INDIANAPOLIS — Georgia’s Andrew Thomas was, once upon a time, widely considered to be the top offensive tackle prospect in the country. Pull up just about any set of 2020 NFL Draft rankings from September and the overwhelming consensus was that the long-armed, powerful tackle was the guy if you needed an upgrade along the line.
Now? There are more options for OT1 than ice cream flavors. But perhaps the least popular of the draft's top four prospects at offensive tackle is Thomas.
What happened? Well, nothing necessarily. Thomas still brings physically dominant power to the field and he's still got every bit of length you could possibly hope to find on an offensive tackle. He checked in this week with arms that measured in excess of 36 inches — vital to protecting the edge and running pass rushers past your quarterback.
But while Thomas has remained the same player he's put on tape for years, the tackle class has seen Mekhi Becton (Louisville) storm onto the scene and snatch the crown of top mauler at tackle. Jedrick Wills (Alabama) is a more smooth operator in space and given the league's tendencies continuing to skew towards more pass-heavy offenses, Wills' skillset inevitably gets boosted.
Thomas? Well, he's not a liability in any regard, but he is someone who will need a more specific fit than "anywhere" in order to play to the most of his potential.
Teams who like to run downhill and between the tackles will be the ones who put him in the best position to be successful. Or, conversely, placing Thomas inside is reportedly on the table — murmurs that are backed by NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah ranking Thomas as a guard in his latest board update. If that is the case, Thomas becomes more appealing to more teams.
So Thomas' proper fit isn't just related to his scheme, but also his position. Power oriented teams should be adamant about keeping him on the outside. Vertical passing offenses would be receptive to playing him inside at guard and protecting him from speed off the edge. Sprinkle in his dominant play at the point of attack and suddenly Thomas' stock has the potential to be revitalized no matter what system you play in.
The dirty little secret for Thomas this week at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine is that his testing probably won't move the needle all that much. Sure, it might sell a team or two that has apprehension about his play outside that he's capable of doing it, but by and large Thomas' film is established and he is who he is as a player. Unless Thomas comes out and absolutely, positively blows the doors off of Indianapolis, he's not going to make the big splash to reposition himself as an unquestioned OT1 — especially with better functional athletes like Wills and Tristan Wirfs still in the fray.
So what team is the perfect fit for Thomas? Throw all the other stuff out the window. This can be answered in one, simple question. Which teams need the biggest shift in team identity up front? Who wants to play physical and be tone setters on the offensive line? Miami is a logical fit for him, given their dire situation on the offensive line and their treasure trove of draft picks.
With recent reports suggesting the Dolphins are keying offensive line help with the second of their three first-round picks, the math adds up here. The only question is if an early tackle run will press a team to panic and grab Thomas instead.
If that happens? Great for Thomas. But even if it doesn't, his stock should still be considered a virtual lock for a top-20 selection.