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Andy Richardson

Offensive lines

Many teams will be looking at first-round talent

Based on the mock drafts I've been seeing, I think a lot of fans are going to be disappointed by the way their teams actually approach the first round next Thursday night. Many are eagerly thinking their teams will be using top picks on wide receivers and running backs. I think about a quarter of them will instead be coming away with offensive linemen, starting with Penei Sewell (pictured).

This is based both on the talent available and team needs at the position. I see no less than five teams (Colts, Chargers, Steelers, Kansas City, Vikings) who don't have last season's left tackle on the roster and don't have a certain replacement, either. Several other teams (Dolphins, Eagles, Bengals) might be eyeing upgrades. And that's just left tackle; several other teams and some of the ones mentioned above have holes at center or guard, too.

I have to mention the Raiders, who surprisingly dumped three at least above-average starters in Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson and Trent Brown. All three departed in trades (two the Raiders were planning to release), suggesting they were coveted enough that the Cardinals, Seahawks and Patriots weren't willing to take their chances on adding them in free agency -- they were willing to give up a draft pick for them.

GM Mike Mayock defended the moves, saying the team made a conscious decision to get younger and more athletic. The three players are 31, 29 and 28, so Las Vegas will certainly be younger, but none are exactly creaky for the position. Whatever the case, Las Vegas is a candidate to use a first-rounder on a tackle, with Kolton Miller on the left but a void on the right. Mayock sounds optimistic about his center competition (Andre James and Nick Martin), but Martin wasn't a plus in Houston.

The Steelers are popularly mocked to take a running back in the first round. Maybe, but Pittsburgh will be replacing left tackle Alejandro Villaneuva, left guard Matt Feiler and retired center Maurkice Pouncey. Maybe they go running back, because that's definitely a need, but Pittsburgh fans should be prepared for a more boring pick on a player to help keep Ben Roethlisberger in one piece.

The Chargers have two offensive line spots secure with a pair of former Packers, tackle Bryan Bulaga and center Corey Linsley. Their other three are uncertain, and they've got to protect franchise passer Justin Herbert. I expect them to be taking one of the draft's top tackles.

The Colts had one of the league's best offensive lines a year ago, but they've got a big hole to fill with Anthony Castonzo retiring. They signed Sam Tevi from the Chargers; his availability from a team that needs a left tackle makes it clear he's not a desirable option but rather a desperation fallback. The Colts will be in the mix to draft a tackle.

Miami is a trickier case, with plenty of picks and talk about moving all over up and down the first round. They used first- and second-round picks on tackles Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt a year ago. But are they happy with those players? Neither stood out as rookies, and there might be too much talent in this draft for them to ignore the chance to take an elite player with a first-round pick.

There will be some wide receivers and probably a running back or two taken in the first round, but get ready for a lot of teams going with a less exciting (fantasy-wise) choice. It might not get the fans excited. But it will increase the odds of success for the quarterbacks and other skill players who do.

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