STRENGTHS - Strong and powerful, Thornton can tie up and eliminate man from the play with surprising ease when he blocks with base/leverage and uses his aggressively. Able to get out of stance and set to pass block quickly, he does a good job of pass blocking with base and "gets a good fit" with hands, which helps him to stop "bull rushers" in their tracks consistently. Having started at guard and tackle at Illinois, he has the versatility to line up in different positions and his production does not slip - I think he has tools to start at guard or center in the NFL. When he blocks with good base his awareness helps him to consistently slide well side to side to adjust well to DL stunts/games. With his strength he can get movement on side/angle in-line run blocks and can lock on, turn and seal head-up DL out of the play to open up inside hole. He is smooth and efficient pulling and delivering hard initial blow to defender who is on his tracks and often can knock man backwards to open hole. Quick getting through to the second level, Hugh does a good job of making contact first and when he stays over his feet and under control he is able to maintain block and eliminates lLB from the play consistently.
WEAKNESSES - Despite having the strength and athleticism to be a controlling blocker, Thornton struggles with consistency at times because he has a very bad habit of stopping his feet after he makes contact on blocks (Both run and pass). This leads to him bending at the waist and leaning and reaching to maintain contact, which in turn causes him to over-extend and end up losing the block and on the ground. This happens a lot on in-line run blocks as he delivers a hard initial blow, but the defender is able to spin off his block because he gets his head so far out ahead of his body. While he is quick out of stance to pull and lead block, he needs to improve his ability to stay on and maintain the block longer. Despite his quickness getting into good blocking position, he does not get his head past the shaded DL's head and into position to be an effective "reach blocker." He will need to improve this as this is a vital block for offensive linemen in the NFL.
SUMMARY - Not expecting much when I began evaluating Thornton, I was pleasantly surprised by his combination of strength, athleticism and competitiveness. While he no doubt needs to work on his technique and consistency, the improvements he made from his junior season to 2012 were impressive and lead me to believe that his best football is ahead of him. As I mentioned above, Hugh's ability to potentially start at guard and center and possibly even tackle give him much more value to teams as he becomes a multi-positional linemen who can fill more than one spot on a game day roster. Overall, I am not confident that Thornton will be drafted as highly as I have him rated due to his struggles with consistency, I believe in his talent to become a quality starting guard or center in his second or third season.