Adding protection for young quarterbacks will be a priority for a handful of teams in the 2020 NFL draft.
The Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns and New York Jets reside in a portion of the first round that could feature a run on four offensive tackles, with Alabama's Jedrick Wills, Iowa's Tristan Wirfs, Louisville's Mekhi Becton and Georgia's Andrew Thomas viewed as the top prospects.
Over the next few weeks, NFL personnel have to decide which prospect projects best to a long professional career.
If the four tackles land in the top 20, it would mark the first time since 2016 when that occurred. Jack Conklin, Laremy Tunsil, Ronnie Stanley and Taylor Decker all turned into solid pros out of that class.
Predictions For Top Offensive Linemen
Jedrick Wills, Alabama
Wills has climbed to the top of the positional rankings in the eyes of a few draft experts.
Arizona could be the first team with a glaring offensive line need in the first round.
The New York Giants could look at offensive tackles to protect Daniel Jones, but they also have the chance to land Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, who is one of the most versatile prospects.
If the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers make runs at quarterbacks and the Carolina Panthers improve their defense, the Cardinals could have their pick of the four offensive linemen.
Offensive line became the team's biggest need after it acquired DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans. For Kyler Murray to connect with Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and others, he needs to stay upright, which was a problem in 2019 when he suffered 48 sacks.
Wills faced plenty of top pass-rushers in the SEC, and he turned most of them away from taking down Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa.
Pro Football Focus' College Football account noted Wills gave up only a single sack to a Power Five opponent in his career.
If he lands in Arizona, Wills would partner with D.J. Humphries to provide better protection for Murray as the Cardinals look to improve in Kliff Kingsbury's second year in charge.
Prediction: No. 8 overall to Arizona.
Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
Wirfs is as intriguing of a prospect as Wills.
If Arizona ends up with Wills, Wirfs could be a great addition for the Jaguars, Browns or Jets.
SB Nation's Stephen White went into detail about the athletic skill set of the Iowa offensive tackle:
"Sure, he's an offensive lineman and every bit of 6'5" and 320 pounds, but he looks like a small forward running around on the field. His tape at Iowa tells you everything you need to know about Wirfs' speed, quickness, explosion, and agility. But if you had any lingering doubts, his combine performance should've smashed them all to smithereens."
Wirfs ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in 4.85 seconds, recorded a broad jump of 10'1" and produced a vertical jump of 36½ inches.
Like Wills, there is a chance the Giants look at him at No. 4, but Simmons could end up as the pick there.
Jacksonville could also look at a defensive improvement through South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw or Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson.
If the Jaguars go with Wirfs, they would provide competition for Cam Robinson at left tackle and give themselves a better chance to protect Gardner Minshew II.
Jacksonville also has the benefit of owning the No. 20 selection, which was acquired from the Los Angeles Rams, to add to its defense.
Prediction: No. 9 overall to Jacksonville.
Becton has shot up draft boards over the last few months and is now projected to be a top-10 selection.
Pro Football Focus' Michael Renner positioned Becton at No. 4 overall in his latest mock draft.
"Size and speed have been tenets of Dave Gettleman's team-building strategy in his tenure as general manager," Renner wrote. "No one has more of the former in this draft than Becton, and after running a 5.1-second 40-yard dash, he's got some of the latter, as well."
Former NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz detailed Becton's finishing ability during his breakdown of the Louisville product:
If he drops to the Browns at No. 10, they would be wise to add him to give Baker Mayfield more security.
Mayfield suffered 40 sacks in 16 games last season, compared to 25 in 14 games during his rookie campaign.
If the Browns want to take advantage of their offensive talent in Kevin Stefanski's system, they need to keep the space around their quarterback as clean as possible.
Becton would also be a cheaper alternative to trading for Trent Williams. Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot reported the Browns looked into dealing with the Washington Redskins.
Prediction: No. 10 overall to Cleveland.
The Jets dealt with similar issues to the Browns, Cardinals and Jaguars last season, as Sam Darnold was sacked 33 times in 13 games.
New York allowed 52 sacks last season, which prompted a reshuffling at the position during free agency. It might be able to justify going in a different direction because of those upgrades and the wide receivers available.
In that case, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would likely attempt to pick up an offensive tackle at No. 14.
But Thomas or any of the other three top tackles could be hard for the Jets to pass up because there is a drop-off from the top four to rest of the offensive line prospects.
Thomas was consistent against top defensive talent at Georgia, as he did not allow more than two pressures in a single game over the last three years, per Pro Football Focus College Football.
His talent, combined with the need to protect Darnold and the ability to take a wide receiver in the second round, should persuade the Jets to lean in his direction.
Prediction: No. 11 overall to New York Jets.
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Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.