Protecting Daniel Jones, the future of the New York Giants, is a must for GM Dave Gettleman heading into the 2020 NFL Draft. Nate Solder’s play significantly regressed in 2019 and the Giants can’t get out of his contract until the 2021 offseason. The right tackle position is an open competition between veteran Cameron Fleming and young Nick Gates.
The Giants could do worse than those two competing for the right tackle position, but they’re not exactly long-term options, either. Gates could develop into a viable long-term starter, but he has to add strength at the point of attack to assist in his ability to effectively get push off the line of scrimmage in the run game and to help with his anchor ability vs. the pass. There is still a significant need for a long-term solution at left tackle.
Thomas is a bright young man. He received multiple academic scholarships before arriving at Georgia, where he studied business. He almost went to Notre Dame for its academic business program but wanted to stay close to his home in Georgia. Thomas was voted First-Team All-SEC his last two years at Georgia while receiving the Jacobs Blocking Trophy in 2019, which is given to the best blocking offensive lineman in the SEC. Off the gridiron, Thomas loves music. He plays the piano and drums. Furthermore, Thomas has an athletic family. Two of his uncles played Division I basketball.
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.
Prospect: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Games watched: vs. Notre Dame (2019), vs. Kentucky (2019), vs. Missouri (2019), vs. South Carolina (2019)
Red flags: None
Best: Power/Strength, Anchor
Worst: Consistent Hand Placement, Footwork Against Speed
Projection: Versatile and can start at either tackle position; will take lumps in year one as he adapts to the speed of the NFL.
(Thomas is left tackle No. 71)
Thomas has excellent size and length for the position, with a thick lower body, and a barrel chest. Possesses solid overall athletic ability which is highlighted by his hip fluidity (inside to seal) and change of direction. Play strength is superb and he dominates at the point of attack, using excellent lower-leg drive and power to bully defenders out of gaps. Excellent in fold/seal blocking ability due to hip turn inside and power to drive defenders off the ball and force wider running lanes. Always keeps his legs moving and does a good job uncoiling, and resetting his hips, if necessary, to engage more power through his lower body and core. Dominates in down blocking situations and can wash most defenders, creating wide rushing lanes off the snap. Solid grip strength when moving laterally, but could do a much better job framing his blocks and keeping himself square to defenders. Solid ability to locate defenders at the second level; does over-extend himself too much and lunge, which affects his timing and positioning. Plays with an incredible football IQ. A communicator that transitions well with stunts and redirects loopers up and out of the pocket with power. Brings the fight every snap and plays with a lot of competitive toughness which I love to see.
Good mirroring ability against rushers that aren’t pure speed. Does a very good job resetting his hips and using his excellent anchor to stalemate power rushers. Absorbs contact so well and can steer defenders to his desired location, due to his power and leg drive. Good at readjusting hands and resetting his balance when on an island, not fully engaged with defenders. I wish he had more foot-speed to combat explosive rushers up the arc, but his length makes it hard for him to get blown away in this area. Isn’t the most flexible tackle and his hip-hinge outside, combined with adequate footwork against speed, can give him problems. Footwork can be cleaner and he’ll get crossed up and lunge a lot against speed. Hand technique could be a lot better in pass protection; tends to tong (grab the outside part of defenders shoulder pads), instead of punching and controlling the breastplate. Punches can get a bit sloppy, and he allows his hands to get a bit wide on the snap. He doesn’t allow his chest to be controlled like his teammate Isaiah Wilson, but he has some room for development with his hand technique. I would love to see him improve his overall positioning and not rely so much on his incredible length. Lack of positioning leads to over-extension and balance issues that can be exposed at the next level; it’s not a consistent problem with Thomas, but it happens often enough to where it has to be highlighted. He does not have the same smooth footwork as Alabama’s Jedrick Wills. Overall, Thomas is a good player who can start Week 1, but will struggle early on. With the right development, he can be a very good starting left tackle in the NFL.
Overall Grade: 6.8 Year 1 Quality Starter [Grading Scale]
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. His power, length, solid functional athletic ability, and football IQ are some of his best traits. I have concerns with his foot-speed against quicker pass rushers, and he can improve his punch, along with his positioning, which will maximize his effectiveness. 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. The Giants may look to invest in Thomas, due to his versatility and ability to excel at right and left tackle. I wouldn’t be mad if that’s the case. Giants have been going after high character/culture players, and Thomas fits that bill. He has technical aspects to clean up, but don’t compare him to Ereck Flowers.