Thompson possesses cat-like quickness and foot fire that he uses to move both laterally and vertically with fluidity. His COD is exceptional due to being a highly twitched up athlete. Shaq has excellent recovery speed to close on the football and on double moves in coverage. He rarely is out of position in space often excelling versus premier athletes (the ’14 Stanford tape has an example of this with Shaq vs Ty Montgomery in the slot) using his suddenness and instincts. Thompson has the rare combination of being very smooth (flexible/coordinated) and explosive. His balance is displayed in zone coverage when he is in is backpedal, stops on a dime, and accelerates with no wasted movement.
Section Grade: 7.7
Pride / Quit
Shaq makes is a big play waiting to happen on both sides of the ball (7.5 YPC on 66 rush attempts in ‘14) mainly due to his supreme athleticism, instincts, and explosiveness. He was the team’s top offensive player and arguably the top defender in ’14 on a defense full of playmakers. Thompson has lined up as nickel CB, S, ILB, OLB, and RB this season which speaks to his versatility and his willingness to put the team first. Despite getting occasionally overwhelmed in traffic versus bigger/stronger OL he is always attacking the man in front of him regardless of size and he is capable of jolting blockers at initial contact.
Section Grade: 7
Learn / Retain
Instinct / Reaction
Shaq’s ability to play so many positions is a testament to his mental capacity to be able to handle various schemes and duties as a player. His instincts are truly outstanding particularly in coverage where he has quiet feet when reading the QBs’ eyes and bounces out of his breaks displaying outstanding reaction times to the ball. He also excels read/reacting to ballcarriers and gets to top speed very quickly with lots of pop.
Section Grade: 7
Strength / Explosion
Shaq has a muscular, toned body type with good not great length and a frame capable of handling some more weight which he specifically needs in his lower half to develop some more sand (esp. if he stays on as a full-time LB). He has excellent durability and hasn’t had any major injuries nor missed a game in his college career (39 starts). His explosion can’t be overstated, he simply is a physical specimen who has the movement ability and twitch to live in space and excel. His explosion is also on display on hits/tackles in space where he locks on to people, keeps his shoulders square on tact, unlocking his hips to deliver heavy blows. His functional strength is better in his upper than lower half and he lacks good enough sand to hold up at the POA versus momentum.
Section Grade: 7.1
8 Read & React
Does an exceptional job of read/reacting to the ball. Consistently reads the QBs’ eyes in zone coverage & is very sudden in his reaction time. Very aware of where the ball is at all times
8 Initial Quicks
Once he makes a decision to pursue the ball his feet and hips explode to where he is aiming for. Very in-tune/coordinated
6 Play Strength
Has average functional strength but struggles to maintain ground at POA due to lack of sand & limited arm length. More powerful than strong on the field
Punishing hitter who consistently wraps but can get out leveraged & miss the occasional head up tackle
6 Shed Blocker
Struggles to shed versus bigger/stronger blockers but can win by using his explosiveness and aggressiveness to jolt blockers on initial contact and create separation
5.5 Run at Him
His weight simply doesn’t allow him to be an anchor vs the run but he wont need to be if at the correct position
8 Pursuit / Range
Has excellent instincts to the ball and once he is locked on he closes to the ball extremely fast. Shines running sideline to sideline and has very good long speed
8 Closing Burst
His instincts paired with his twitch allow him stop and go very suddenly both laterally and vertically
7 Zone Coverage
With his experience at safety his coverage skills in the zone are advanced for an LB and really stick out. Plays in control and disciplined in space
6.5 Man Coverage
Shaq was indecisiveness at times when matched up versus receivers in the slot in ’13 but appears to have grown confidence in the ’14 tapes. Has the flexibility in his hips, instincts, and twitch to stay with slot receivers in space
5.5 Pass Rush Ability
Can blow by people but hasn’t demonstrated a consistent ability to get pressure. Hasn’t had a ton of opportunities either
Shaq is a disciplined player for the most part but due to him having extraordinary confidence in himself, will take the occasional chance and get burned
Section Grade: 6.8
8 ATH ABILITY
8 INITIAL QKS
7.5 PLAY SPEED
6 PLAY STR
Section Grade: 7.3
Overall Grade: B 7.2
Incredibly dynamic and versatile player (high school safety who played nickel back as a freshman in Washington as well as RB in ’14). Excels most in space due to supreme athleticism. Very instinctual player who reads/reacts exceptionally well both in the run and passing game. Displays patience w/very quiet feet in zone coverage reading QBs’ eyes & tons of twitch in reacting. Closes on the ball extremely quickly with explosive hips and fast foot fire. Consistently unlocks on contact packing a punch. COD is also very fluid and natural for him. True sideline to sideline player with very good top speed and plenty of range.
