While it’s not the flashiest position group on the football field, having a solid offensive line is paramount to success in the NFL. That’s why this year’s NFL draft is important for many teams who need help along the line. It is likely we will see a minimum of four offensive lineman taken in the first round, and perhaps a maximum of seven or eight, thanks to a loaded class of prospects.
But who among these lineman will be the first selection in the first round? There are a few candidates who have a solid case.
Tristan Wirfs – Iowa
According to BetOnline, Wirfs is the favorite at +130 to be the first offensive lineman drafted. The junior from Iowa was named the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year as well as first team All-American. At 6’4”, 320 pounds, Wirfs spent 29 of his 33 starts at right tackle and the other four starts on the left side. Thanks to his developed power and exceptional balance, Wirfs projects as a starting tackle in the NFL. But some teams may see him more as a guard due to his shorter arm length compared to the other o-line prospects.
Jedrick Wills Jr. – Alabama
Another junior tackle, this time from Alabama, Wills is +175 on BetOnline to be the first offensive lineman taken in the draft. As a two-year starter playing exclusively at right tackle, Wills finished this fall as first team All-SEC and second team All-American. Wills stands at 6’4” and weighs 312 pounds, but is very light on his feet and has explosive power and aggression. However, his lack of experience on the left side may slide him down some teams’ draft boards.
Mekhi Becton – Louisville
Next up is Becton, a three-year starter for Louisville, who according to BetOnline is +360 to be the first o-lineman taken. Playing almost exclusively left tackle the last two seasons, Becton was named the top offensive lineman in the ACC last year, and like Wills was a second team All-American. Becton is heralded for his massive frame, coming in at over 6’7” and 364 pounds. Even though he is a little raw in some areas, his blocking ability and surprising athleticism could have teams interested in his upside.
Andrew Thomas – Georgia
Finally there’s Thomas, who could still be the first lineman taken but comes in with the fourth-highest odds on BetOnline at +500. The junior was a three-year starter for Georgia, playing right tackle his freshman year but exclusively left tackle the last two seasons. Like Wirfs, he was a first team All-American in 2019, as well as first team All-SEC with Wills. At 6’5” and 315 pounds, he’s a good pass protector and was effective in clearing running lanes. But balance issues may lead some teams to view him more as a work-in-progress.
New York Giants (No. 4) – Assuming the top three teams go with what’s expected, the Giants are the first team in clear need of help along the offensive line. They have been linked to each of these four prospects depending on who you ask, but may still go defense with the pick instead. But New York is clearly the top team in need of help at tackle, and will likely go that route with their first round pick.
Miami Dolphins (No. 5) – Many experts anticipate the Dolphins to use their first pick on a quarterback and focus on addressing the offensive line later. However, if two QBs are taken ahead of them and the Giants don’t go o-line, perhaps Miami will look to fix a line that was the worst in football last season.
Arizona Cardinals (No. 8) – Even though it would be a little surprising, there’s a chance that no offensive lineman would be drafted until this pick. If that’s the case, Arizona would be a very strong possibility to take one of these four. The Cardinals drafted quarterback Kyler Murray first overall last season, and now they need to find a way to protect him.
Cleveland Browns (No. 10) – Like Arizona, the Browns recently drafted their franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield and focused on getting weapons for him. But now, their focus will be protecting Mayfield, leaving offensive tackle as a very strong possibility for them come Thursday. And thanks to a plethora of QBs and defensive studs who could go in the top-10, we could see the first o-lineman go here.
Picking a player for this bet will take a good amount of reading stories from reporters who cover these teams, as well as the countless mock drafts floating around. My general feeling is that we will see at least two of these prospects go in the top-10, likely between the aforementioned teams.
Even though they may go defense or trade down, my gut tells me the Giants go with an offensive lineman to start things off. They have been linked to all of them, but none more than Wills. Head coach Joe Judge’s familiarity with Alabama, as well as Wills’ current projection as a day-1 starter, make him my pick at +175 to be the first lineman drafted.