It sometimes gets overlooked that you can't get into the NFL if you aren't good at football. Even the worst NFL player is probably the best athlete his highschool has ever seen. It's also true that there are good players on every team, no matter how bad the the overall roster may be.
ESPN recently released a list of each team's most underrated player (inSider content). Unlike their recent ranking of the 32 rosters, this time ESPN used Football Outsiders' analysis to inform their conclusions.
Left tackle Andrew Thomas was named the New York Giants most underrated player.
Thomas is underrated by association. He was part of one of the league’s worst offensive lines last year. Thomas allowed 2.5 sacks and blew 19 blocks, but that was a massive upgrade from the five and 42 that were given up in 2020. He also ranked in the top 10 for ESPN’s run block win rate. But, stuck on a unit that needed a ton of retooling this offseason, there wasn’t much talk surrounding his improvement.
Thomas certainly isn’t underrated by Giants fans. Fans at large, however, probably aren’t aware of how nicely Thomas has matured since his rookie season. Thomas is, in general, playing with much more confidence than in 2020.
He's doing a much better job of protecting his inside shoulder and not over-setting to the outside. Likewise, his greater comfort is also seen in how much more consistent he is in fitting his hands inside defenders' framework.
Thomas still has some work to do and room for improvement going into his third year. He can still struggle some against speed rushes or be caught flat-footed when he needs to cover a lot of ground. However, those are hardly uncommon issues for offensive tackles.
Even if Thomas doesn't take another leap this year and "just" maintains his level of play from 2021, Giants fans should feel good about their left tackle.
There are two things to watch for this year.
The first is the possibility that the anticipated improvements elsewhere on the offensive line could increase the pressure on Thomas. We can't know for sure without charting all of Thomas' pass protection snaps, but it's safe to assume that there were instances where he would have given up a sack or pressure had a teammate not lost more quickly. We could see Thomas give up more pressure and sacks this year, but we should be aware that that isn't necessarily evidence of a regression on his part.
The second is the possibility that Thomas could be extended after the season. Paying a little more up front to lock good, young players into team-friendly contracts is a favorite tactic of Eagles' GM Howie Roseman. The Giants, meanwhile have historically avoided negotiating with players until the last possible minute. We could see the influence of new Assistant GM Brandon Brown in how the Giants approach Thomas' future.