How Many Linemen do NFL Teams need to use in a season?

By Max Mulitz


Using some snap count data from Football Outsiders, I wanted to look at how many offensive linemen play meaningful snaps for the average team in a season. I looked at each team season from 2012 to 2015 (For instance the 2014 Green Bay Packers is a team season, the 2013 Packers are a different team season) and how many offensive linemen played at least 20% of the teams offensive snaps.

Number of Linemen Seasons
5 11%
6 39%
7 26%
8 22%
9 2%

Only 11% of teams got through the season with only 5 linemen playing 20%+ of snaps. Teams had a 50/50 chance of only having to give 5 or 6 linemen 20%+ of snaps. Teams had a 76% chance of only having to give 20%+ of snaps to 7 or fewer linemen, though to be truly safe a team seems to need to have 8 players they are willing to put in the game at offensive lineman.

Because some Offensive Linemen can only play certain positions (Center/Guard, Guard/Tackle, Guard Only, Tackle Only, etc.) assembling an offensive line is complex and depth needs depend on the versatility of a teams’ personal. Nevertheless, the idea that 6-8 linemen are going to see meaningful playing time can provide a framework for beginning to determining roster depth needs.


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