How many big uglies in the first round? Odds say offensive line will be a popular choice

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Ohio State offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. (77) looks for someone to block against Penn State during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, in State College, Pa. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

Quarterbacks make up the headliners of the NFL draft, followed by the guys who go after them — the EDGE rushers who have gotten huge contracts. But some of the most valuable prospects in the 2023 draft are those who will protect the former from the latter: Offensive linemen.

The names are mostly unfamiliar even to those who followed the players in college, but teams will spend high-value picks on offensive linemen up and down the first round of the draft, which begins Thursday in Kansas City.

In fact, Caesars Sportsbook has set the number of first-round offensive linemen at 5½ — more than any other position available and juiced heavily to the over at -300, meaning the odds imply a strong chance more than five o-linemen will go within the first 31 picks.

It’s likely, however, that none of those come in the first five picks, and it’s even possible that none are in the top 10.

The first off-the-board figures to be one of two tackles from the Big Ten: Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. or Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski. They both appear in the top 12 of most mock drafts and are two of four offensive linemen with a pick number over/under at Caesars.

Johnson’s pick number total is 9½, though the vig is -170 to the over, implying he’s more likely to be picked 10th or later than ninth or earlier. Meanwhile, you can bet whether Skoronski will go over or under Pick No. 10½, with the under priced at -170. That implies Skoronski is more likely than not to be a top 10 pick — though certainly not a lock.

Which of those players goes first may depend on the preferences of the teams picking around No. 10. At this point, those teams are the Atlanta Falcons at No. 8, Chicago Bears at No. 9, Philadelphia Eagles at No. 10, Tennessee Titans at No. 11 and Houston Texans with their second pick of the draft at No. 12.

Of those teams, both the Bears and Titans have offensive lineman as their most likely first position drafted, according to Caesars.

The other two linemen with an over/under pick number that makes them likely to go in the first round are both from the SEC: Georgia tackle Broderick Jones (over/under 14½, -140 to the under) and Tennessee tackle Darnell Wright (o/u 15½, -115 to both sides).

Other possibilities later in the first round include Florida’s O’Cyrus Torrence, who could be the first guard off the board; and centers Joe Tippman of Wisconsin and John Michael Schmitz of Minnesota. TCU guard Steve Avila or Ohio State tackle Dawand Jones could make it seven first-rounders on the o-line.

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