When New York Giants drafted Justin Pugh this year, the ESPN announcers said they picture him as a guard because his arms are short. Football announcers rarely give technical details and tend to over-simplify things as they speak.

  • What do teams look for to determine whether someone is best as a tackle, guard, or center?
  • How hard is it for a quality offensive lineman to switch between these?
  • Is there any difference between a left side player and a right side player other than that one tends to protect the quarterbacks blind side so you probably want your best tackle on that side?
  • 3
    Welcome to Sports.SE! Just to note, you have three valid and interesting question there. On StackExchange sites it's preferred to keep one question per thread, so next time you might want to have separate questions instead of bulking them into one question ;)
    – posdef
    Aug 16, 2013 at 21:19
  • Tackles tend to be the quickest players on the OL, reason being is that they go up against Defensive ends, and often Outside line backers that are very quick (think Clay Matthews Jr., Terrell Suggs). To deal with that style they either they are quick, long-armed or better yet, both. Centers would ideally be smart, as goofy as that may sound. They make line adjustments, and have to manage a lot of things that other lineman don't really have to worry about. While right tackles are no less pertinent to a successful OL, the left tackle is generally the most sought after for a star.
    – Nick
    Aug 19, 2013 at 16:04

2 Answers 2


Tackles, and in particular left tackles, tend to be the elite positions on the offensive line. The position requires linemen to generally have the best size (height, arm reach) and athletic ability (agility, technique) in order to deal with one on one pass rushers. Left tackle in particular is crucial as this lineman protects the blindside of a right-handed QB.

Guards tend to be smaller than tackles, though at the pro level this is largely because these players simply did not have the measurables to project as a tackle. Unlike tackles, guards will be more likely to work in double-team assignments, such as with the center against a nose tackle. Guards are also asked to 'pull' in running and rollout plays which requires the linemen to turn and move quickly down the line of scrimmage in order to deliver a crucial block to create or seal a running lane.

Centers tend to be as small as guards, though they're best thought of as specialists. Where as tackles have a physical skillset that distinguishes them from guards, centers have a tactical responsibility that makes them unique. They call out blocking assignments at the line of scrimmage and are responsible for the snap. It's a unique skillset that makes it hard to simply slot any lineman at the position. Centers usually take longer to develop and adjust to the pro game as they adapt to the many confusing defensive looks and blitzes used at the higher level.

In the NFL, left tackles are generally the highest earning lineman. They're considered franchise players as even an elite QB cannot pass effectively without an above average tackle holding down elite pass rushers. Centers can make more than guards, but the pay difference in recent years has really just come down to the player's fit with the team. A center for an elite passing team is likely to make as much as a guard for a strong inside running team.


A center needs to have the firmest hands because he is the one "hiking" the ball to the quarterback.

Together with a center, the guards are the ones protecting the quarterback at the beginning of the play, so they tend to be bigger and slower, than say, the tackles.

The tackles typically "do their thing" AFTER the play gets under way, so they need to be quicker and more versatile than the centers. If for instance, a halfback wants to go to the "outside," the tackles need to block defenders "inside." If a fullback wants to run a "draw play" (inside), the tackles need to push defenders outside.

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