The offensive lineman in the NFL are by far the most unsung heroes of the league. There are very valid arguments to be made that they the most important players on any given team, and yes, that includes Quarterbacks. A poor offensive line has trickle-down effects that can be felt all over the field.
Not only do they provide the protection for quarterbacks to be successful in the passing game and create the holes for tail backs to squeeze through in order to produce positive yardage, but the effects of a successful o-line can be felt throughout the defense and special teams units as well.
For example, the difference between converting a third and one vs being forced to punt lies largely on the few feet of push up-front that a quality o-line can provide. While something this simple may not directly correlate to points, it can very well provide an extra 10-15 minutes of real time that the defense can remain on the sideline preserving their “gas in the tank” for later in the game.
To take it one step further, converting something as simple and two “third and shorts” during a drive can easily provide an extra 10-25 yards of field position. Again this may not directly correlate to points, but in the event of their offense still being forced to punt, 10-25 yards of field position can mean the difference between the opposition being forced to punt on their ensuing drive as opposed to a long field goal attempt, a chip shot field goal or even having a short field which produces a much greater likelihood of scoring a touchdown.
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Odds for First Offensive Lineman Drafted
Sportsbooks throughout the country have released odds on prop bets for many different ways to wager on the NFL Draft, but the odds for the top-2 offensive lineman have particularly caught our attention.
Currently, Tristan Wirfs from Iowa and Mekhi Becton of Louisville are tied for the shortest odds at +160. It’s no surprise that, after putting up eye popping numbers at the recent combine, these two players are at the top of the list when it comes to the “big uglies.”
Admittedly, the margin between these two outstanding athletes is razor thin, but we think there is a just enough advantage for one of these players to be considered a better value and that the books might be a bit off with their posted odds.
Again, Wirfs and Becton are neck and neck in ability, but we think that Wirfs holds enough of an advantage in a few categories that, if you’re going to make a play, buying stock in Wirfs is the way to to go.
The offensive line factory that is the University of Iowa is a great place to start, but it’s not just Wirfs pedigree that gives him the edge here. He also holds the advantage in overall athleticism regarding speed, vertical jump and overall agility. The main advantage held by Becton is that he is physically bigger by about two inches and 35 pounds.
It’s our contention however, that the size advantage held by Becton may not actually be much of an advantage, if any at all.
Each and every year the NFL is getting faster, spreading out their offensive sets and relying on speed and agility over just plain size. All those trends point to Wirfs being a more valuable and versatile weapon.
Most mock drafts have the first landing spots for offensive lineman at the eighth spot with the Arizona Cardinals and the 10th slot with the Cleveland Browns. This draft order only strengthens the case for Wirfs to be selected ahead of Becton.
The Cardinals have a clear strategy on the direction that they are moving towards by hiring Kilff Kingsbury and acquiring players like Kyler Murray, Kenyan Drake and DeAndre Hopkins. The Cards are looking for more of a college-based system that relies on uptempo play, getting the ball to their play-makers in space and letting their quarterback make plays with his legs.
There’s one necessary component to make all these facets successful: athletic lineman that can make key blocks downfield in order to spring big plays.
Since the Cardinals have the the higher draft pick of the two teams in question, and Wirfs seems to be a better fit for their scheme, we feel that the bookmakers are a bit off here. If we were setting the odds, Wirfs would be +125, whereas Becton would be +170.
If you’re looking to get some action on the “guys in the trenches,” there’s enough value here to feel confident putting some change on Mr. Wirfs.
Pick: Tristan Wirfs: First offensive lineman selected. +160
*Odds provided by FanDuel as of 3/31/20