Shaq Thompson a Realistic Possibility For the Seattle Seahawks?


With Malcolm Smith leaving for Oakland, and Bruce Irvin due $7.75 million, targeting Shaq Thompson as a strong-side linebacker in round two of the 2015 NFL Draft makes a lot of sense for the Seattle Seahawks.

One of the strategies that has allowed Pete Carroll and John Schneider to have so much success in putting this team together is the way they sign the essential star players to big-deals, but allow non-essential guys, who are still really good players, to walk, and replace them with younger, cheaper alternatives through the draft.

This might be one of those situations.

Many are pinning the UW All-American as a strong safety in the NFL. However, Thompson has been adamant that his primary position is linebacker in an interview with USA Today’s Tom Pelissero.

"“I want to put it out there: I’m a linebacker. Outside linebacker. Strong side, that’s where I feel most comfortable. It’s basically like a strong safety. Nowadays, this is a passing game. You need linebackers who can cover and drop in zone. And I’m a three-down player. You don’t have to take me off the field. Even on special teams, you don’t have to take me off. I love special teams, especially kickoff coverage.”"

Upon hearing the opinions of the experts, I strongly disagreed. However, after watching Shaq on film, I am inclined to agree with them.  Safety might be where he can be most effective.

Shaq Thompson’s Strengths

Shaq is at his best in space. He is fantastic in pursuit, and has great closing speed and quickness. One of those guys who is somehow always near the action. This contributed to his video-game defensive numbers in 2014: 81 tackles, four fumbles forced, three fumbles recovered, one interception, one sack and four defensive touchdowns. He’s a right-place-right-time kind of player, and a big-play machine.

Sep 6, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies linebacker Shaq Thompson (7) scores a 57 yard touchdown on offense against the Eastern Washington Eagles during the first half at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Thompson is great in coverage. As mentioned above, the athleticism to always be around the play contributes, but that also takes instincts. And he has really good instincts. Great at diagnosing the play and understanding where he needs to be. He reads QB’s eyes ridiculously well for a linebacker and makes plays on the ball in the air.

He was the 2014 Paul Hornung Award winner as the nations most versatile player. He starred all over the field defensively for the Dawgs, but also starred in all three phases of the game. He can contribute on special teams as well as be a backup/emergency runningback.  He ran for 7.5 yards per carry for Chris Peterson’s offense when injuries thinned the Huskies depth chart in the backfield. That ties him for sixth in the country with Melvin Gordon.

By all accounts, he is a great teammate and a hard worker. You never have to worry about distractions or dumb penalties/mistakes with this guy.

Shaq Thompson’s Weaknesses

As an undersized point guard, I was often under-rated because of my size, so I hate using that in my scouting reports. But size really is an issue here if he is going to play linebacker in the NFL.

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All three of the Seahawks’ starters are at least 240 pounds. Thompson weighs 222, and it shows on film at times. He gets swallowed up by blockers in the hole. When there’s open space for him to navigate, he can use his lateral quickness and body control to make plays, but he get’s lost in the rugby scrums of the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust-type plays.

Bulking up significantly, and improving his hands and block-shedding technique are absolute musts if he is going to play LB. Poor hand-fighting and block-shedding also means lack of pass-rushing ability, which most 4-3 defenses prefer or require at all three linebacker spots to allow for the increasingly exotic defensive schemes.

Shaq Thompson Staying in Seattle?

Unfortunately, Shaq Thompson is unlikely to fall to no. 63, and the Seahawks are unlikely to trade up based on their recent history. However, if he did start to slide through the second-round, as some are predicting, he would definitely be at the top of Seattle’s board, and would save them quite a bit of money at the SAM spot.

Next: Marcus Peters: Seahawks Draft Profile

Previous reports in the Seahawks Draft Profile series include:

Photo credit for all above pictures: USA Today Sports