EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – In his introduction to the Giants in-house media and then reporters who cover the team, first-round draft choice Andrew Thomas was soft-spoken and deferential, a young man who prefers brevity in answering questions.
But he can certainly get his point across.
He is a member of what coach Joe Judge called, "a very talented draft class, especially on the offensive line."
Four tackles were chosen in the top 13 – Jedrick Wills, Jr. at No. 10 to Cleveland, Mekhi Becton at No. 11 to the Jets and Tristan Wirfs at No. 13 to Tampa Bay, which traded up one spot with San Francisco to guarantee they obtained his services. But they were all selected well after Thomas at No. 4. And the newest Giant conceded it was important to him to be the first tackle off the board.
"Definitely," Thomas said. "I work hard every day to be the best. I don't understand why you would play this game if you don't want to be the best. It definitely meant something."
Those players were almost universally considered the four best tackles in this draft, though numerous talent appraisers placed them in different orders.
"Obviously, you see it with social media and things like that," Thomas said. "For me, I just try to focus on what I can control. I can't control what other guys may do or what the media may say. All I can do is work on my craft and do what I need to do to be prepared when I step on the field."
When he does, he will become an important building block for the Giants. But he will be challenged regularly. The players who finished 1-2 in the NFL in sacks in 2019 are on the Giants' 2020 schedule – Tampa Bay's Shaquil Barrett (19.5) and Arizona's Chandler Jones (19.0). And the NFC East is populated with outstanding pass rushers like Dallas' DeMarcus Lawrence, Philadelphia's Brandon Graham and Washington's Montez Sweat. And the Redskins added a premier defensive end Thursday when they selected Ohio State's Chase Young with the second pick in the first round.
But Thomas won't be intimidated after facing some of the country's best edge players at Georgia.
"Playing in the SEC I've gone against a few pretty good pass rushers," Thomas said. "Week in and week out you have to be prepared going against guys like Josh Allen, (K'Lavon) Chaisson this year was a pretty good rusher. It just prepares you a little bit for what you're going to see in the NFL."
Young had 16.5 sacks in 12 games for the Buckeyes last season but Thomas will be poised and positive if he has to block him this year.
"Confidence comes with preparation, understanding the playbook, learning from the vets week in and week out," Thomas said. "Going against guys that have been playing in the league for 10 years, who are very good at what they do. So for me, it's a mental thing and like I said, having confidence in myself for my preparation."
Chaisson was selected at No. 20 by Jacksonville on Thursday. Last year, the Jaguars drafted Allen immediately after the Giants selected Jones. General manager Dave Gettleman was enamored with Allen, but the importance of adding a quarterback superseded his desire to acquire the pass rusher. But the G.M. circled back to Allen during his evaluation for this draft and what he saw helped convince him Thomas was his man.
"One of the things that kind of helped the process along is the other day I took a look at his 2008 game when they played Kentucky and they played Josh Allen," Gettleman said to reporters on a conference call. "And you guys know I've got a lot of love for Josh Allen and how talented he is. That really, that was big. He's played against a lot of legitimate pass rushers and he's done well."
That sentiment was echoed by coach Joe Judge.
"One thing that sticks about him is when you watch the top pass rushers with the exception of maybe a couple in this draft, they have to go against him," Judge said. "You watch his college tape and he is going against all the guys that you are going to see get drafted in the next couple of days. He does a heck of job on them, you see him compete, you see him play big in big games and that's important. He was coached very hard at the University of Georgia and that's a trait we look for. Guys who can play hard and play on big stages and compete."
For Andrew Thomas, that is a good place to start his Giants career.
View photos from the college career of Georgia OT Andrew Thomas.