Is Joe Thomas the Best Player in the NFL?

Jeremy KaufmanSenior Analyst IOctober 13, 2008

After watching my beloved New York Giants get beaten by the Cleveland Brown in tonight’s Monday Night Football game, a striking revelation dawned upon me: Joe Thomas may be the best player in the NFL.

That’s right, I said it. He could be better than Tom Brady, LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Urlacher...better than anyone in the NFL. And he’s only in his second year of professional football.

Now, after reading the aforementioned hypothesis, I’m sure many of you have already concluded that I’m crazy. Many of you probably think that there is no way an offensive lineman can ever be considered the best player in the NFL, at least not when comparing his value to the likes of Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.

However, after giving the matter a great deal of thought, I do believe that Joe Thomas may very well already be the best player in the NFL.

Think about it. As great of a player as Peyton Manning is, he struggled mightily at the beginning of this season. Why? It was because his offensive line was subpar, and with the added pressure, Peyton had a tough time finding success.

Next, look at Tom Brady. Tom Brady may be one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, but he took a pounding against the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, and inevitably lost the game. 

See the connection?

The same connection can be made with running backs. As great as any running back may be, they will never be able to succeed without a good offensive line in front of them.

Just look at Chester Taylor of the Minnesota Vikings, for example. He has a relatively average skill set for an NFL back, but since coming to the Vikings, he has found nothing but success. Also, take a look at the Denver Broncos. With their zone-blocking scheme, it seems like just about any running back that they throw in there will find success.

So how does this all tie into my claim that Joe Thomas is the best player in the NFL? It’s simple. As I have already demonstrated, no quarterback, running back, or any other skill-position player for that matter can succeed without success on the line.

Therefore, any player who can almost single-handedly guarantee that sort of success possesses an inexplicable amount of value in terms of their football abilities. In 2007, Joe Thomas’ rookie year, the Cleveland Browns allowed a league low 19 sacks in what turned out to be a hugely surprising season for the team.

This is because, in 2006, the Cleveland Browns allowed a horrid 54 sacks in the season. So, what was the major difference between these two years? The addition of Joe Thomas.

While some other changes were made on the Browns' offensive line as well, Thomas’ position of left tackle holds the highest degree of responsibility for pass protection; therefore, without any further knowledge, it is safe to acknowledge the correlation between Joe Thomas’ addition to their line and the line’s dramatic improvement over the course of only one year.

Furthermore, Joe Thomas is also a great run blocker, and he is one the most disciplined linemen in the game today. With Joe Thomas manning the left-tackle position for the Cleveland Browns, Derek Anderson, once a virtual unknown, emerged as an All Star, and Jamal Lewis resurrected his career. Both of these occurrences are certainly related at least in part to the strong play of Joe Thomas as well.

While stats are always useful in determining a football player’s abilities, they certainly do not tell the whole story. That is why I have not truly realized just how great of a player Joe Thomas is until today.

Unlike many NFL fans, I always take a great interest in the play of the offensive line. I watch their footwork, their mechanics, their speed, their recognition...everything. While I have seen many impressive offensive-line performances in my time as a football fan, I may have never been more impressed than by the showing that Joe Thomas put on against the New York Giants today.

First, Thomas utilized his hands to perfection, keeping his opposing defensive end at bay at all times. Second, Thomas’ footwork was as smooth as silk, allowing him to beat Kiwanuka to the edge of the pocket every time and push him past the quarterback with ease.

Finally, whenever the Giants attempted to blitz from the outside with a linebacker or safety, not only did Joe Thomas recognize the blitz, but he pushed his opposing defensive lineman out of the way, and then proceeded to slide over and protect his quarterback from the blitz.

All in all, Thomas’ performance was outstanding, and the Cleveland Browns went on to not allow a single sack against one of the most dangerous defensive lines in all of football.

So, imagine for a moment, that there is a single player who can guarantee you that your franchise quarterback will be safe at all times. Imagine, that there is a single player who can guarantee you that your quarterback will be able to drop back for a pass without having to worry about who may be coming up on them from their blindside.

Imagine there is a single player who can guarantee you that push that you need when you are three yards away from a first down, and the other team knows that the run is coming.

Imagine you had a player that would go out for every play of every game, healthy and motivated, and that this player will never, ever commit a penalty. Sounds like a dream, huh? Well, this player is indeed the Cleveland Browns’ Joe Thomas, and he is the best player in the National Football League.