NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
I think most of us agreed that the Patriots would make a trade down in this draft with one of their three picks on Day 2 that could be traded. When the Patriots got back on the clock, I was assuming they would target Offensive Tackle or Runningback. In the end, they Patriots did what they typically do, make a pick that leaves fans scratching their head. I went back and watched several NC State games, including a couple I had not watched yet and here is what I saw from Joe Thuney.
When you look at the spider graph above, two things really pop out from an analytics standpoint for Thuney. One, he is a very athletic guy with good movement skills. The other is that he has really short arms even for the Guard position. On tape, both of these things showed up. Thuney is a smooth mover especially as a run blocker. In college, he showed the ability to work off his blocks and get to the second level, find another guy, and square them up in space. He kept his head up and has good footwork to move laterally down the line of scrimmage. He is very smart and he keeps his head on a swivel, always looking for and finding where the pressure is coming from. From a statistics standpoint, Thuney has been one of the best Tackles and Guards in the country over the past two years. He is obviously versatile, playing all five positions in college. He is a team leader and a team first guy, doing whatever it takes for the benefit of the team. His pass protection is not the prettiest I have ever seen, but he always got the job done. He does have some things to work on though to have great success in the NFL. He struggles with length because of his short arms. Too often players can get into his chest and it results in his arms getting out wide and holding. His footwork in pass protection needs work. He does not look as comfortable or athletic when he kickslides and he tends to lean into defenders, presumably to compensate for his short arms. Thuney needs to work on his base as well as he can get knocked off balance. Like I said, it was not always pretty, but it certainly got the job done. According to PFF, he graded out as the 2nd best Tackle in the country and only allowed 2 sacks in nearly 600 snaps this year.
Overall, this is a very interesting pick. I have read some reports that absolutely love Thuney and think it was a great pick (PFF, Josh Norris) while others thought it was a reach. I do not really have a problem with the player as I think he is very good and has potential to be a versatile piece along the line. I had less of a problem when I thought the team would try him at Tackle, but it sounds like he is going to be playing Guard for the Patriots. My question is this, was Guard a need? If so, does that mean the team already considers last year’s picks of Tre Jackson and Shaq Mason busts? What about Johnathon Cooper? For years, we were told you can find Guards anywhere in the draft. Now it seems the Patriots are chasing the position. Maybe they have a master plan that is over my head and it will all work out, but for now, the idea of using our second pick in the draft on another Guard does not seem like the best use of resources. I think Thuney is going to come in and either win a starting Guard job or be a part of a rotation, similar to what they did last year. If Thuney shows enough in camp that the Patriots can move on from Cannon, then I will like this pick so much more. My worry is that the team feels they made a mistake in last year’s draft and Thuney will be replacing one of the younger Guards, meaning the team starts over again with the line rebuild.