Story by Joe Pantorno
Protection is the name of the game for New York City.
Both the New York Giants and Jets selected offensive tackles with their first-round picks during the opening of the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday night.
While the Giants were expected to take an offensive lineman, their choice of Georgia’s Andrew Thomas and No. 4 surprised many with Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs slated to be Big Blue’s choice.
Wirfs was still available at No. 11 when the Jets picked, but they opted to go with Louisville’s Mekhi Becton — filling an obvious need in the trenches despite young quarterback Sam Darnold needing a legitimate outside playmaker.
Andrew Thomas as a New York Giant
The New York Giants went with their largest need, drafting offensive tackle Andrew Thomas out of Georgia with the No. 4 pick of the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday night.
Thomas brings legitimate, young talent to a Giants offensive line that has struggled for consistency over the past few years.
Veteran left tackle Nate Solder has struggled over his first two seasons with the Giants while Cameron Fleming — signed in free agency last month — hasn’t started more than seven games in a season during his six-year career.
The Giants’ decision to draft Thomas provides much-needed depth at the position and immediate competition along the offensive line for the 2020 season.
His selection brings somewhat of a surprise with it considering the Giants had been linked so heavily to Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs in recent weeks.
But based on pedigree alone, it’s easy to see why the Giants opted to go with Thomas.
The 6-foot-5, 315-pounder was a three-year starter on Georgia’s offensive line — a unit that is often one of the best in the nation.
For the 12-2 Bulldogs, who came away with a Sugar Bowl title, Thomas was the anchor of the line — allowing running back D’Andre Swift to have a big 1,218-yard season despite having just 196 rush attempts. That’s an average of nine yards per carry.
His strength in the run game bodes well for Barkley, who will make it a point to run behind the Georgia man.
Thomas’ pass protection, however, has left something to be desired. He’s shown a bad habit of lunging or leaning, which makes him easier to beat if he guesses a rusher’s route incorrectly.
His strength, though, allows him to divert defenders away with seeming ease and his recovery speed is promising.
If the Giants can work on his composure in the rush, he could be the man on the offensive line for years to come.
Mekhi Becton as a New York Jet
The New York Jets might need some outside playmaking help for Sam Darnold, but GM Joe Douglas opted to bolster the trenches for Gang Green’s offense.
Selecting 11th overall in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday night, the Jets took tackle Mekhi Becton out of Louisville to improve one of the league’s worst offensive lines from last season.
With a young developing quarterback in Darnold and an All-Pro running back in Le’Veon Bell, the Jets’ offense was not given much of a chance to consistently succeed behind an offensive line that was ranked 28th in the NFL by noted analytics site Pro Football Reference.
Douglas was faced with the conundrum of addressing the offensive line or drafting one of the top wide receiver prospects available in the draft.
At the time of their selection, each of the top-four pass-catchers in Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, LSU’s Justin Jefferson, and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III were available.
But protecting the Jets’ most valuable assets turned out to be priority No. 1 for Douglas.
Becton is a tremendous athlete for his size, standing at 6-foot-7, 364 pounds.
Quick feet coupled with gargantuan power made Becton throwing around opposing defenders like ragdolls commonplace at Louisville last season.
His versatility allows him to play either tackle spot with an advanced technique that isn’t seen too often at the college level.
One of his drawbacks is his impatience in the trenches as he’s sometimes too willing to overcommit, which throws off his massive frame.
Regardless, if developed correctly, that issue can be addressed rather quickly, but it still is an enigmatic selection for a Jets team searching for consistency.