It has been 14 years since the New York Jets have used a first-round pick on an offensive lineman. Back in 2006, they used it on two of them. Left Tackle D’Brickshaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold were the selections. It’s never sexy to draft a lineman in the 1st round of the NFL draft. However, sometimes it can be the best decision for a franchise, and Andrew Thomas could be the answer.
The Jets have struggled across all parts of the offensive line in recent years since Ferguson and Mangold retired in consecutive seasons. The team has gone the free agent route, and they have drafted in later rounds in hopes to put a band-aid on a serious problem. They have once again addressed this issue in free agency with some depth defining signings, but it is time to find the unquestioned leader for years to come. One of those guys is Georgia’s Andrew Thomas.
Thomas has been viewed on draft boards everywhere as one of the top four left tackles in the draft. Although the position is deep in this year’s draft, the four at the top, (Andrew Thomas, Mekhi Becton, Jedrick Willis and Tristan Wirfs), have separated themselves as the clear-cut creme of the crop. If Thomas lasts to #11, could the Jets pull the trigger?
Thomas has a motor that is relentless. He played against the toughest completion, and he was still relentless. In the run game, Thomas will make an impact block at the line of scrimmage and get to the next level and block a defender to the goal post if required. In pass protection, Thomas does an excellent job getting into position and picking up stunts. He is so quick that he is able to react to a blitz off the edge and stymie a defender. Thomas has the strength to deliver a packing first punch consistently throughout the game that can wear down a defender.
There aren’t any weaknesses or points of concern on a consistent basis on his tape. Despite being one of the best left tackles in the draft, Thomas has some flaws.
There’s a chance he could be a burden in the running game. There are times when blocking in the next level where he looks to take a linebacker or safety off his feet with a big hit rather than get inside the defender. This isn’t a huge concern as Thomas rarely misses, but if he doesn’t connect with one of those punishing blows, NFL caliber players could make him pay.
As mentioned earlier, the Jets have had an offensive line problem for the last five years. The argument can be made that every position on the line could be addressed, even after the five signings made this year. The most important position on the line, especially when the number one priority should be protecting the young franchise quarterback, Sam Darnold, is left tackle. The Jets need a left tackle with the upside that Thomas has to be anchoring Darnold’s blindside for years.
Thomas is a top 10 pick. Depending on the year and the team choosing number one, he could be the first overall pick. With a number of quarterbacks potentially to go in the top 10 and four other players at the position who compare, Thomas could find his way down to number 11, and Jets fans should celebrate.