When you talk about football and schemes there is a lot of envy towards success. Enter Seattle and their ability to play Earl Thomas as a single high safety in what is considered the upper echelon of secondaries in the NFL and now that rangy, free safety is a hot type of player that teams want to find.
The problem is, it's not an easy position to fill or every team would have one.
That's what makes a player like Darian Thompson so intriguing, could he be the free safety that everyone covets? Does his length, range and athleticism fit what the Cardinals are looking to add to their secondary?
Darian Thompson, FS Boise State
Thompson is a fun prospect to watch because he plays with a reckless abandon, but that can cause issues too.
You notice Thompson's natural ability to play down hill against the run and attacking the ball in the air, but his aggressiveness sometimes leads to looking for big hits or bailing on his zone too early. These are areas you live with though because he does make so many big plays.
As one person said to me about Thompson, "Great when behind everything. Plays downhill. Plus tackler. Understands assignments. Will take gambles in passing game. Stiff hips when coming down into coverage. Great attacking the ball while it is in the air. Will fit a team in need of a CF type safety that can blitz and come up on late run support. Don't see him as a box safety due to poor pass coverage."
The pass coverage portion is interesting. Personally, I don't like him covering the slot and a healthy Mathieu means he shouldn't have to much in AZ, but he did it quite a bit, per Pro Football Focus, lining up in the slot 32% of the time his senior season, which is a waste of his talents to me.
At the Senior Bowl, Thompson stole the show. My buddy, Charles McDonald said, "Thompson was one of the best safeties through the entire week of practice. What stuck out to me was how his fluidity in the drills translated seamlessly to the team periods. I would be shocked to see him fall out of the second round."
That's the thing, would he be there in the second round for a team like Arizona?
Watching him play and what he can do on the back end of a defense, I'd say no, but here's another opinion, "If you miss out on the Jalen Ramsey sweepstakes, Thompson is a heck of a get. Thompson's 'trump card' is probably is recognition. In the run game he can read and react with the best of them. Once he reacts, he gets downhill in a hurry and finishes the play. Anything asked at the position, Thompson can do. He can play the center field role and read the QBs eyes to force turnovers. He can play in an underneath zone and undercut passes, and he can play at the line of scrimmage, be physical, best blocks and make stops in the run game.
What holds Thompson back will be of he cannot hold up in man coverage, or if he continues to struggle at changing directions. He's a 'fine', but not great athlete. He's just too good of a football player already for me to think he won't be a contributor at the next level. He's a playmaker that can play multiple roles and play those roles well. What more do you want?"
What more do you want if you're Arizona? Maybe better man coverage skills? Sure. Short zone awareness? Needs to improve, but he also offers something they don't have right now, range in the back end. The ability to play a single high safety.
He's an asset, a weapon and something the Arizona Cardinals need, but is that a first round worthy pick? If not, it's unlikely he'll be an option in the second round.