Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson could be a slam dunk for the Saints' defense _lowres

Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


Shaq Thompson

Position: Linebacker

School: Washington

Height: 6-feet

Weight: 228 pounds

Shaq Thompson is the most versatile prospect in the 2015 NFL Draft. He recorded 81 tackles from his linebacker position and 456 rushing yards on offense for the University of Washington. Although he is undersized compared to other NFL outside linebackers, he is a pure playmaker who will succeed against today’s NFL offenses.

Thompson’s most sought after attribute will be his pass coverage skills. He has the ability to cover running backs out of the backfield or tight ends. He also excels in zone coverage and possesses very good football smarts, reading the quarterback and putting himself in the correct position to make plays in the passing game. I wish his athleticism was used more off of the edge and as a blitzer but his value as a coverage linebacker makes it tough to use him much as a pass rusher.

Thompson is undersized but he is very physical against the run. He makes quick decisions and plugs gaps swiftly but he sometimes has trouble getting off blocks. When watching him on tape, he is always around the football and never gives up on pursuing the ball carrier. He may have trouble against NFL linemen but he uses his athleticism and smarts to dissect plays quickly.

Not only does the Washington product excel on both defense and offense, but he is also a missile on the kickoff and punt coverage teams. Overall, Thompson is a big time playmaker who has the potential to be a four-down player in the NFL.

Where would he fit in New Orleans?

Weighing in at only 228 pounds, Thompson’s best fit would be at weakside linebacker in a 4-3 defense. Thompson’s size may force him to bulk up to defend the run better at the next level, but he would provide great pass coverage on tight ends and running backs. In my opinion, every team needs a versatile linebacker like Thompson in today’s pass-happy NFL and he would be used like a Swiss Army knife in Rob Ryan’s defense. He may not be a three-down linebacker right away, but he will provide an instant impact on third down and special teams.

Where could the Saints draft him?

A versatile player like Thompson is conveted by many teams, so the Saints would most likely have to use their first round selection on the former Washington Husky.