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Carolina Panthers Sophomore Spotlight: Shaq Thompson

The Carolina Panthers selected Shaq Thompson in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Brandon Croce takes a look at his career to this point and what could be expected in his sophomore season.

The Carolina Panthers had the 25th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and even though at the time they appeared to have a major hole at left tackle, they selected athletic outside linebacker Shaq Thompson out of the University of Washington.

Before the Carolina Panthers

While a member of the Washington Huskies, Thompson was a jack of all trades playing the hybrid safety/linebacker role and even played running back in his final season, averaging 7.5 yards per carry.

Defensive Stats

Year Total Tackles Tackles for a Loss Sacks Interceptions Passes Defended Fumble Recoveries
2012 74 8.5 2 3 0 0
2013 78 4.0 .5 1 4 0
2014 80 2.5 1 1 4 4

Rushing Stats

Year Attempts Rushing Yards Touchdowns
2014 61 456 2

*Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com

What the Analysts Said

Long, twitchy athlete with outstanding range to become a highly restrictive defender. Able to make plays well outside of his area against both the run and pass. With his big-play potential, Thompson could become a unique chess piece in the hands of the right defensive coordinator, but there are a growing number of teams that are beginning to struggle with whether to project Thompson as a safety or 4-3 outside linebacker.

-Lance Zierlin, NFL.com

Some pundits have projected Thompson as a first-round pick. In speaking with multiple teams, they have second-day grades on Thompson. They say he hasn't graded out as high as Lavonte David and view him as playing the Will linebacker in a 4-3 defense like David. David was a tackling machine at Nebraska and that wasn't the case for Thompson at Washington. Thompson also could play some inside linebacker if he were drafted into a 3-4 defense. For that, he would be a Mo linebacker which is basically a run-and-chase defender. In speaking with many NFL teams, they have Thompson going in the second or third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. 

-WalterFootball.com

2015 Season

Games Played Total Tackles Sacks Passes Defended
14 50 1.0 2

Thompson saw limited action during his rookie season, mostly due to the Carolina Panthers playing in their nickel defense, with three cornerbacks on the field and only two linebackers.

However, Thompson did see some more playing time towards the end of the year and produced with five or more tackles in five of the six final games, including the playoffs.

2016 Season

This upcoming season could be a big one for the second-year linebacker. The Panthers have some questions in their secondary and they may be more inclined to play out of their base 4-3 defense more, which would mean more playing time for Thompson.

Thompson is an athletic player who has the ability to drop back into pass coverage and cover a tight end or even a running back out of the backfield. If he is able to prove that early in the season, Thompson will make this linebacker group that much better.

Twitter @BrandonCroce

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