Thompson Picked By The Panthers

Washington Football made history Thursday night when three Huskies were picked in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, held in Chicago. Danny Shelton went No. 12 to Cleveland. Marcus Peters was then selected by Kansas City with the 18th overall pick. Lastly, Shaq Thompson made it a historic night when the Carolina Panthers took him with the No. 25 pick.

The Huskies have had two first-round picks three times in their history - the last time was 1995 with Napoleon Kaufman and Mark Bruener - but Thursday was the first time Washington bowled a Draft Day turkey.

Shaq was a late mover in the draft, a player a lot of teams couldn't exactly figure out. Is he a defensive back or linebacker at the next level? Either way, the Carolina Panthers landed the most versatile player in college football last year.

Shaq Thompson is a better athlete than he showed in some of the combine drills," Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com told Dawgman.com after seeing Shaq and the other NFL prospects at Washington’s Pro Day in early April. "But it was a solid performance by Shaq in Indianapolis. He had a great workout. He looked good during linebacker drills, looked good during defensive back drills. He showed the ability to high-point passes and just flip his hips. I was talking to some of the guys whether or not they think he’s a linebacker or defensive back…I think he can play that hybrid role. I think he can do basically whatever you want him to do. In today’s NFL where you’re in nickel 80 percent of the time anyways, I think you do need those type of ‘eraser’ players. Call him a linebacker if you want, call him a safety if you want; I think Shaq Thompson is absolutely one of the best football players in this draft class.

“From a physical skill set he probably fits in best as a traditional safety. I think the biggest thing is that he’s a guy that just doesn’t look like an NFL linebacker. He’s not quite as broad across the shoulders. He isn’t as thick in his chest and his biceps as the traditional linebacker. Since the passing game has very much taken over the NFL, I think more and more teams are going to be willing to sacrifice size and bulk for speed and play-making ability. And he certainly proves that he has that.

“I have him right now in my mock draft slipping out of the first round to The Dolphins at 47 overall), I think he’d be among the first 10-15 players that will go off the board in the second round. I know that he has generated a great deal of attention from clubs and has his own private workouts set already.”

The other analyst we spoke to that day, Doug Farrar of SI.com, wouldn't speculate on exactly where Thompson would land, but did underscore the idea that it just takes one team to fall in love with a player of Shaq's versatility to use a high draft pick on him.

“He’s a guy…people talk and say he’s not this, he’s not that…to me, my pro comparison to Shaq Thompson is DeAndre Levy of the Detroit Lions," Farrar said back in early April. "He gets a lot of picks, is a full-field linebacker. Teams in the NFL are now doing nickel and dime 60 to 80 percent of the time. Nickel is the base defense in the NFL now. You need a linebacker that can cover half the field now, and that’s exactly what Shaq Thompson can do. He looked great in his hip turn. He runs backward faster than most people run forward. But I would not put him at safety. I would keep him at linebacker, maintain his instincts and have the safety stuff…because, let’s say he goes to a team like the (Buffalo) Bills with Rex Ryan. Rex, Wade Phillips…a lot of teams will run dime as their pass defense instead of nickel. At that point you may want to make Shaq a safety in certain packages. I’d keep him where he is and just enjoy all the benefits of what he can do.

“He’s got tremendous closing speed. He can sift through blocks pretty well for his size. He’s compared himself to Lavonte David; I don’t think he’s quite that good. He’s pretty special. But I would just keep him as a nickel linebacker. For example, he would be a great fit in Seattle, because Seattle wants their guys bigger, maybe a little taller, and then just deal with the lack of quickness. But you never know. But any team that wants the faster, full field linebacker who can backpedal - and he looked every bit a safety in those DB drills - to me that just accentuates his value."

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