ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 30: Andrew Thomas #71 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrate's following the Georgia Bulldogs win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 52-7 at Bobby Dodd Stadium on November 30, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.
(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Following Nate Solder’s opt-out, rookie Andrew Thomas is now one of the most important guys on the New York Giants roster.

On Wednesday, Nate Solder, who has been the Giants left tackle for the last two seasons, decided to opt-out of playing in the 2020 season due to his son’s ongoing battle with cancer, and his own bout with cancer.

With Solder gone, all eyes turn to fourth-overall pick Andrew Thomas to be the one who watches Daniel Jones‘s back. There were some discussions that Thomas might play left tackle even prior to Solder opting out. But now it’s a lock that he’ll be the starting left tackle in 2020 and for many years to come.

Since Jones is the most important player on the Giants, Thomas is now arguably the second most important Giant.

The spotlight will be on Thomas earlier than anyone truly expected, but the 6-foot-5, 315-pound hog-mollie will be ready for the challenge. He was the only unanimous All-American offensive tackle in this draft class, and has the technique and footwork to excel in the NFL.

It won’t take long for us to find out how great Thomas can be in the NFL. He has three massive tests right off the bat. In the first three weeks of the season, he’ll face some of the nastiest pass rushers in the league.

In Week 1, he’ll face Pittsburgh Steelers rushers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. Then in Week 2, he’ll face Khalil Mack of the Chicago Bears. Mack has the ability to singlehandedly take over a game if the left tackle he’s facing isn’t up to the task. And after those brutal matchups, he’ll go head to head with Los Angeles Chargers star Nick Bosa. Talk about a baptism by fire.

This is a daunting task for a rookie, especially when you consider that Thomas didn’t have the benefit of a rookie camp, minicamp, or optional team activities to help prepare him for the speed of the NFL game.

But this is why general manager Dave Gettleman selected Thomas with the fourth-overall pick. Clearly, Gettleman saw something special in Thomas in his draft preparation and he plans to make him a day one starter. Just as the case was two years earlier when Gettleman selected Saquon Barkley with the second-overall pick, when you draft a player that high, you expect them to one day wear a gold jacket.

The Giants are banking on that this season will be part of the strides Thomas makes into one day becoming an all-time great New York Giant. He is without question one of the most important players this year, and for the foreseeable future.

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