On Wednesday, Aug. 20th, the Colts signed rookie tight end Tyrice Thompson to the 80-man roster and released linebacker Danny Verdun-Wheeler.
Thompson attended Arizona State and appeared in 38 games during his four years in Tempe. He was recruited as a defensive end coming out of South Mountain High School in Phoenix, but eventually settled in at wide receiver at the college level. He also saw some heavy action on special teams, blocking two punts.
Thompson hauls in a pass against Arizona in 2007
Harry How/Getty Images
At the NFL level, he projects as a tight end, since he is too slow to play wide receiver and is not polished enough at the position to take advantage of his size — 6-feet-5, 220 pounds — but he has added some weight in the offseason.
When one sees a profile like Thompson's: Recruited as a defensive end, played wide receiver and special teams, but projects as a tight end, the dreaded "A" word comes up, and he automatically gets filed away as an "athlete," quickly dismissed as a project and a player that would be lucky to make the practice squad.
He represented himself very well at ASU's Pro Day, which was particularly important, since he was not invited to the Combine. He ran both his 40 yard dashes in the high 4.6 range and registered a 38-inch vertical jump.
His athleticism, his multiple positions, and the fact that he wasn't exactly nominated for the Biletnikoff Award every year — he caught 16 total passes in four seasons as a Sun Devil, with 15 of those coming in his senior year — all added up to the athlete tag being applied to him. It also led to him going undrafted in April, but he was signed by the Buccaneers on May 2.
According to Matthew Postins of BucsBlitz.com, he barely registered a blip on the radar, which makes sense, given that he was waived on June 18. He didn't sign with another team in the interim and, although the Colts may not be his last chance for his career, they may be his last chance for this season.
The man who is most familiar with Thompson, Hod Rabino, publisher of DevilsDigest.com, had this to say: "He's obviously a very versatile and athletic guy, having played tight end, wide receiver, and defensive end here. He's tall and not very physical. He wasn't asked to block much as a tight end or receiver, but he's definitely a mismatch in the red zone and in the open field."
While it's true that Thompson's experience as a tight end is sparse at best, that also means that he didn't have the opportunity to develop any bad habits. He is light for a tight end, but not too much smaller than Jacob Tamme (240 pounds), or Dallas Clark (listed at 252, but probably closer to 245), he has the kind of speed to stretch a defense, and the experience splitting out wide in the formation that every Colts tight end needs.
Thompson is a project, to be sure, but he is also now a Colt and has an equal shot to make the roster. In addition, since he sat unemployed for over two months, it is unlikely that another team would claim him if waived, and he would be a welcome addition to the practice squad.
Gijon Robinson spent a good deal of time there and looks to have the edge on the third tight end roster spot behind Tamme and Clark, although that is slightly by default, since Tom Santi has yet to practice or appear in a game.
Bill Polian's scouting eye is not wrong often, and he must have seen something in Thompson when he was looking at film and talking to ASU coaches for second-round pick Mike Pollak and current Jet Rudy Burgess, who the Colts also expressed interest in prior to the draft, both of whom played for the Sun Devils last season. Polian has no doubt already done his homework and may already have a spot saved for Thompson on the taxi squad.