LB Shaq Thompson meets with Zimmers, Spielman

Linebacker Shaq Thompson had a formal meeting with the big hitters of the Vikings’ decision-makers. He talked about that meeting and his prospects in the NFL.

Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson said a formal interview with the Minnesota Vikings “went well” and believes he could learn a lot from playing under head coach Mike Zimmer.

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Zimmer, the defensive-minded coach, was in on the interview with Thompson, along with general manager Rick Spielman and linebackers coach Adam Zimmer.

“He just has a lot of knowledge about the game and ways I could pattern my game way better. Just implement his defense into my defense,” Thompson said of his talk with Mike Zimmer.

“We’ll see on draft day about being a good fit. I’m not going to project me being on any team right now.”

Thompson made one thing clear during his media interview on Saturday: He prefers to play linebacker, not safety, where some draft analysts have him projected and definitely not running back. A rumor apparently surfaced that he might do running back drills at the Combine, but he shot that down, saying it was “not true.”

“I’m gonna put it out there that I want to play linebacker. But I can’t say no to (safety),” he said. “(Linebacker) is where I feel the most comfortable. I like to be up by the line of scrimmage. I feel like I’m physical enough. I’m not the biggest guy, but I have a lot of heart.”

Thompson checked into the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week at an even 6 feet and 228 pounds, comparing himself to Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David.

“I feel like size doesn’t matter,” he said. “There were a couple of times where I didn’t get off blocks, but there were other times when I did. If you’re a playmaker, you’re gonna make a play regardless, whether you’re getting blocked or not getting blocked. That’s part of my game I need to tighten up and I’m getting better at it.”

Scout.com draft analyst Dave-Te’ Thomas described Thompson as a “highly versatile performer” that could play either weakside linebacker or strong safety, and some believe he could play both in the NFL, depending on the situation.

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Thomas had Thompson ranked No. 9 overall and the top outside linebacker in his rankings before the Scouting Combine.

“The thing you notice on film is that he utilizes his weight-room strength well to hold ground at the point of attack,” Thomas wrote in his evaluation. “Despite giving up considerable bulk, he will not hesitate to combat versus the larger offensive linemen. … He is not the type that will maul a ball carrier, but does generate a good thud on contact. He is a good leverage player who uses his hands with force to play off blocks. He shows good leverage on the move, and when given a clear lane can run downhill to fill the lane. His range is evident on outside running plays and he has the sudden burst to head off the ball carriers near the sidelines.”

While at Washington, Thompson set the NCAA record by generating 184 yards on four fumble recoveries and another mark by returning three of them for touchdowns. He also scored on an interception return and posted 71 tackles. On offense, he ranked third on the team with 61 carries for 456 yards (7.5 average) and two more touchdowns.

As a nickel back, he posted 74 tackles, 8½ tackles-for-loss, three interceptions and six pass breakups in 2012, and had 78 tackles with an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown at right outside linebacker in 2013. He made 50 of his tackles on running plays last year, holding those ball carriers to 28 yards.

“Thompson is a big hitter who can blow opponents up if he’s on track, doing a good job of breaking down, facing up and wrapping,” Thomas wrote. “He keeps things in front of him in zone coverage, taking proper angles in pursuit. He has the balance and range to make plays sideline to sideline.”

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