Lacks the functional strength, sand, and great arm length to withstand at the POA versus bigger/stronger OL. He’s a player who takes risks likely due to knowing his athletic prowess and will occasionally overrun or take poor angles to the ball. Needs to be reeled in a bit. Hasn’t focused on one primary position as much as you’d like and could experience a steep learning curve early on if kept at a single position and asked to do too much. early.
Thompson came to Washington as the No. 1 rated player in the state of California as well as the No. 1 safety in the nation. He saw significant playing time as a true freshman in 2012 starting every game at nickel back. He finished 2012 with 74 total tackles, 44 solo, 6 PBUs, 3 INTs, 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, and 1 blocked kick. Shaq would go on to switch to linebacker in 2013, starting 12 games and 14 in 2014 at the same position. His 2014 season he saw extensive time at running back as well as linebacker. He earned first-team All-American along with winning the Paul Hornung Award for the nation’s most versatile player. At RB he finished with 61 attempts, 456 yards, 7.5 YPC, 2 TDs, and 4 receptions for 56 yards. At LB he finished the year with 81 total tackles, 52 solo, 1 sack, 2.5 TFL, 5 PBUs, 1 INT (pick-6), 4 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries (all returned for TDs), finishing with 4 returned touchdowns. To cap off his career Shaq on the defensive side of the ball he finished with 233 tackles, 146 solo, 3.5 sacks, 15 TFL, 16 PBUs, 5 INTs, 3 fumbles forced, 5 fumbles recovered, and 5 defensive TDs.
Thompson has a very well-defined, muscular build with room to add more weight if need be. He has seen playing time as a running back on offense and on the defensive side of the ball has lined up at S, OLB & ILB both at the LOS off the edge as well as his primary spot off the ball. He often times will line up over the slot WR and stays on the field in 4-5 wide sets. Shaq excels most in space due to being exceptionally athletic, twitched up, and instinctive. Dropping off in zone coverage and reading the ball is where he really shines. He demonstrates very smooth footwork in space, patience, and an uncanny knack for locating the ball. He not only has very smooth movements and flexible hips, but is also extremely sudden in his breaks to the ball allowing him to stay in phase in man coverage consistently. His initial quicks paired with refined body control enable him to deliver big blows in the middle of the field and in backside pursuit. In the ’13 tapes I saw he played much more recklessly and relied far too much on athleticism than technique. While he is far from a finished product in this regard he has shown significant improvement this season and appears to take coaching well. In the run game, particularly in the box, Thompson’s lack of raw power and strength rear their head a bit. He gets latched onto fairly easily by OL and doesn’t have the arm length to lockout and keep them off his body. He does show the ability to come downhill with explosion and generate a pop on initial contact, freeing himself from blocks but when he doesn’t have this needed space he becomes a liability versus the run. As previously mentioned space is his friend, which is a rare thing to say about a traditional college LB and will offer tons of versatility on the next level. His best fit based on the film I saw and his aforementioned skill-set is as a box S/SS who can shine as a nickel/dime LB capable of sliding over to cover the slot. His next best role would be as a WLB in a 4-3 defense, especially the Tampa-2, making Dallas and Tampa ideal landing spots. While the tweener tab can apply with him, it won’t bring with it the typical negative connotation as he is far too special of an athlete to overlook.
Value – Top 15
Projection – Top 10
Player Comp – Thomas Davis