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Were the struggles of Giants’ rookie OT Andrew Thomas predictable?

We go to the pre-draft scouting reports to find out

New York Giants v Chicago Bears
Andrew Thomas vs. the Bears.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Andrew Thomas’ first few games as an NFL left tackle have not been pretty. They have, in fact, been downright ugly.

  • Thomas ranks 58th out of 62 qualifying tackles with a 53.7 Pro Football Focus grade after four games.
  • Run blocking is supposed to be his strength right now, but his 48.6 grade is 55th.
  • Thomas’ 52.7 pass blocking grade is 58th.
  • He is one of only three tackles to have allowed three sacks.
  • Thomas’ 19 pressures allowed is second only to Bobby Hart, who has 20. Hart has had 29 more pass-blocking snaps.
  • Thomas’ pass-blocking efficiency score of 93.6 is last among 57 qualifying tackles.

The numbers have not been good. Tristan Wirfs, Jedrick Wills and Mekhi Becton, the other rookies who were all in the debate over which was the best tackle in the 2020 draft class, have all been better thus far.

An anxious Giants’ fan base, looking for scapegoats and wondering when the organization will get something right, is asking whether the balance issues Thomas has displayed thus far a) were noticed by scouts who considered him a top 10-worthy draft selection and b) can be corrected.

With all of that in mind, I thought it would be useful to go back and look at what scouts were saying about Thomas before the draft.

As I have gone back through scouting reports on Thomas, I can’t say I’m surprised to find that the best and most accurate one in terms of what we would see from Thomas was posted by our own Nick Falato right here at Big Blue View. Go back and read the full report. It’s worth the time. For our purposes here, let me cherry pick some of what Falato wrote:

“Thomas has a lot of appeal for the Giants because he can play both right and left tackle. If the Giants are going the route of having Gates compete at center and having Fleming be the swing tackle, then drafting Thomas and starting him on the right side, while grooming him to be the long-term replacement at left tackle may be enticing. Thomas has 97th percentile arm length (36 ¼”), a wide base, and tons of raw power at the point of attack. There’s a lot to like. He’s not as polished as Jedrick Wills, and his foot speed can get exposed by speed rushers, which leads to balance issues because he’ll over-extend too much at the hip. He also “tongs” with his punches and allows them to be too wide. I’ve seen people compare him to Ereck Flowers, and that’s a really bad comparison. Although Thomas tongs, it’s not to the level of Flowers. Thomas’s footwork isn’t ideal. But again, it’s much more advanced than Flowers’. Thomas will be a good starter in this league at either right or left tackle. ...

“He can step in and start Day 1 but will have some growing pains as he develops and acclimates to the speed of the NFL. By year three, he should be a good starting left tackle in the NFL. ... He’ll be a very good run blocker, who could improve to excellent at the NFL level if he fixes some of those issues. Initially, he may struggle against seasoned pass rushers, especially those who are predicated on speed, but he has enough positive traits to not be consistently exposed in this area.”

What others were saying

Dane Brugler of The Athletic in his 2020 NFL Draft Guide:

“Thomas has dominant qualities in the run game, steering and controlling blockers once he gets his hands on them. With his tendency to wind up, lean and abandon his lower body fundamentals, he needs to shore up his pass pro technique, but he gets the job done on tape due to his anchor, toughness and girth. Overall, Thomas’ balance issues are the main concern with his pro transition, abandoning his mechanics and getting himself out over his skis, but he can maneuver his hips in pass protection and clear run lanes, projecting as a starting NFL tackle with fixable issues.”

The Draft Network

Several Draft Network analysts weighed in on Thomas pre-draft. Here are some of the things they said.

Joe Marino:

Thomas enters the NFL experienced in a pro scheme and executing against the best opponents college football has to offer. As a run blocker, Thomas is outstanding and profiles as an immediate impact blocker in that regard. With that said, there is a need for growth with his footwork in pass protection to develop consistency handling speed. There may be some lowlights early on as he irons out his technique but Thomas has all the gifts needed to become a high quality left tackle in the NFL.

Kyle Crabbs:

Andrew Thomas projects as a high end starter at the NFL level, but he doesn’t appear to be a universal prospect and his pro team would be well served to feature a lot of power rushing concepts between the tackles and implement West Coast offense tendencies in the passing game. Thomas’ movement restrictions on the edge will allow dynamic pass rushers to test him on an island and deep passing offenses featuring QBs holding the ball longer won’t maximize his skills.

Jordan Reid:

Hands that are like vice grips, his best asset is the movement he’s able to generate on the first level prior to climbing to others. With a consistent anchor, he can also nail his feet in the ground to halt the process of rushers attempting to attack him down the middle. As a result, his current traits make him an ideal candidate to play either tackle spot and experience success quickly. He has the characteristics to eventually become a top 10-12 offensive tackle in the league with continued development.

Walter Football (Campbell)

In pass protection, Thomas has the potential to be a starting left tackle. He has quick feet with a good build and athleticism on the edge. Thomas can play the typewriter with his feet to cut off the edge from speed rushers. Given his good hand placement and technique, Thomas is a well-developed pass protector who sustains his blocks and prevents a successful second effort from defenders. ...

Thomas is effective as a run blocker as well. He is quick to the second level and fires out of his stance. He gets into defenders quickly, showing no hesitation to get physical and tie them up. Thomas is strong to lock up defenders and sustain his blocks. ...

Thomas looks like a future starting left tackle in the NFL, and he could end up being one of the better left tackles in the league. He is worthy of being selected as a top-10 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Pro Football Network (Pauline)

Thomas possesses rare ability and upside and is a terrific left tackle prospect who shows skill both as a run blocker and in pass protection. He comes with great upside and should be an immediate starter at the next level, and he will only get better as he improves and polishes his game.

NFL.com (Zierlein)

Thomas is a gritty player with above-average recovery talent to “get the job done” when his process breaks down. He’s a Day 1 starter who comes in well-coached and technically savvy, but occasional leaning, lunging and inconsistent knee bend in pass pro could be isolated and attacked by pass-rush wolves looking to feast if he doesn’t get those areas cleaned up.

Final thoughts

These reports should clear up the idea that anyone saw Thomas as a “perfect” prospect. Most were in agreement that his run blocking was more advanced coming out of Georgia than his pass blocking. There was general agreement that his footwork and balance issues would likely be exposed by quality pass rushers early on, and we have seen plenty of evidence of that.

There was also lot of agreement that Thomas is not Ereck Flowers. That his issues are are fixable and that he should be a quality left tackle for many years to come. After four games, I’m not willing to throw the assessments of a number of really smart people in the trash and consider drafting Thomas instead of Becton/Wills/Wirfs a mistake.

I can sense the eye rolls coming from some, but there is really no choice but to have patience as Thomas and offensive line coach Marc Colombo work to smooth out the issues that many analysts seemed to be aware he would have at the beginning of his NFL career.

It’s become a familiar refrain, but what the Giants want and need from Thomas is that he is better at the end of the season than he has been at the beginning.