Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports
With the 24th pick in the third round of the NFL Draft, the Colts addressed a need at offensive guard, electing to pick Hugh Thornton, a rather large OG out of the University of Illinois and the 6th rated guard in the draft, according to CBS Sports. At 6-3, 320 pounds, Thornton still has some decent agility to stay in front of defensive linemen, but he’s known more for being a strong, overpowering lineman – perhaps a bit of a road grader. Maybe it’s fitting that he was introduced by former Colts LT Tarik Glenn, who was an exceptionally powerful offensive lineman in his day (though probably a bit more athletic than Thornton).
There aren’t a great deal of videos on Thornton floating around the Internet, so, without further ado, here is CBS Sports’ take on the big fella. The positives section is quite a bit longer than the negatives:
POSITIVES: Thick, powerful frame with good arm length. A natural bender who establishes a solid base routinely in pass protection and utilizes lower-body leverage extremely well against longer, taller defenders. Exhibits powerful, heavy hands on contact, and does a good job of keeping his frame clean by extending his arms consistently.
Displays impressive upper-body strength to ragdoll and toss defenders aside at the point of attack. Possesses lateral fluidity and agility to close off the edge, and redirects with some suddenness to thwart the quick counter move. Targets decisively in space and possesses good burst to lead the second-level charge in the run game. Squares up nicely on the run and displays flexibility and suddenness to adjust to defenders coming from various angles in space. Plays with a bit of a nasty streak, and fights to the whistle. Versatile lineman with experience at guard and tackle.
NEGATIVES: Will get anxious and overextend at times off the snap. Leads with his shoulder and will drop his head when engaging defenders in space. Lacks the ideal height and length for a prototypical NFL tackle. Will get too upright in his kick-slide taking him out of position to utilize leverage on contact. Will stop moving his feet when asked to hold position, leaving him susceptible to being thrown aside or pulled to the ground.
COMPARES TO: Sean Locklear, OT, New York Giants – Thornton, like Locklear, may not possess the ideal frame to play tackle at the next level, but his physicality, flexibility and natural athleticism help him to compensate. A probable mid-round selection with starter upside.
And NFL.com’s analysis, from Thornton’s combine profile:
Tenacious blocker once engaged either in the run game or pass pro, finishes blocks to the ground whenever necessary. Good quickness from his stance, can fire out to greet defenders. Very good upper body strength to latch onto and stone targets, possesses footwork to stay with them throughout the play. Quick feet and good straight-line speed also help him block down and reach second-level targets, also pulled for outside runs. Uses athleticism and length as an effective cut blocker in space to take out defenders.
Tall for an interior player, but lacks pure lateral movement to stay outside at the next level. Bends at the waist too regularly in pass protection, both when trying to land a punch or failing to move his feet against speed rushers on the edge. Needs to anchor more quickly against bull rushes, has the strength to do so but doesn’t get his hands inside to stop his man’s momentum.
His exceptionally-difficult childhood forced him to deal with this parents’ divorce, the murder of his mother and sister, as well as an abusive father. But Thornton fought through all of that, along with a couple of off-field mistakes, to become a versatile lineman (started at both tackle spots and weak-side guard) and a solid mid-round interior prospect for zone-blocking teams because of his upper-body strength and foot quickness.
UPDATE: We have a scouting video on Thornton, from none other than the New England Patriots website (re-upped in a different spot). Watch for the left guard, number 72:
Also, courtesy of reader paulcareyjr, we have two more videos. Both are intended to show the opposing team's defense (*the* Ohio State and Michigan, respectively), with Thronton playing left tackle in both – watch for 72 again. He will be the one stonewalling defenders on the blind side:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yD9e7GRMZlw versus OSU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTTsVTNLYBI versus Michigan
Ladies and gentlemen, this kid can PLAY.
Thornton has had a long hard road to where he is, but with some of the problems along the Colts offensive line compounded by durability issues, he could find himself on the field in 2013. Most of his negatives, other than knocks against his height and build, are technique and mental issues, which can be corrected if he is a coachable player. Many solid offensive linemen have come into the league in the mid to late rounds, and Thornton could become yet another if he works on some of his fundamentals. It isn’t a particularly exciting pick; but in the third round, what is?
Welcome to Indy, Hugh Thornton.
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