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Cover 3: How Andrew Thomas impacts Giants

The crew reacts to the selection of Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas with the fourth overall pick:

John Schmeelk: Unlike last season, when many were so surprised that Daniel Jones was the pick at sixth overall, the Giants did not pull a fast one in 2020. Instead, they drafted Andrew Thomas, one of the offensive tackles so many have been talking about for the past three months. It wasn't a sexy pick, but it was smart, prudent, and the right thing to do.

There was an argument to be made to take a play-making defensive player, but the value of an offensive tackle given the team's current situation was too much to overlook. The Giants have a second-year quarterback that needs to develop for the team to take the next step in becoming consistent playoff contenders. Jones needs to be put in the best possible situation to succeed, and having good tackles in front of him is essential for that to happen. The Giants have no offensive tackles under contract beyond the 2021 season. Thomas helps the most important player on the team in Jones, and the most dynamic player on the team in Saquon Barkley.

Thomas had the highest floor of all the tackle prospects in the draft. He started a full season at right tackle as a freshman before starting two seasons at left tackle. The competition he faced on a weekly basis in the SEC is as close to anything he will see in the NFL.

He played in multiple offenses at Georgia that had similarities to NFL offenses. The schemes allowed him to show proficiency in pass sets and dominance as a run blocker. His 36-inch arms were some of the longest at the combine, and on tape he showed that he knows how to use them to keep defenders off his body.

There was no consensus by the analysts on which one of these offensive tackles was the best in the class. Long-time NFL reporter Bob McGinn from The Athletic polled NFL executives before the draft and had them rank the top tackles with point values to see how the league ranked them. The results supported the narrative.

Thomas led the group with 78 points, but Mekhi Becton (75 points), Jedrick Wills (71 points) and Tristan Wirfs (71 points) were not far behind. It was only the second time in 12 years his polling was so close at the top of the offensive line group. It was truly a "chef's choice" situation.

Thomas was Pro Football Focus' top offensive tackle in the draft class. According to its metrics, he allowed only one sack and eight hurries in 2019. He had grades above 90 in both run and pass blocking, which is what vaulted him to the top of its class.

Even though Thomas' combine workout wasn't as otherworldly as Wirfs, it was still impressive. He finished in the 80th percentile in the 3-cone drill, and both jumping events. His short shuttle was in the 70th percentile and his 40-yard dash was in the 65th percentile. McGinn also reported Thomas scored a 28 on the Wonderlic test, a high score.

Giants head coach Joe Judge also probably got a complete report on the type of person Thomas is off the field and about his football character from Kirby Smart, who coached with Judge at Alabama. Thomas was a multiple sport athlete in high school and all indications are he is a solid person on and off the field.

Thomas checked all the boxes, which is what made him such a safe pick with a high floor. There's nothing to indicate he is not going to be a good tackle in the NFL. He can be Daniel Jones' protection on the offensive line for a decade, and it's hard to argue with that.

View photos from the college career of Georgia OT Andrew Thomas.

Dan Salomone: General managers understandably need to be guarded, so I find it refreshing when we get a candid quote. "We want to fix this offensive line once and for all," Dave Gettleman said at the top of his opening remarks following the selection of Thomas. There was no talk of, well, every position can be upgraded and he was the best player available. No, Gettleman has been honest about his assessment of the offensive line since the day he took over. This is his third draft as GM of the Giants, and he made Thomas the highest offensive lineman drafted by the organization since Ohio State's John Hicks went third overall in 1974.

The offensive line has been a rebuild inside of a rebuild for Gettleman, who invested resources in free agency and the draft on the unit before – but not like what he did on Thursday night. His philosophy is to build from the inside out, which takes patience from everyone inside and outside of the building. The best way to help Daniel Jones, who set every franchise rookie record last year and did some things no other first-year QB had ever done league-wide, is not to give him more weapons. It's to keep him upright.

Furthermore, Thomas will open lanes for Saquon Barkley. Thomas was asked on his video conference with the media whether he prefers to keep a guy from touching the quarterback or grinding it out on the ground. He prefers the latter. "I definitely want to protect the quarterback," he said, "but the run game, I love it."

And that's really how you set the tone for a team. It's in lockstep with Joe Judge's vision.

"Joe and I are of the same mentality that, really and truly, the offensive line sets the tone for the team," Gettleman said in his pre-draft conference call. "It really does. I think of all the teams that I've been with that have gone to Super Bowls, the offensive lines were the tone-setters. You think of the offensive lines in 2007 and 2011 when we beat the Patriots, those groups set the tone. We're going to do everything we can to make sure we replicate that."

Lance Medow: Leading up to the draft, there was passionate debate about the Giants selecting a defensive playmaker such as Isaiah Simmons or one of the top four offensive linemen. There was plenty of substance behind both sides of the argument. The Giants ultimately decided to select one of those top four linemen in Georgia's Andrew Thomas. The previous two years, the Giants chose Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones with their first picks of the draft. The best way to help Barkley's cause on the ground and protect Jones is to invest in the trenches.

With Mike Remmers, last year's starting right tackle, leaving in free agency, there is an opening at that spot and Thomas has experience at both tackle positions. He played on the right side as a freshman and the left side the last two years to account for his 41 starts over three seasons. Given Thomas already has a wealth of experience on the left side, there's more substance to his resume and less guessing as to how he'll eventually project to playing on that side of the ball. When you look at the other top offensive linemen selected in the first round (Louisville's Mekhi Becton, Jedrick Wills of Alabama and Iowa's Tristan Wirfs), only Becton had experience on the left side. That's not to say all of them weren't attractive options and have great upside. There's plenty to like about each one of them. It's likely Thomas' proven versatility was a factor in separating him from the others. It also doesn't hurt that he helped Georgia showcase a dynamic rushing attack and has been tested by some of the top pass rushers in the SEC, including former Kentucky standout and last year's seventh overall pick Josh Allen (Jaguars), who GM Dave Gettleman has stated he was a big fan of when he scouted last year's prospects.  

There is some history, too. The Giants have invested in at least one Georgia player in three consecutive drafts. In 2018, the selected linebacker Lorenzo Carter in the third round and last year grabbed corner DeAndre Baker by moving back into the first round. While Joe Judge has a connection to Georgia head coach Kirby Smart from their days together at Alabama under Nick Saban, the Giants also have a very strong connection with Smart and the coaching staff since they have scouted and ultimately drafted several players from that program over the years. Following the pick during his conference call with the media, Gettleman said, "we want to fix this offensive line once and for all." By investing in Thomas, it's a step in the right direction.


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