NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
First off, I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season. It was a great early gift last Monday night when the Broncos lost and gave the Patriots home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Patriots go into week 17 without the pressure of having to win, but they need to use this week to clean up some things, especially on offense. Again, the offensive line has looked out of sorts and the defense didn’t exactly look its best either so I decided to focus on someone who could potentially help out the defense this time around. Name: Shaq Thompson
School: University of Washington (JR.)
Weight: 230 Lbs.
Willing to do anything on the field to make his team better, Thompson is the consummate football player. He has played multiple positions in college including LB, S, and RB, and is a special teams demon. He is a smart player who shows the ability to diagnose plays quickly and react to the play without hesitation. Thompson is a smooth athlete with a good combination of straight-line burst and lateral agility and he takes good angles when asked to drop into coverage. He is a play maker with an innate ability to create game changing plays and turnovers. He is also very active and aggressive and never takes a play off. Despite his small size, Thompson has shown the ability to shed offensive lineman while still making the tackle and work through trash with his eyes up and make plays.
Thompson’s size is his biggest issue at the next level. If he were several inches taller and 25 pounds heavier, we would be talking about him as a potential #1 pick. In college, Thompson has been a player without a true position. His skill set is best suited for LB, but his size may force him to move permanently to safety. If you watch his film, you will see that he has to make a lot of his tackles by diving for knees rather than wrapping them up. He is a very good tackler, but the lack of “sand in the pants” could be an issue in the NFL.
There is so much to like about Shaq Thompson. He is all over the field making plays and has overcome his size deficiencies to become a great college player. He can get after the quarterback and play in coverage. Thompson is very smart and has great instincts on the field, which is one of his best assets. Obviously his size is a major concern and what position he will ultimately play in the NFL is still up for debate, but we have seen players with size limitations be successful at the next level in the past. If the Patriots decide to not bring Jerod Mayo back, the linebacker could be a position that they seriously consider in the early rounds of the draft. I give Thompson a late first round grade, but I think he may go higher.