Draft Review: Joe Thomas
What NFL talent evaluators were saying about Thomas BEFORE he was drafted
GOSSELIN DRAFT ANALYSIS: Joe Thomas was the best blocker in college football in 2006, winning the Outland Trophy. He was a three-year starter at left tackle for Wisconsin, a two-time All-Big Ten pick and an All-America as a senior. He started 39 career games and was a team captain as a senior. Thomas tore his ACL in the Capital One Bowl at the end of his junior year but returned in 2006 to start all 13 games. He blocked for a 1,600-yard rusher in 2005 (Brian Calhoun) and a 1,500-yard rusher in 2006 (P.J. Hill). Thomas also was a finalist for both the Wuerffel Trophy (for academic, athletic and community service) and the Draddy Award (academic and athletic excellence). He measured 6-6 ½, 311 pounds at the NFL combine with a 33 ½-inch reach. He ran a 4.79 40-yard dash and bench-pressed 225 pounds 29 times. Gosselin placed him No. 4 on his Top 100 draft board and the Cleveland Browns drafted Thomas with the third overall pick in 2007.
Here are the pre-draft comments from 11 NFL talent evaluators on Thomas:
Scout: Better than D’Bricksahaw Ferguson (fourth overall pick of 2006 NFL draft). Like his athleticism. Does things effortlessly. Outclasses his competition but doesn’t play down to them. He wins and makes it look easy. But the caliber of competition will be a bit higher here.
Offensive line coach: Smart and tough, works hard and plays hard. Carries himself well. Confident. He’s bigger than Jordan Gross (eighth overall pick of the 2003 NFL draft) and much more physical. But the great offensive tackles all have 34-inch reaches or better. He doesn’t. Flozell Adams had almost a 36-inch reach. Those long arms really help in pass protection.
Offensive line coach II: A cut above the rest. So polished. A Top 5 pick.
Offensive coordinator: Excellent player and prospect.
Personnel director: Needs to be a right tackle. Lacks left tackle feet. Best thing he does is run block. One of the best I’ve seen in a long, long time. When he gets on you, it’s over.
Personnel director II: Best feet of any offensive lineman coming out.
Personnel director III: Top 10 pick.
General manager: Left tackle.
General manager II: Like better than D’Brickashaw Ferguson a year ago.
General manager III: So good pulling. Not a masher but he’ll get to 330 here before it’s all said and done.
General manager IV: Top 5.
HALL OF FAME RESUME: Thomas became a walk-in starter for the Browns as a rookie and stayed there for 11 seasons, starting 167 consecutive games before suffering a torn triceps muscle in the seventh game of the 2017 season. Along the way he became the first player in NFL history to play 10,000 consecutive offensive snaps, never missing a down in his career until that triceps injury. He then retired that offseason. But what a legacy – Thomas became the first offensive lineman in history voted to 10 consecutive Pro Bowls and was selected first-team all-pro in six of them. Thomas was voted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2019 and this week became one of the 28th semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023 in his first year of eligibility.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Gosselin spent 20 years as the NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News, including 20 offseasons studying and researching prospects for the NFL draft. He didn’t watch any tape – he was a writer, not a scout – but he talked to the men who did watch tape. He built a network of NFL general managers, head coaches, personnel directors, scouts and assistant coaches from all 32 teams who would share with him their analyses of players. Gosselin used their insights to build his own draft board, Top 100 board and mock drafts. For 10 consecutive years he had the best Top 100 board in the country (2001-10), according to the Huddle Report, and three times he produced the best mock draft.