A lot of the attention surrounding the 2014 NFL Draft will rightfully be centered on the skill position players who will hear their names called on the first night of the draft, but that would overlook a number of players who very well could shape their teams' future. Ask any coach, and he'll likely tell you that a franchise's fortunes often start up front with the offensive linemen, and it could be a banner year for the group in the first round.
How many could wind up going on May 8 this year? NFL Media analyst Charles Davis thinks the number could be surprisingly high.
"I think the easy call would be six," Davis said on "Path to the Draft." "I wouldn't be surprised if we even got to seven. Joel Bitonio from Nevada, he could jump in there along with a Morgan Moses or Cyrus Kouandjio to get us to seven offensive linemen in the first round."
This year's draft is considered one of the deepest in recent memory, and that certainly stands out when looking at draft boards. Three offensive tackles -- Auburn's Greg Robinson, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Michigan's Taylor Lewan -- are considered to be elite prospects and will probably be among the first dozen picks. Notre Dame's Zack Martin has a number of landing spots in the draft but has solidified himself as a first-round lock based on buzz in the scouting community.
After that group of linemen though, the rest of the first round starts to become a guessing game.
Fellow analyst Daniel Jeremiah says Kansas City, Cincinnati, Cleveland, New Orleans and Carolina are all teams in the back half of the first round that need help along the line. Denver, Seattle and possibly New England could also be in the market. It might be difficult to pass up a highly rated positional player for some of those clubs in the first round, but a top offensive lineman might be enough to change a general manager's mind when it becomes his team's turn on the clock.
The player who winds up as the fifth offensive lineman taken is just as much of a mystery as teams shuffle their draft boards in the weeks leading up to the draft.
"A lot of people think it might be Cyrus Kouandjio, but that depends on his medical," Davis said. "Some teams think he's OK with his knees, other people think he is not. I'm hearing a late rush for Joel Bitonio of Nevada. And Xavier Su'a-Filo, a number of teams have him spotlighted, and I've got him targeted near the bottom and Seattle."
Davis is releasing an updated NFL.com mock draft Tuesday, so it won't be too long before we find out exactly how many offensive linemen he has going in the first round. Based on his comments though, you don't have to go out on a limb to say he's likely to have quite a few big boys coming off the board during the first night of the draft.
Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.