Offensive Guards: Brandon Thomas, Clemson

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Breaking down another versatile offensive lineman as a possible fit for San Diego

Brandon Thomas is a player that has started at tackle the last two years of his career, before playing left guard prior to that. Because of his below average height, it's become a popular opinion that he'd move inside to guard at the next level. Before I get into where he excels, and where he can improve, below is a chart of his combine measureables, compared to the average guards at the combine.

Metric Thomas Average OG At the Combine
Height 6'3 1/4 6'4.07"
Weight 317 314.52
Arm Length 34 3/4 33.55"
Bench Press 35 25.43
Vertical 29 27.54"
Broad Jump 98 inches 99.83
3 Cone Drill 8.13 7.84
20 yd Short Shuttle 4.83 4.78

Where He Excels

  • Excellent Upper Body Strength/Powerful Hands
  • Bends at the Knees, gets wide base in pass pro, also gets set quickly
  • Wins with Hand Placement
  • Quick Feet/Mover

The first thing you notice when watching Thomas is how strong he is up top. From when he re-anchors against power rushers, to when he jolts defenders when he gets his hands on them. He has strength in that regard that you can't teach.

Thomas is at the top of the screen, and gets into the defender and by the end of the play, throws him down with ease.

Btstrength_medium

The next GIF really shows his power. He just throws the edge rusher to the side like a rag doll. But concentrate on how quick Thomas gets to his spot, and doesn't bend at the waist. A very important yet underrated trait. "Waist benders" don't have a high success rate in the NFL. Thomas does a good job of consistently sitting down in his stance.

Bt2_medium

By in large, Thomas does a good job of keeping his hands inside. This helps him maximize his strength. There are times when he's waiting on the pass rusher that his hands get outside, but his hand placement is one of the main reasons he's effective.

Thomas has quick feet that allow him to get to the second level in an efficient manner. As you can see in the GIF above, he's also light enough on his feet in pass protection.

Where He Needs to Be Coached up

  • Running his Feet on Contact
  • Absorbs contact First Too Much
  • Questionable Awareness
  • Susceptible to inside Moves

In the GIF below, you'll notice there's zero leg drive. If he were to run his feet on contact here, he'd likely be driving the defender down the line.

Btnolegdrive_medium

I noticed this far too often when watching Thomas. He leans, then turns his match-up into an upper strength contest, if you will. Instead of driving his feet on contact. This is why in the run game he's not considered a drive blocker, or a "mauler." This is coach-able, however.

Another issue I have with Thomas is that for a guy with long arms, too often he didn't initiate contact. Instead he'd absorb the hit. You won't see him get walked back into the quarterback, because of his ability to re-anchor, and then lock out the defender. But I do wonder if a bull rush type pass rusher will give him fits at the next level.

The last two can be tied together, and it's something I noticed at the Senior Bowl. It seems like when teams run stunts, or twists, or anything that's not normal up front, Thomas wouldn't pick it up quickly. When working to the second level, it also seemed like he would sometimes just forget to get a chip on the first defender because he was so worried about getting to that next level(I will say I give him the benefit of the doubt because Ohio Stat had a unique blocking scheme.)

I also noticed a few times he got beat to his inside. It seems like he was so intent on protecting his outside, it left him susceptible to the inside. The next GIF example is against the best player in the draft, but it was evident at times in his other games, too.

Bt3_medium

Grade/Final Thought

Multiple Pro Bowl Player, Top 10 8.5 – 9.0
Highly Productive Starter, 1st Round 8.0 – 8.4
Very Good Starter, Early 2nd Round 7.8 – 7.9
Reliable Starter, 2nd Round 7.5 – 7.7
Potential Starter in Year 2, 3rd Round 7.0 – 7.4
Backup/Spot Starter, 4th Round 6.5 – 6.9
Productive Backup, 5th Round 6.0 – 6.4
Very Good Backup/STs, 6th Round 5.5 – 5.9
Quality Backup/Good STs, 7th Round 5.0 – 5.4
Backup/STs/Project Player, 7th Round 4.5 – 4.9
Priority Free Agent w/ Limitations 4.0 – 4.4
Non-Draftable < 4.0

Trait Weight Grade
Run Block 4 3.5
Pass Block 4 3.7
Technique 2.5 2.2
Strength 2.5 2.2
Awareness 2 1.4
Change of Direction 2 1.7
Flexibility 2 1.8
Quickness 2 1.8
Size 2 1.6
Length 2 1.8

Thomas grades out to a 7.81, or a top 50 player. I wouldn't be surprised to see him selected in the last 1st round by the time the draft comes. He's powerful, technically sound for the most part, and is a good fit in today's pass happy NFL. If he can get a coach that can get him to play with better leg drive, this could be a very good player.

How He Fits As a Charger

Thomas certainly has the versatility, he can play both inside and outside, and excel at both. Thomas is best suited for a zone blocking scheme, where he can be on the move, and still use his power in his upper body. He has the feet to be effective when asked to pull, so that at least limits the leg drive issues. In pass protection he would have to work hard(unfortunately by live repetition) to figure out how to pick up stunts by the defense up front, but if he's blocking 1-on-1 he can hold his own against any defender, as he proved as a senior. Thomas would be a very good fit, just has a few kinks to work out.

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