From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling a wide receiver prospect that dominated this past season, leading him to earn all-conference honors, but his lack of size raises questions regarding his transition from college to the pros.
#Deven Thompkins, WR, Utah State (R-Sr.) – 5070, 167 lbs.
College Gridiron Showcase Invite
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
*Pro Day Results
— Possesses great straight-line speed and burst
— Creates separation with ease and can stack DBs vertically down the field
— Eats cushion as he builds up speed, putting DBs in a bind when he gets on their toes
— Does a good job evading press at the LOS to get a clean release into his route
— Can make subtle, quick cuts in space to make defenders miss as a runner
— Creates separation quickly in in-braking routes near the LOS
— Has pogo sticks in his cleats that allow him to levitate into the air on jump ball catches
— Strong hands at the catch point and will battle with defensive backs to come down with the 50/50 ball
— Has shown the ability to withstand contact and hold onto the football through the process of the catch
— Has a background as a kick returner, and returned one punt for a score
— Well-utilized on quick hitters and screen passes to get him the ball quickly in space
— Would be a statistical outlier, lacking the height and size of traditional NFL WRs
— Only one year of gaudy production at a smaller school
— Was schemed up plenty of easy receptions on WR quicks and tunnel screens
— Benefited from playing in stacked formations with a receiver in front of him or off the line to not face a ton of press coverage
— Provides basically nothing as a tackle breaker after the catch
— Shows instances of quickness and elusiveness as a runner, but lacks that quick twitch to be a real jitterbug after the catch
— Will have a tough time making catches outside of his framework due to short arms and lack of size
— Low BMI and size raise concerns about overall longevity
— Questions remain as to whether he will be able to win combative catches against prototypical NFL boundary cornerbacks
— Senior prospect from Fort Myers, FL
— Played his senior season at Dunbar High School after garnering 4A all-state honors as a sophomore and junior at Bishop Verot High School
— Also competed in track & field at Bishop Verot HS
— Played in all 13 games as a freshman and finished the season with nine receptions for 65 yards (7.2YPR) and two rushes for 30 yards, also added six punt returns for 55 yards (9.2YPR) and two kickoff returns for 68 yards
— Played in 12 games, making six starts as a sophomore and finished the season with 40 receptions for 536 yards (13.4YPR) and four receiving touchdowns, carried the ball six times for 77 yards with one touchdown, returned one punt for a 45-yard touchdown and had one kickoff return for 22 yards
— Appeared in four games with three starts in the 2020 pandemic-shortened season and caught 20 passes for 214 yards (10.7YPR) with one touchdown catch, returned four kickoffs for 78 yards
— Started all 14 games and broke out in 2021 as he had 102 receptions for 1,704 yards (16.7YPR) and ten touchdowns, finishing second in the nation in YPG (121.7), added five carries for 27 yards and returned ten kicks for 230 yards (23.0YPR)
— Has two young children: Nyomi (3), and Messiah (2)
— Major is in interdisciplinary studies
— Associated Press Third-Team All-American (2021); First-Team All-Mountain West (2021); Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl Offensive MVP (2021)
Deven Thompkins was an afterthought when it came to playing at the next level heading into his senior season at Utah State. However, the diminutive 5’7, 167lb WR that had been written off as too small for the NFL game when on to post prolific numbers as the featured weapon in the Aggies offense, posting the fourth-highest receptions (102) second-highest receiving yards (1,704) in the entire FBS along with ten TD receptions. Despite his lack of size, Thompkins is a receiver with impressive straight-line speed, having the ability to challenge defenses vertically as a deep threat. He eats cushion with ease as he gets going as we see on this rep from the slot against Oregon State, running past the defender for the long TD.
Defensive backs must be on their toes and quick to transition from a backpedal into full sprint when matched up against Thompkins, or he will make them pay. He can stack defenders with his acceleration down the field, pulling away from the coverage to reel in the deep bomb like on this play against Air Force, blowing right by the CB in coverage and races off to the end zone for the long catch-and-run.
Along with his impressive straight-line speed, Thompkins has quick feet to make defenders miss in space as well as evade press at the LOS. Anyone watching Thompkins will likely try and knock him by stating that a receiver of his stature would get eaten up by press man corners at the next level. While this could be true, Utah State did a great job playing him off the LOS to avoid this problem, and Thompkins even showed on several occasions that you can hit what you can’t catch. A perfect example on this rep where Thompkins aligns stacked in the slot at the top of the screen and does a great job evading the press attempt, immediately creating separation for the easy throw and completion.
