Now that the Buccaneers have figured out what they’re doing on the defensive side of the ball and at the quarterback position, it’s time for them to figure out how to further upgrade the team.
One area that has been discussed at length is the offensive line. Especially the right side. The Bucs have question marks when it comes to depth and the starting right tackle position. Longtime starter Demar Dotson has yet to be re-signed, and even if he is, he will be 35 by the time the 2020 season is over. The Bucs did sign Joe Haeg, but it still feels like the team needs to add another major piece to the equation.
Fortunately for the Bucs, they are in a good spot when it comes to the possibility of drafting a starting right tackle. In this post, we’ll look at Andrew Thomas, who is considered one of the “Big Four” in the draft.
Andrew Thomas’ Collegiate Career
There should be no surprise that Thomas is going to be a top-20 pick in the NFL Draft.
The former four-star recruit - per 247 Sports Composite rankings - hit the ground running as a true freshman, starting all 15 games for the Georgia Bulldogs in 2017. With Thomas as the starting right tackle, the Bulldogs won the SEC, held a top-20 scoring offense, and was the runner-up in the championship game against the Alabama Crimson Tide that year. He was named to Freshman All-American teams by ESPN, USA Today, and the Football Writers Association of America at the end of the season.
Thomas moved to left tackle in 2018. He started all 13 games and earned a spot on Sports Illustrated’s All-American team. The sophomore season wasn’t as nearly as glamorous in terms of team wins/accomplishments, but Thomas saw his draft stock rise after showing that he could play both tackle positions.
He started all 13 games at left tackle again in 2019. More accolades - and an even greater rise in draft stock - followed in 2019. Thomas was named one of four team captains, won the SEC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy, and received a starting spot (1st Team) on both the Walter Camp All-America and All-SEC teams. He was also considered the top-rated tackle in the entire draft class entering the 2019 season and during parts of the 2019 season.
After three straight 11-win seasons, an SEC Championship, multiple individual awards, and a National Championship appearance, Thomas decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft early.
Thomas is a big dude. He weighs in at 6-foot-5, 315-pounds, but don’t let the size fool you. He has the necessary athleticism to get the job done at the NFL level.
He has great technique. When you combine that with his athleticism, his intangibles, and his work ethic/attitude, it’s easy to see why Thomas has been so successful over the course of his collegiate career. He can play both tackle spots (obviously), which could prove to be extremely handy when you consider how volatile injuries can be along the offensive line.
Thomas has also dominated some of the SEC’s best pass rushers. Just look what he does here to Josh Allen when Allen played for the Kentucky Wildcats:
I know it’s sooooo early, but if Andrew Thomas is not my top rated player in eight months I will actually be surprised. I’d put the floor for his tape grade at 3. Dude is a monster https://t.co/BenOxPpZq2— Jordan Katz (@JordanKatz11) May 29, 2019
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com had this to say about Thomas:
Three-year starter and current bellcow of a line that is a consistent front-runner for the Joe Moore Award. He’s played both tackle spots but may get first crack at playing on the left side, due to the dearth of talent there. Thomas is a gritty player with above-average recovery talent to “get the job done” when his process breaks down. He’s a Day 1 starter who comes in well-coached and technically savvy, but occasional leaning, lunging and inconsistent knee bend in pass pro could be isolated and attacked by pass-rush wolves looking to feast if he doesn’t get those areas cleaned up.
Thomas has all the qualities to get the job done at a high level in the NFL.
There’s not much that can’t be fixed when it comes to Thomas’ weaknesses. He could certainly stand to improve his lower-body strength and he tends to lean too much in pass protection, but there’s little reason to think that Harold Goodwin couldn’t fix those issues.
He does have issues with speed-to-power, which can create problems in the NFL. Again, you can fix that through coaching, but that is certainly one of the more difficult aspects to fix when compared to other aspects.
I barely watch any OL tape, but this rep from Michael Divinity vs Andrew Thomas from 2018 remains in my head & gives me an unseasy feeling about him. pic.twitter.com/tbRPuW00Gp— Dennis Sikorski (@denkoboldmaki) January 29, 2020
I’m no coach, but it feels like the Thomas’ weaknesses’ are what would prevent him from becoming a Pro Bowler/All-Pro. Don’t get me wrong, you want the 14th overall pick to reach that level, but he already seems to be tailor-made for the NFL.
Regardless, these issues will need to be corrected if Thomas wants to reach his full potential.
Why The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Need Andrew Thomas
Two reasons: Tom Brady is the quarterback and the Bucs need help on the right side of the offensive line.
Let’s start with the first reason. Brady is 43 and despite not missing a game since 2008, there is always a chance he could get seriously hurt. I mean, this is the NFL we are talking about, here.
The Bucs gave up 47 sacks in 2019. Forty-seven. I had to spell that out, because I don’t feel like just typing the two digits gives what I’m trying to say enough emphasis. That’s literally one sack away from an absolute threshold of three sacks per game.
If Bruce Arians and Jason Licht are serious about contending for a Super Bowl over the next two years, then the only way that happens is if Brady is starting at quarterback in Week 21 (soon to be known as Week 22). And the only way that happens is if he is protected to the max.
The second reason has not only do with protecting Brady and providing the offense with a strong run game, but it’s also about setting up the offensive line for long-term success. According to spotrac.com, Ryan Jensen, Ali Marpet, and Donovan Smith will carry combined cap hits of $35,525,000 in 2020 and and $34,900,000 in 2021. Alex Cappa - the team’s current starter at right guard - carries a combined cap hit of $2,066,892 over the next two seasons. Drafting Thomas would allow the Bucs to keep the majority of the offensive line together for the foreseeable future due to the fact that he would be cheap and would also be a quality starter (hopefully).
Plus, the team has Haeg as insurance for 2020 in case Thomas can’t get up to speed as planned.
If Thomas is available, this appears to be a no-brainer for the Bucs. Which leads to the last segment of this profile....
Should It Happen?
There are few moves made in the draft that not only make sense, but also fill a team’s need with the best player available. If Thomas is available at at No. 14, then it really feels like the Bucs should pull the trigger.
But it doesn’t matter what we think. What do YOU think? Let us know via the poll/comments below!
How Do You Feel About Andrew Thomas For The Bucs In The 2020 NFL Draft?
This poll is closed
Draft Him No Matter What
Trade Back Candidate
I Wouldn’t Mind It
There Are Better Options