Could develop some man-coverage ability vs tight ends
Good pursuit defender
Underwhelming tackle total
Not very physical in the ground game
Tweener linebacker/safety/running back
Summary: Thompson has been a highly debated prospect in the 2015 NFL Draft. Some see Thompson as a running back, others a safety, and his preference is to play outside linebacker in the NFL. At Washington, he ran the ball on the offense and played linebacker on defense. In my opinion, Thompson is a linebacker for the NFL.
Thompson posted modest production for the Huskies the past three seasons. He made an immediate impact as a freshman as Thompson totaled 74 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks, three interceptions, three passes broken up and a blocked kick. In 2013, he had 78 tackles, four tackles for a loss, four passes broken up and an interception.
As a junior, Thompson split time between running back and linebacker. He totaled 81 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack, four passes broken up, one interception and three forced fumbles in 2014. He produced some clutch turnovers for the Huskies. On the ground, he averaged 7.5 yards per carry for 456 yards and two touchdowns.
As a run-defender, Thompson has the quickness to defend the perimeter and is a quality tackler. He isn't a force and his instincts are inconsistent. Some times, they're phenomenal and other times, he falls quiet. Thompson isn't overly physical, but he has the athleticism and speed to chase down backs. For the NFL, Thompson will need to improve at taking on and shedding blocks.
The best skills that Thompson projects to having for the NFL is the ability to help in pass coverage as a three-down linebacker. At Washington, he showed the speed and athleticism to defend backs, tight ends and receivers in the middle of the field. Thompson has some ball skills to pick off passes or slap them away. He can cover ground in zone and get depth when he drops in coverage. Like all college players, Thompson will need some development at guarding tight ends and backs in man coverage, but he has the potential to develop that for the NFL.
Some pundits have projected Thompson as a first-round pick. In speaking with multiple teams, they have second-day grades on Thompson. They say he hasn't graded out as high as Lavonte David and view him as playing the Will linebacker in a 4-3 defense like David. David was a tackling machine at Nebraska and that wasn't the case for Thompson at Washington. Thompson also could play some inside linebacker if he were drafted into a 3-4 defense. For that, he would be a Mo linebacker which is basically a run-and-chase defender. In speaking with many NFL teams, they have Thompson going in the second or third round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Geno Hayes. There really wasn't a good comparison for Thompson, but Hayes is also a fast, athletic linebacker who is better in pass coverage than run support. Hayes is a linebacker/safety tweener, and Thompson could be that in the NFL.
NFL Matches: Houston, Arizona, Dallas, Denver, Green Bay, Indianapolis, New Orleans, St. Louis, New York Giants
Houston has a huge need at inside linebacker. Brian Cushing isn't the same after all of his injuries, and one of the Texans' biggest needs is for an inside linebacker. In the second or third round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Thompson could be a fit for Houston.
The Cardinals wanted to improve their speed and athleticism at inside and outside linebacker this offseason. Arizona signed Sean Weatherspoon, but he's struggled to stay healthy, and Thompson could be a nice fit in the second round.
Dallas could consider some help at linebacker, and Thompson could be a fit as a Will (weakside) linebacker in Rod Marinelli's version of the Tampa 2.
Denver is another landing spot for Thompson. The Broncos need an improvement at linebacker after Nate Irving didn't work out. Denver has liked athletic linebackers like Thompson in past years using the likes of Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan. Thompson could fit in that mold.
In the NFC North, Green Bay would be a nice fit. The Packers moved on from A.J. Hawk and have needed more talent at linebacker for years. Thompson could really thrive in Green Bay's defense as a run-and-chase defender.
The Colts have a need at inside linebacker, and Thompson would be a potential upgrade for them. D'Qwell Jackson turns 32 next September, and his play looked like it was slipping last season. Adding some young talent would make sense for Indianapolis.
New Orleans needs help at inside linebacker after letting Curtis Lofton and David Hawthrone leave. Thompson could be a fit in the middle of Rob Ryan's defense and could be used in a variety of ways.
The Rams need a Sam (strongside) linebacker to push or replace Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Thompson seems like a nice fit for the St. Louis front seven.
The Giants have needed to improve their linebackers for years, and Thompson would make a lot of sense for New York in the second or third round of the 2015 NFL Draft.