Here is a similar use of evasiveness by Thompkins on this slat route where he stabs the outside to get the CB to pause for just a second, cuts back inside for the reception, then turns up field and sidesteps a defender flying in on the diving tackle attempt, eventually getting tripped up inside the ten.
While Thompkins’ size may be his #1 knock against him, people who watch the tape realize that he plays far bigger than his 5’7, 167lb listed frame suggests. He has springs hidden in his cleats and can effortlessly elevate into the air, skying up to high point the football like a receiver would that was half a foot taller than him. Check out this crazy jump ball Thompkins brings down against New Mexico State, levitating into the air and rises over the defensive back in contested coverage to bring down the deep bomb for a huge gain.
Typically, teams look toward the 6’4-6’5 power forward type receivers with a basketball background to be their combative catch/jump ball receiver who they will throw 50/50 balls up to a couple times a game. While he doesn’t match the arch type, Thompkins has on multiple occasions shown that he can do the same thing, being the gladiator down the field and will compete for the jump ball against longer, taller defensive backs. Don’t believe me? Here are just a few examples from this past season of Thompkins battling for the contested catch, coming down with the ball while blanketed in coverage by defenders.
While Thompkins did not let his lack of height stop him from a stellar breakout season in 2021, the measurables do show up on tape in terms of likely limitations heading from college to the league. His lack of height and length limit his catch radius, making it more difficult to reel in passes outside of his framework like we see on this pass attempt that falls just outside of his reach on the corner route from the slot.
Utah State did a good job getting Thompkins the ball in space on quick hitters and WR screens to give him a chance to create after the catch. Still, Thompkins’ lack of size and functional strength as a runner limits his ability to break tackles, being quite easy to take down to the ground. On top of this, while Thompkins can me some nifty moves in space to get open or press release, he isn’t overly elusive or twitchy as a runner with the ball in his hands. Here are two plays against the Aztecs where Thompkins gets the ball quick in space, but can’t shake the defense in pursuit and arm tackle him to the ground.
Overall, Deven Thompkins is an intriguing case study that pits the measurables against the tape. The measurables say that Thompkins shouldn’t be able to be an impactful player at the next level due to his lack of size, length, and low BMI which often equates to higher chance of injury. Still, when you watch the tape, you see a dynamic weapon who can take the top off the defense, create separation over the middle of the field, be utilized in the quick screen game, and will Moss you for good measure down the field as well.
The team that selects Thompkins will have to have an idea of how to best deploy him so his traits that do translate like speed, separation, and quickness can shine, and then see if his traits like contested catches also can translate against NFL-caliber competition.
When coming up of a fair pro comparison for Thompkins, my mind immediately went to another diminutive, small-school WR that was overlooked during the pre-draft process: former Abilene Christian WR Taylor Gabriel. Gabriel was undrafted out of college due to having a near identical diminutive stature as Thompkins (5’7 1/2, 167lb), but showcased impressive athleticism that closely resembles Thompkins testing numbers from his Pro Day (4.40 40, 4.21 short shuttle, 6.84 3-cone, 40.0” vert, 10’5” broad).
Gabriel ended up signing with the Cleveland Browns following the 2014 NFL Draft as a UDFA and ended up cracking the WR rotation in his first season, recording a handful of starts before landing in Atlanta where he was featured as the slot receiver during the Falcons Super Bowl run. Gabriel showcased his impressive speed, burst, and ability to create after the catch with the ball in his hands like Thompkins did at Utah State. Along with the speed and quickness, Gabriel too showcased his ability to win contested catches on occasion, leaping up in coverage to come down with passes many think he couldn’t much like Thompkins did at Utah State.
The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t send anyone to the Utah State Pro Day based on our records, so any interest in Thompkins at this point would be speculative, at best. Given the fact that Thompkins is regarded as a statistical outlier in this draft class due to his lack of size, there is a very good chance he falls late into Day Three and possibly goes undrafted. His talent level and the return he can provide should he translate to the league make him worthy of such a “dart throw” of sorts in the later rounds, and probably deserves to go much earlier than that. He has an upward hill to climb with the deck stacked against him, but Deven Thompkins has legit NFL talent.
Projection: Mid to Late Day Three
Depot Draft Grade: 7.5 – Raw Traits/Upside Prospect (4th Round)
Games Watched: at San Diego State (2021), vs Hawaii (2021), vs Oregon State (2021)