Why the Slide?: Deionte Thompson

Why the Slide?: Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Five years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. Three years ago, we started the Why the Slide? series, and this year it is back. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

In the early going of the 2018 season, Thompson was one of college football’s breakout players, and multiple pro team sources were raving about him in September. They felt that a first-round buzz was building around Thompson, but his play turned out to be a flash in the pan, as he really struggled in the second half of the season. He stopped making plays on the ball, missed tackles, missed interceptions, and ended up getting picked on deep downfield, including in ugly performances against Georgia, Oklahoma and Clemson. As a result, Thompson’s standing with teams fell drastically. He decided to skip his senior year, and some team sources said that was in part because Thompson knew younger players would probably play over him in 2019 from Alabama. In the 2019 NFL Draft, Thompson slid to the fifth round before being picked.

In speaking with team sources, Thompson slid because teams had him graded on the third day of the draft. His poor play in the back half of the 2018 season caused his grades to free fall around the scouting community. Some sources said their teams even had him in contention to be given an undrafted, priority free agent grade before they graded him as a late-rounder.

The Arizona Cardinals drafted Thompson, and that is a decent landing spot for him. Budda Baker and D.J. Swearinger have the starting jobs locked down, but Thompson could immediately compete to be the third safety who rotates into the game. The other players competing for backup jobs are not established veterans or early-round picks, so being the third safety looks like Thompson’s job to lose. In the long run, if Thompson improves, he could be a replacement for either Swearinger or Baker. Baker is in the penultimate year of his contract, while Swearinger is a free agent after this season. If Thompson shows well as a rookie, he could take Swearinger’s starting spot in 2020.

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