From now until the 2019 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#14 Deionte Thompson/S/6’2 196 lbs
- Can deliver a highlight reel big hit
- Most comfortable as a single high safety
- Breaks on the ball quickly on throws to middle of the field
- Good range as a center field/single high safety
- Can get to sideline from MOF in coverage
- High level of athleticism
- Physical when attack receivers at the catch
- Special teams ace
- Reckless coming downhill at times, throws his body instead of wrapping up
- Could be late to diagnose against the run
- Non-factor in the slot, late to react, feet too heavy
- Susceptible to taking poor angles to the football
- Stiff at changing direction
- Very inconsistent tackler
- Really saw his play drop down the stretch
- 2018: 78 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, 2 interceptions, 6 pass defenses
- Career: 112 tackles, 3 interceptions, 7 pass defenses
- 2018 was his first full year as a starter
- 2018 First team All-America
- 2018 First team All-SEC by coaches
- Special teams standout in 2017 and 2016
- Was ranked the No. 3 safety in the country coming out of high school by ESPN
I do not think I have done a complete 180 on a prospect like I have on Alabama safety Deionte Thompson. I started following Thompson during the midst of last season and was drawn towards his ability in coverage. His stock for the 2019 was sky high but as the season kept progressing, the Alabama safety’s play began to decline. What looked to be occasional flaws eventually became traits as they occurred more frequently. To be fair, Thompson was still just in his first full season as a starter and oh boy, was it a roller coaster ride.
First, let’s look at what Thompson does well. He was frequently used as a single high or cover two safety. Here he is playing center field, an assignment that he does quite well. Thompson has the athleticism and feel to be a free safety and patrol anything vertical. He shows the quickness and speed to have the range to be a sideline to sideline safety. Watch him cut off the sideline vertical route for an interception.
Thompson is aggressive, he is going to commit on his first instinct always and go full force. At the point of the catch, he is very physical which leads to many pass breakups. Whether it is going sideline to sideline or defending the middle of the field, Thompson has to be accounted for as he will make his presence known.
Here is where things start to go downhill – literally. Thompson does a fine job of protecting the back end of the Alabama defense but when it comes to the front lines, he struggles with holding down the fort. Due to his aggressive play style, Thompson has a habit of launching himself into his targets and they usually end up resulting in whiffs. He needs to show better tackling technique and willingness to attack the ball carrier head on rather than throwing himself and hoping for the best. Thompson does land big hits on occasions (more on that later) but consistency is the name of the game in the NFL. If the Alabama safety was a baseball player, he would be the guy who hits 25 home runs but bats .200. Sure, he will create a few headlines and highlight reel plays but I’d rather have the guy who bats .300 consistently.
The Alabama safety also has a hard time diagnosing the run and is usually late to process the play call. On the play above, he is flat footed and takes a while to key in on the run to the outside. By the time, he realizes what is going on he is behind in the foot race and has no chance at making a play.
Remember how I talked about how when Thompson does land on his reckless tackle attempts, the results are usually highlight worthy? Here it is above as Thompson is able to land a big hit and dislodge the ball. It is a highlight worthy play that showcases that he does have some power in his tackling ability but once again, he is going to need to shore up his technique to be able to consistently deliver that.
Ultimately, Thompson’s 2018 season was a rollercoaster ride, his play progressed higher and higher until ultimately it went downhill. He is a guy who I think should have returned for a senior year in order to get some more seasoning and experience. Thompson will likely land in a back up role and will have to earn his way up a depth chart through practice reps and special teams ability, which he is well equipped with. He is a development prospect with some tools to be an adequate free safety but that could still be years away.
Projection: Day Three
Games Watched: vs Ole Miss, vs Auburn, vs Louisville