During the 2011 college football season, there were many draft pundits projecting Clemson defensive tackle Brandon Thompson to be a first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. It was clear why they felt that way, as Thompson was a disruptive force for the Tigers, and set up a huge season for teammate Andre Branch. Coming off a strong Senior Bowl and Pro Day, Thompson is hoping to hear his name in the first round of the draft.
"I felt like I had a really good pro day. All the questions I left out from the Combine, which was my 40 and stuff. I did a good job with that and showcased what I need to showcase."
Thompson is in the mix with a strong group of defensive tackles. Memphis' Dontari Poe, Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox, LSU's Michael Brockers, Michigan State's Jerel Worthy, Penn State's Devon Still and Connecticut's Kendall Reyes are highly thought of with Thompson. It will be a tough fight for them all to go in the first round, but Thompson has some abilities to help separate himself from the pack.
In meeting with teams at the Combine, Thompson has heard from NFL teams that they believe he can fit in any system. At Clemson, Thompson was primarily a nose tackle in a 4-3 defense. In speaking with NFL coaches, they've told Thompson that they believe he also play defensive end in a 3-4 set and nose tackle in a 3-4. The 6-foot-2, 311-pound Thompson has the speed to fire off the snap and cause disruption. He also has the strength to hold his ground at the point of attack and occupy multiple blockers. That versatility should really help him on Draft Day, especially with the lack of zero-technique (3-4 nose tackle) prospects in the draft.
"Yeah I have a little experience playing those positions. I feel that it wouldn't be difficult to pick up and learn. I'd be ready to play. I've talked with teams about playing every position from zero out. I'm ready to play any position in any kind of defense."
Another key characteristic of Thompson's that sets him apart is what he did to help his teammates. Thompson is the only defensive tackle in the group above that helped two different defensive end teammates produce double-digit sacks. Even though Thompson did not get a huge sack total at Clemson, his ability to occupy blockers was a huge aide in Da'Quan Bowers recording 15.5 sacks in 2010 and Andre Branch totaling 10.5 sacks in 2011.
"Just being inside next to those guys was a great experience. We've been around each other for so long and we know each other. We built that chemistry and we knew what to expect and that made it that much easier."
Back in September, Bowers discussed his former teammate with WalterFootball.com
"Brandon Thompson made my job a whole lot easier," Bowers said. "The amount of double teams he took on to get me the chance to rush one-on-one. He is part of the reason why I had 15.5 sacks my junior year. He is going to demand double teams because he is not going to get blocked one-on-one. Any time you can get a guy like that on your team he is going to help the whole line."
Thompson said whether it was crashing into the guard and center off the snap, or getting double teamed as a three technique, he got used to taking on two linemen at a time. His ability to take on double teams was critical for Branch and Bowers.
"That's easy enough. I eat up doubles. With them on the other side, they get single blocked and are free to go one-on-one a lot. The doubles came both ways as a nose or three. You don't know what you're going to get so you have to be ready for anything."
Thompson said his current focus is on finishing off plays himself and not leaving it to teammates to make a tackle. Being disruptive isn't enough for the Clemson standout. While he causes havoc at the line of scrimmage, Thompson has his sights set on doing more than that in the NFL.
"I just want to work on every aspect of my game. The most important thing for me to work on is finishing the play. Those one or two steps I need to get to the quarterback or ball carrier. I want to be labeled as an every down defensive linemen. That is a goal of mine."
With his Pro Day done, Thompson is setting up visits with teams. He plans on visiting a number of teams after what he felt was smooth sailing in the Senior Bowl and Combine interviews.
"I have a visit set up with Atlanta coming up soon. The Combine interviews went well. I met with a lot of teams. We had great conversations. Everything went well."
Thompson enters the league with lofty goals, so whoever selects him will land a player who is driven to do great things on the field and not just cash in off of it. As a closing statement, Thompson made his goals crystal clear.
"I want to be one of the best d-tackles to ever play the game."