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Shaq Thompson, the junior linebacker for the Washington Huskies, enters the 2015 NFL Draft after a career that resulted in production on both sides of the ball. In 2014, Thompson earned First Team All-American honors as well as First Team All-Pac 12 recognition. He was the winner of the Paul Hornung Award, given annually to the most versatile player in the country. Thompson took home the hardware as a result of his impact as a linebacker and a running back; He totaled 81 tackles and 2.5 TFL on defense while contributing 456 rushing yards and 2 TDs on offense. He had a long run of 57 yards. In 2013, Thompson was named Honorable Mention All-Pac 12 (achieved same status in 2012). For his career, Thompson started at linebacker in each of the last two years and has totaled 233 tackles and 15 TFL. Physically, Thompson is an undersized linebacker who is a little light in the pants. At 228 lbs, his best fit will be at weakside linebacker in a 43 front. He simply lacks the girth to take on blocks with consistent success. Athletically, Thompson arguably has the most range in the class. He gets to full speed in a hurry and can go sideline to sideline in pursuit of the ball carrier. He’s a legitimate scoring threat on defense, too, as he can scoop a fumble and take it the distance. Thompson is a slippery linebacker who is a challenge for opposing blockers to get their hands on. His lateral agility makes him a hard target to hit. That said, when linemen are able to get a hold of him, he struggles to shed/disengage. Thompson displays a good first step when attacking the LOS while also possessing very good location skills; he diagnoses the aiming point, locates the ball carrier, and chases him down. He’s not the most powerful hitter and will fail to wrap up at times, but he competes and is pretty reliable when taking down his opponent. Thompson has a very good feel in pass coverage, displaying good fluidity and quickness. He quickly deciphers information, gets a good jump on the football, and has top-tier ball skills. He possesses very good body control and can adjust well to the throw. He possesses the traits necessary to be an asset in pass defense, especially when matching up against the athletic NFL tight ends.
BOTTOM LINE: Shaq Thompson is a talented and athletic linebacker who will make his biggest impact in pass coverage. He won’t offer much as a pass rusher. As a run defender, Thompson will make more plays in pursuit than when run at, but that’s not necessarily a negative. If he bulks up a bit, he should manage better in a phone booth. Even if he stays light and quick, Thompson is the kind of linebacker that teams need. He has the ability to cover NFL running backs and tight ends, which is an asset that most NFL teams will covet. Thompson should be one of the first 32 names off the Board in April.
GRADE: 7.9 (High-2nd Round)
Submitted by Bryan Perez (@FirstRoundGrade)