Making protection for quarterback Daniel Jones a priority, the Giants on Thursday selected Andrew Thomas, a Georgia offensive tackle, at fourth over all in the N.F.L. draft.
Then the Jets, aiming to add support for their young quarterback, Sam Darnold, chose Mekhi Becton, an offensive tackle from the University of Louisville, at 11th over all.
Thomas, 21, played three college seasons, starting every game at right tackle during his first year, when he was named a freshman all-American. Thomas switched to left tackle his sophomore year and was named to the all-Southeastern Conference team. He started 13 games last year and was named a first-team all-American.
“We feel that he is ready to make this jump,” Dave Gettleman, who is headed into his third season as the Giants’ general manager, said after making the pick. “He’s young, like all these guys, but we feel very strongly that he is ready and capable.”
In addition to seeking protection for Jones, who took over for Eli Manning and started 12 games after being picked sixth over all in last year’s draft, the Giants needed to bolster the line to clear space for running back Saquon Barkley, who was selected second over all in the 2018 draft. The Giants finished in the bottom third of the league in offensive yards per game (338.5, 23rd place). Thomas, who is 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, excels at pass protection and is very athletic in the open field, which Gettleman said made him a key target for the Giants.
“Once you draft a quarterback, you get guys in front of them that can keep them upright,” Gettleman said. “This was an important piece for us in Daniel’s development, and for Saquon as well.”
Gettleman has emphasized the importance of acquiring big linemen, whom he likes to call “hog mollies,” and this year’s draft was considered rich in offensive tackles. Thomas was the first of six taken in the first round, and Becton was the third.
Thomas is from Lithonia, Ga., and has a passion for music. He grew up playing the drums and taught himself piano in college.
Becton started 33 games in three seasons at Louisville and can play left or right tackle. He is 6-foot-7 and 365 pounds, and Jets General Manager Joe Douglas said that the team had noticed Becton as an underclassman because of his size. He added that Becton’s footwork, heavy hands and ability to move people off the ball made him a promising player for a team that allowed 52 sacks last season, the fourth most in the N.F.L.
“He is a tough guy to get around playing that tackle spot,” Coach Adam Gase said of Becton. “He brings an edge to us. He can add some nasty to the offensive line.”
Becton said his ideal playing weight would be 350 to 355 pounds, 10 to 15 pounds lighter than he is now. He described himself as a dominating player.
“I think my demeanor is real nasty,” Becton said. “I like to see the man on the ground, stay on the ground.”