Kelechi Osemele, Gabe Jackson: Best guard tandem in NFL?

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 16: Quarterback Derek Carr
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 16: Quarterback Derek Carr /

The Oakland Raiders have an outstanding offensive line. Their guard tandem of Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson are great. Are they the best duo in football?

A big reason for the Oakland Raiders’ success last year the outstanding play up front from its offensive line. It was a deep and terrific unit, one that will likely be dominant again in 2017. Pro Football Focus has Oakland’s front-five as the seventh best unit entering training camp. If right tackle wasn’t an issue, this could be the best front-five in football.

We know that the guys lining up from left tackle to right guard are as good as advertised. While we’ll get to dissecting the games of left tackle Donald Penn and center Rodney Hudson eventually, we’re going after this terrific guard tandem of Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson. They’re good and we know they’re good, but how good are they? Are they the best guard tandem in football? Let’s find out.

Both Osemele and Jackson found themselves ranked in the top-25 of offensive guards in overall grade in 2016. Osemele came in with an 87.4 overall grade, good enough for fifth in football. Jackson wasn’t too shabby either, as he had an overall grade of 80.1, 23rd in the NFL.

While having two starting guards on the same team in the top-25 doesn’t feel overly braggadocious, it’s not as common as one would think. Usually a solid offensive line will have one great guard and another also-ran. A perfect example of this is the reigning NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.

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PFF has Atlanta as the No. 6 offensive line heading into 2017. Like Oakland, the Falcons are strong at four of the five spots.

However, their issue is at right guard. While Andy Levitre is excellent at left guard (83.1 grade, 13th overall), Chris Chester struggled in his final year in the league at right guard.

Chester managed only to be the 56th best guard in football in his final year before retiring.

So having two good to great guards is a good thing? Absolutely, and few, if any, are better in the offensive interior than Oakland.

However, there are two guard tandems Raider Nation does need to tip its collective cap to: the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

If your team has a good offensive line, you are well aware of what other teams have good offensive lines. Raiders Nation recognizes that teams like the Browns, Falcons, Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Titans know what they’re doing up front, too.

You can purchase either the PFF Edge or PFF Elite packages at Pro Football Focus for all your Raiders and fantasy football needs.

For as good as Osemele was in 2016, Jackson brings the duo down a bit, making this only the third-best guard tandem in football. Whatever. Jackson is still young and Osemele has entered his prime, so the Raiders are fine long-term.

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The two guard tandems that the Raiders are looking up at are Kevin Zeitler (No. 7) and John Greco (No. 18) in Cleveland and Ramon Foster (No. 4) and David DeCastro (No. 8) in Pittsburgh.

Football fans know that while Cleveland will struggle to win six games if it all goes right for the Browns this year, they will be stout up front. Do keep in mind that Zeitler is coming over from the Cincinnati Bengals to be reunited with his coach Hue Jackson with the Browns.

As for the Steelers, yeah, they’re elite and the Raiders have some work to do. Not a ton, but some and that’s alright. Cleveland needed to sign Zeitler in free agency to improve drastically up front. Keep in mind that Foster went to Florida and DeCastro to Stanford, two of the better Power 5 programs from the last decade.

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Where did Osemele and Jackson go to school? Iowa State and Mississippi State. More proof that general manager Reggie McKenzie has an excellent eye for talent, whether it free agency (Osemele) or in the draft (Jackson). If McKenzie figures out right tackle, Carr may never get touched again. Clean pockets for life.