Marquee Matchup: Andrew Thomas vs. Chase Young
Washington rookie defensive end Chase Young has yet to take an NFL snap yet, but oddsmakers have already painted him as the favorite to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
That's understandable given Young's pedigree and impressive college career at Ohio State, all of which were good enough to see him selected second overall in this year's draft. But Young is going to see an upgrade in talent at the NFL level, some of which will also include his fellow rookies.
One fellow rookie he'll probably see is Giants offensive tackle Andrew Thomas, who was drafted two spots after Young. With Giants veteran left tackle Nate Solder having opted out of 2020, it's believed that Thomas will primarily compete for the left tackle position (though head coach joe Judge said that Thomas, like the rest of the rookies, will cross-train at other spots).
If Thomas does win the left tackle job as many believe he will, and Young becomes the right defensive end for Washington, then the Giants could be looking at the start of one of their most classic division matchups in the pit since Michael Strahan and Jon Runyan of the Eagles used to do battle twice a year.
This pending competition between two premium draft picks has Pro Football Focus hailing it as one of the best matchup to watch.
Two of the top four picks in the draft will see plenty of each other in the coming years. Young is the best defensive player in the draft, coming off the best season we’ve seen for an edge defender, with a 96.0 overall grade. Thomas has the cleanest grading profile of any offensive tackle in a deep class, as he ranked fifth as a pass blocker last year at 89.0 and second as a run blocker at 91.7.
While Thomas and Young never faced off in college, they did meet three years ago at the 2017 Army All-American Bowl as high school seniors.
The footage of the drill between Thomas and Young do not represent what the real NFL battles will look like, as they've each come a long way since their high school days and the pro game is a lot faster than the high school version.
Both Young and Thomas were heralded by scouts for their pure aggressive power, and according to several draft analysts, their strengths as players match up evenly.
Thomas possesses elite lower-body strength, especially in his hips. He contains heavy hands and a punch that enables him to latch onto down defenders in order to stall their process and cancel out pass rush moves.
That stalling ability may prove critical against Young, who brings a diverse arsenal of pass-rush moves and elite first-step burst to execute them.
Where Young might be able to get the upper hand against Thomas is on obvious passing downs, where some scouts have concerns about Thomas' flexibility and footwork from college.
Meanwhile, Young's pad level, which can sometimes rise, could present an opportunity for Thomas on run plays to gain leverage and use his superior lower-body strength to neutralize Young.
To his credit, Thomas has worked with a trainer this off-season to improve all aspects of his game, as well as prepare himself to play either side.
But as both Thomas and Young will soon discover, strictly relying on one's physical dominance is not the way to go, and they will each have to continue building up their toolbox.
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