One of Darian Thompson’s strengths as a football player is his ability to see a play develop, patiently waiting for his chance to take a shot at an errant throw from a quarterback.
The past month has tested that patience.
“It’s taken forever,” the former Boise State safety said. “I’ll look at the (NFL) draft list, thinking, ‘I can fit here or I can fit there.’ I’d like to think I can fit in with all 32 teams, but that’s the thing, nobody knows.”
Two years ago, the draft was held two weeks later than it is this week, beginning with Thursday’s first round from Chicago.
“I don’t know what I’d do with myself if it was any longer of a wait,” Thompson said.
The long process will come to an end for Thompson in the next few days. He’s regarded as one of the top five safeties, projected in the second or third round by most mock drafts. He has visited the Steelers and held private workouts with the Panthers, Eagles and Titans.
“It’s truly a blessing — I wasn’t a big recruit. A lot of people doubted me,” the Californian said. “To be a part of this, continue to work hard, regardless of what anyone says, I believe I can accomplish anything I want. Being so close to accomplishing a big goal, to make the NFL, it’s crazy.”
Thompson (6-foot-2, 213 pounds) left Boise State with 19 interceptions in his four seasons, most in Mountain West history and tied for the most among any FBS player in this year’s draft. His post-college career has been quite a ride, earning MVP honors in January for the North in the Senior Bowl then posting sub-par numbers at the NFL combine in February before showing improvement at pro day workouts last month in Boise.
“Very instinctive, tremendous ball skills,” one NFL scout told the Idaho Statesman. “He’s more of a free safety. He’ll need to improve his man cover skills, be consistent with his tackling. Tape is No. 1, but his pro day helped him a little bit, reassured some people. He was never going to be a workout warrior.”
While his 40-yard dash time of 4.69 seconds at the combine was in part due to a stomach bug, Thompson still had to show he could do better. He was timed at just over 4.5 seconds at pro day.
“Probably ‘is he fast enough?’” Thompson said. “I believe I am, I really do. My instincts and film study make up for those 0.2 seconds. It’s kind of weird once you’re in it that people get so hung up on those numbers. A lot of guys who weren’t the fastest somehow ended up in the Hall of Fame.’’
Thompson said he has been talking with former Boise State defensive backs who have gone through the same waiting game, from second-round pick Jamar Taylor to fifth-rounder George Iloka and undrafted Jeron Johnson. He also keeps himself busy with his 6-month-old daughter, Novah.
“Beside just wanting to play the game I love, that’s my No. 1 motivation, knowing I have people depending on me,” Thompson said. “I have no choice but to take advantage. I kind of step back if it gets to be too much and realize how rare this opportunity is, even if you don’t get drafted, but sign as a free agent.
“Wherever I go, I’m going to come in and be ready to be a professional, no outside distractions. I have a vision for myself, to be successful, and I won’t stop until I get there.”
What they’re saying ...
Darian Thompson is regarded as one of the top safeties in this year’s NFL Draft and a likely top-100 pick. Here is what some draftniks are saying about the former Boise State standout:
▪ Mel Kiper, ESPN.com: Ranked 74th best player overall; sixth-best safety ... “A big-play guy, we know about all his career interceptions, but he allowed some plays. When you’re the last line of defense, you can’t misread an angle or misjudge. He did, but he’s a second- or third-round pick.”
▪ Todd McShay, ESPN.com: Ranked third-best ball skills among all DBs; projected as a second-day pick
▪ Dane Brugler, CBSSports.com: Ranked No. 3 free safety; projected as a second-day pick
▪ Gil Brandt, NFL.com: Ranked 51st best player overall; fifth-best safety
NFL Draft on TV
▪ Thursday: Round 1, 6 p.m., ESPN and NFL Network
▪ Friday: Rounds 2-3, 5 p.m., ESPN; 6 p.m., ESPN2 and NFL Network
▪ Saturday: Rounds 4-7, 10 a.m., ESPN and NFL Network
Boise State draft picks in last 10 years
▪ Jay Ajayi, RB; 5th round (149th overall), Dolphins*
▪ DeMarcus Lawrence, DE; 2nd round (34th), Cowboys*
▪ Matt Paradis, C; 6th round (207th), Broncos
▪ Charles Leno Jr., OL; 7th round (246th), Bears
▪ Jamar Taylor, CB; 2nd round (54th), Dolphins
▪ Shea McClellin, DE/LB; 1st round (19th), Bears
▪ Doug Martin, RB; 1st round (31st), Buccaneers
▪ Tyrone Crawford, DE; 3rd round (81st), Cowboys
▪ George Iloka, S; 5th round (167th), Bengals
▪ Billy Winn, DT; 6th round (205th), Browns
▪ Nate Potter, OL; 7th round (221st), Cardinals
▪ Titus Young, WR; 2nd round (44th), Lions
▪ Austin Pettis, WR; 3rd round (78th), Rams
▪ Brandyn Thompson, CB; 7th round (213th), Redskins
▪ Kyle Wilson, CB; 1st round (29th), Jets
▪ Ryan Clady, OT; 1st round (12th), Broncos*
▪ Orlando Scandrick, CB; 5th round (143rd), Cowboys*
▪ Gerald Alexander, S; 2nd round (61st), Lions
▪ Legedu Naanee, WR; 5th round (172nd), Chargers
▪ Korey Hall, FB; 6th round (191st), Packers
▪ Derek Schouman, TE; 7th round (222nd), Bills
▪ Daryn Colledge, OL; 2nd round (47th), Packers
Highest NFL Draft picks in Boise State history
▪ 12. OT Ryan Clady, 2008, Broncos*
▪ 19. DE Shea McClellin, 2012, Bears*
▪ 29. CB Kyle Wilson, 2010, Jets*
▪ 30. DE Markus Koch, 1986, Redskins
▪ 31. RB Doug Martin, 2012, Buccaneers*
▪ 31. FB David Hughes, 1981, Seahawks
▪ 34. DE DeMarcus Lawrence, 2014, Cowboys
▪ 44. WR Titus Young, 2011, Lions
▪ 47. OT Daryn Colledge, 2006, Packers
▪ 54. CB Jamar Taylor, 2013, Dolphins
▪ 61. S Gerald Alexander, 2007, Lions