Jan 2, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Washington Huskies linebacker Shaq Thompson (7) prior to the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the 2015 Cactus Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
After an awful performance on the defensive side of the ball in 2014, the New Orleans Saints may have to turn to the NFL Draft to help fill numerous voids in Rob Ryan‘s unit. A pass rusher is the likely first-round scenario for the Black and Gold, but with an intriguing prospect like Shaq Thompson in the mix, Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis may still want to focus some of their attention on the Washington product.
The outside linebacker and one of the biggest defensive playmakers in the NCAA performs with excellent instincts and an enormous amount of energy on the field. Thompson not only starred as a linebacker for the Huskies, but also displayed his skills as a running back during his junior season in 2014, rushing for 461 yards on 61 carries.
Thompson is a top prospect at the OLB position, relying heavily on his athleticism and agility as a ball carrier. He still has some developing to do until he becomes a true and pure defensive threat, so he can only get better.
Nov 22, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies linebacker Shaq Thompson (7) breaks up the pass intended for Oregon State Beavers running back Damien Haskins (23) during the second half at Husky Stadium. Washington defeated Oregon State 37-13. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
His lack of size and explosiveness limited Washington’s use of him as a pass rusher, but his awareness in coverage and tackling ability grant him likely success in the pass-heavy NFL. A pass rusher would be a great fit in the Big Easy, but just remember how atrocious the Saints were in coverage and at tackling ball carriers.
A downside to Thompson is his frame — he doesn’t have much room for added muscle and actually looks more like a safety, which is a spot he could land with several teams that are in need at that position. He certainly possesses the natural ball skills to be a threat in a secondary somewhere.
After finishing his junior year and final season at Washington with 80 tackles (2.5 for loss), a sack and four defensive touchdowns, Thompson received First-team All-Pac 12 and First-team All-American honors by the Associated Press. He was also the recipient of the Paul Hornung Award, which is presented to the athlete that is believed to be the NCAA’s most versatile player.
ESPN Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. released his first mock draft Thursday morning with the Saints selecting Clemson DE Vic Beasley at No. 13 and Thompson going immediately after at 14 to the Miami Dolphins. The idea of Thompson falling into the hands of the Black and Gold is very realistic, so be sure to keep an eye on him during the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine next month.