Georgia football expert Brooks Austin explains how top-rated OT Andrew Thomas could possibly fit in with the Denver Broncos in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Denver Broncos have so many options in the 2020 NFL Draft at this point, but one option that has popped up lately has piqued my interest.
A number of mock drafts have had the Broncos taking Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas, who was previously considered a borderline lock for the top five picks.
As is typically the case, more film study has led to analysts and evaluators elevating other guys like Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, or even Louisville’s Mekhi Becton ahead of Thomas on their overall board and offensive tackle rankings list.
But what if a blue-chip player like Thomas is there for the Broncos with the 15th overall pick? I just don’t see how they could pass on him or be so convinced that Garett Bolles’ progression from this point forward is going to give them a higher ceiling than Thomas’ at the left tackle position.
I decided to ask someone I trust, a good friend named Brooks Austin who is the lead editor at SI’s Bulldog Maven, their Georgia site. Brooks is a former offensive lineman himself who played the game at the collegiate level and has been covering the Bulldogs since the start of the 2019 season. He knows Thomas as a prospect well and has been covering him up close.
What is Andrew Thomas really good at?
Brooks: I think Thomas is good, verging on great, at everything you could ask him to do as an offensive lineman. If you need him to shut down a speed rusher, he possesses the required athleticism to do so. If you need him to play within an inside zone scheme and dominate downhill in the run game? Well, he’s done it for three seasons in the SEC at Georgia.
He’s an all-around offensive lineman, and his mid to high 80’s grade from PFF.com in both the run and passing games prove as much.
So, to answer your question, the only way to be great in all of the required areas as an offensive lineman is to be technically and fundamentally sound. That is what I think sets Thomas apart from other linemen. He’s rarely in a bad body position and his hand placement is off the charts.
What’s he not-so-great at?
Brooks: I think there’s room for him to become a bit more aggressive. From my discussion with him and the time I’ve spent around him, he does come off as a bit passive. But so is Quenton Nelson when you meet him. The only difference is Nelson’s game screams physical and aggressive whereas Thomas is much more of a finesse player in between the lines.
It’s worked against some of the top talents in the SEC, I just wonder if he will need to find another edge on the next level against grown men.
Is he a fit for Mike Munchak’s blocking scheme/Pat Shurmur’s offense?
Brooks: I think Thomas can play in any system you could possibly develop.
He’s plenty athletic to play in a stretch/outside zone scheme, and he’s plenty strong to play in a traditional gap/inside zone scheme. I do think he would excel in any system that prioritizes athleticism over strength and raw power though. The guy has lightning in his feet.
If the Broncos want to keep Garett Bolles and draft Thomas, could he play guard? Is that even a good idea?
Brooks: I think it would be patently absurd to spend a top-15 pick on an All-American SEC Tackle such as Thomas only to move him to guard. For what? So you can give Bolles yet another year to try and develop into someone that isn’t going to be a turnstile and laundry mat filled with yellow handkerchiefs?
Thomas is a 10-year NFL tackle. Any other application of his talents would be a disservice and sign of someone in the management system in Denver being a tad too prideful to admit the Bolles pick wasn’t that great.
As you can see, Brooks doesn’t mince words when it comes to evaluating players. And having worked with him on the entire 2019 NFL Draft, I can tell you this guy knows his stuff when it comes to evaluating the offensive line.
Further, he has no obligation to evaluate the Broncos in any view other than completely unbiased, which is why we saw the take he had regarding moving on from Bolles in this scenario.
My personal thought regarding Thomas was kicking him inside if he’s there at 15, but I trust Brooks in saying that is a ludicrous idea and I’ve duly noted it going forward.
With that said, I still don’t think you can pass on a chance to draft a guy like this who is scheme versatile, can be a 10-year guy at left tackle, and one who is as technically sound as he already is at this point.
Nothing against Garett Bolles or his development, but this is a clear upgrade opportunity if it should present itself, and the Broncos would be fools not to take it unless there is some other unbelievable player sitting there along with Thomas.