As one may be able to surmise from the title, the Steelers32 writing team will be enlightening readers with 20 NFL prospects in the next 20 days before the NFL Draft.
As was evident in the AFC Championship game against the Patriots, the Steelers could use some player-maker depth in the secondary. Although our series is still working on prospects with stock nearing the end of the draft, our fourth prospect is worth a long look from many teams.
The fourth prospect the writing team of Steelers32 looks at was part of a fearsome secondary for the Colorado Buffaloes; Tedric Thompson. The 2016 college season was great for the Buffaloes and their secondary due in large part to Thompson’s big-play ability.
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As mentioned, the Steelers are always looking for prospects with big-play ability and that alone may send them towards Thompson. Thompson’s brother, Cedric was drafted by the Dolphins in the fifth-round of the 2015 draft; as of now cbssports.com slates Tedric as a seventh-round selection.
Thompson’s height was exactly 6-foot at the NFL scouting combine and he weighed in at 204 pounds. His numbers at the combine were not all that awe-inspiring as he lacks the length and height most defensive coordinators tend to look for.
Thompson’s 40-yard dash time of 4.60 seconds tied him for 13th among safeties that participated at the combine. If they clocked prospects in a 100-yards dash, Thompson most assuredly would be among the top-five in the country. The 22-year-old’s ability to maintain top speed for a long period of time is his greatest asset.
Thompson added 17 repetitions at 225 pounds for the bench-press; good enough for 10th among safeties at the combine. Thompson’s vertical-jump of 32.5 inches puts him towards the bottom of the safeties that competed. However, his interception on a hail-Mary against Utah(3:20 mark), may beg to differ how high he can jump. Even after running in coverage during the play, Thompson has enough stamina to grab the ball at its highest point; then returns in 51 yards.
Thompson broke up 16 passes in 2016 while adding seven interceptions. His number of interceptions may not be that impressive as the manner in which he takes the ball away.
What does the film say?
Thompson displays all the tools to be a serviceable safety in the NFL; his ball-skills are among the best when talking about the safeties at the college level. When watching the film, it is easy to see Thompson was once a receiver in high school. It is surprising Thompson never returned an interception for a touchdown during his senior season but he did come close.
Thompson’s ability to run after the catch, mixed with his ability to cut receivers off at the top of their routes makes him dangerous. If Thompson can find a landing spot where he would be playing center-field among two NFL caliber corners like he did at Colorado, he could thrive.
In order to make it in the NFL, Thompson will need to work on his one-on-one coverage near the red zone. Thompson also has the tendency to get grabby when going against the third receiver on a college offense; making it impossible to see him near the line in the NFL.
The three-year starter showed poor tackling angles, making it tough for him to lay the hammer as much as NFL scouts like to see. All Thompson’s negatives could easily be corrected with good coaching and watching NFL starters.
Thompson’s stock, for right now, still sits as a seventh-round selection; however, his ability to run after an interception may make teams looks at him for special teams. Thompson does not have much experience as a returner; though he does have the skill-set.
Thompson will have to hope teams like what they see as a safety despite his size. His upper body could use some more strength as well. However, the way he hauls in everything near him as a ball-hawk, makes this writer believe he could make it to a 53-man roster in the future.
With the Steelers in need of safety depth, most mock drafts have them taking one in the early rounds on the draft. However, if they pass on one of the highly-touted safeties, they may look toward Thompson as a late-round depth move.
Given Thompson’s ability to play among two highly scouted corners from his Alma-Mater, one could guess he could get along just fine in the NFL.
Justin Ekstrom covers the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers for cover32, be sure to follow along on Twitter and Facebook. Be sure to check back daily to see the other 18 prospects as we work our way closer to the 2017 NFL Draft.