featured stars like Robert Smith and Chuck Foreman, while also providing excellent protection for quarterbacks such as Warren Moon and Randall Cunningham.


After his time with the Vikings, McDaniel spent his final two seasons with the Buccaneers, where he continued to perform at a high level and mentor younger linemen.


In 2009, McDaniel was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, cementing his status as one of the greatest players in NFL history. His inclusion on the NFL's 1990s All-Decade Team and the NFL's 100th Anniversary All-Time Team further underscores his enduring legacy.


Randall McDaniel's legacy is one of unparalleled athleticism, technical brilliance, and consistency. He redefined the guard position, combining speed and agility with power and precision to dominate opponents and elevate the play of his teammates. McDaniel's impact on the Vikings' franchise and the NFL as a whole is immeasurable, as he set a new standard for offensive line play that continues to inspire and influence players to this day. His well-deserved accolades and recognition as one of the greatest guards in NFL history serve as a testament to his enduring legacy and unrivaled contributions to the game.

Best Guards in NFL History, National Football League Guard Bruce Matthews of the Houston Oilers
Guard Bruce Matthews of the Houston Oilers | Photo by George Gojkovich

1. Bruce Matthews


Team(s):

- Houston Oilers/Tennessee Oilers/Tennessee Titans (1983-2001)

Accolades:

- Hall of Fame induction: Yes

- First-Team All-Pro selections: 9

- Pro Bowls: 9

Summary:

Bruce Matthews, the 9th overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft out of the University of Southern California, is widely considered one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history. During his remarkable 19-year career with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Oilers/Tennessee Titans, Matthews' versatility, durability, and technical prowess made him a true icon of the game.


Matthews' career was defined by his unparalleled ability to excel at multiple positions along the offensive line. He played guard, center, and tackle at various points in his career, showcasing his adaptability and football IQ. This versatility made him an invaluable asset to his team, as he could fill in seamlessly wherever he was needed.


As Matthews' career progressed, he became known for his excellent technique, work ethic, and leadership. His ability to consistently execute complex blocking schemes and mentor younger linemen earned him the respect and admiration of his peers and coaches.


Matthews' peak seasons spanned the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, when he was named First-Team All-Pro nine times (1988-1993, 1998-2000) and selected to an astounding 14 consecutive Pro Bowls (1988-2001). His performance during this era helped establish the Oilers/Titans as a perennial playoff contender.


Throughout his career, Matthews' durability and consistency were unmatched. He played in 296 games, starting 293 of them, which stood as an NFL record for an offensive lineman at the time of his retirement. This remarkable longevity is a testament to his toughness, work ethic, and dedication to the game.


Matthews' impact on the Oilers/Titans franchise cannot be overstated. He was the anchor of the team's offensive line for nearly two decades, paving the way for talented running backs like Eddie George and providing protection for quarterbacks such as Warren Moon and Steve McNair.


In 2007, Matthews was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, cementing his status as one of the greatest players in NFL history. His inclusion on the NFL's 1990s All-Decade Team and the NFL's 100th Anniversary All-Time Team further underscores his enduring legacy.


Bruce Matthews' legacy is one of unrivaled versatility, durability, and excellence. He redefined what it meant to be an offensive lineman, mastering multiple positions and maintaining an exceptionally high level of play for nearly two decades. Matthews' impact on the Oilers/Titans franchise and the NFL as a whole is immeasurable, as he set a new standard for offensive line play that continues to inspire and influence players to this day. His well-deserved accolades and recognition as the best guard and one of the greatest offensive linemen in NFL history serve as a testament to his enduring legacy and unparalleled contributions to the game.



The Enduring Legacy of the Best Guards in NFL History


Throughout the history of professional football, the guard position has produced some of the most influential and impactful players to ever grace the gridiron. Legends such as John Hannah, Gene Upshaw, Larry Allen, and Bruce Matthews have left indelible marks on the game with their unparalleled strength, agility, and unwavering dedication to excellence.

As the NFL has evolved, the role of the guard has become increasingly complex and demanding. From the classic maulers of the past to the versatile, technically proficient linemen of today, the position has adapted to meet the demands of modern offenses. These elite guards are now tasked with not only protecting the quarterback and opening up running lanes but also handling complex blocking schemes, pulling and trapping, and even getting to the second level to take on linebackers. Their ability to impact the game in multiple ways, from neutralizing fearsome pass rushers to paving the way for game-breaking runs, can be the difference between offensive dominance and stagnation.

The guards we've highlighted in this article represent the cream of the crop, each having made a lasting impact on their teams and the league as a whole. From the raw power and dominance of John Hannah and Gene Upshaw to the technical mastery and consistency of Larry Allen and Will Shields, these players have set the standard for what it means to be an elite guard in the NFL.

As the game continues to evolve, a new generation of guards is poised to carry the torch and build upon the legacies of those who came before them. Players like Joe Thuney, Joel Bitonio, Chris Lindstrom, Tyler Smith, Brandon Scherff, and Wyatt Teller possess the skills, work ethic, and drive to one day join the ranks of the all-time greats and shape the future of the position.

The guard position has a rich history filled with some of the most powerful and influential players in NFL history. These legendary linemen have not only redefined what it means to play the position but have also left a lasting impact on their teams, their fellow offensive linemen, and the game as a whole. As the NFL moves forward, the legacy of these all-time great guards will continue to inspire and influence the next generation of players, ensuring that the position remains a crucial and celebrated role in the trenches for years to come. Read next: Ranking the 25 Best Offensive Tackles in NFL History - Take a look at the 25 best offensive tackles in NFL history, from technicians like Anthony Muñoz to marvels such as Jonathan Ogden.

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