Things were going great for the New York Giants in the 2015 NFL Draft. They selected Ereck Flowers, a massive offensive tackle to complete their line in the first round; made a huge trade up to steal safety Landon Collins with the first pick of the second round; found defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, a late-first to early-second round value, at No. 74 in the middle of the third round.
Then, along came the fifth round. There was no fourth-round pick due to the trade up to acquire Collins. With that fifth-round pick the Giants selected Mykkele Thompson, a free safety from Texas. Wait, they did what? Mykkele Thompson? A guy most people thought would be an undrafted free agent? A guy who said himself he was surprised to be drafted?
What on earth were the Giants thinking? Who stole Jerry Reese's brain from the time Day 2 of the draft ended and Day 3 began? Mykkele Thompson? With more highly-regarded free safeties like Cedric Thompson and Derron Smith still available? With an intriguing linebacker like Davis Tull on the board? With guys like defensive tackles Tyeler Davison and Michael Bennett, tight end Nick Boyle and other interesting, seemingly more highly-rated, players available?
The Giants took Mykkele Thompson. Whose only pre-draft visit was with the Giants. Why?
"He can run. The kid can run. He is not your classic corner, not your classic safety, but we think he can provide versatility. More of a free safety for us," said Vice President of Player Evaluation Marc Ross after the draft.
Ross said the Giants did not question the idea that they seemed to be the team showing the most interest in Thompson.
"Not at all," Ross said. "We trust our scouts. We trust our coaches. We trust our process and what the media writes or what other teams do [in regards to], if they like him or don't like him, has very little to no bearing on what we do."
CBS Sports draft analyst Dane Brugler was surprised by the selection of Thompson, but said there are picks like this in every draft.
"There are approximately 150 prospects every year that almost every team agrees deserves a draftable grade. And then the final 100 draft spots go to players from a pool of 1,000+ prospects," Brugler said via e-mail. "So there will always be surprises in the final rounds and the Giants saw something in Thompson that they didn't want to risk him being drafted before the sixth or seventh round."
So, what is it about Thompson that attracted the Giants to him? It's mostly about speed, as in 4.47 40-yard dash speed. It's also about coverage skills. With experience at corner, the Giants see Thompson as a guy who can drop down into the slot when needed.
"Versatility, and I have the speed as well," Thompson said during the recent rookie mini-camp. "I can play whatever position they want me to, and when I'm in the back end I can run. That's the big thing."
Thompson has more speed than Collins, Nat Berhe, Cooper Taylor or Bennett Jackson, the players he is most likely competing with for a roster spot and playing time at safety.
"It's wide open," said Thompson of the Giants' safety spot. "They want players to come in here and compete. If I show what I'm capable of and they like it then I'll have a chance to play."
Thompson did not stand out during the rookie mini-camp. He also didn't make any glaring mistakes. Two days of work in shorts and t-shirts against a bevy of tryout players, most of whom won't be in NFL training camps, is hardly enough time to draw any conclusions about his future. It also wasn't a bad start for him.
If Thompson makes it, and makes an impact with the Giants at some point, it will be because his speed and experience at corner give him an athletic skill set the other Giants' safety candidates don't possess. Ultimately, that's why the Giants selected him in the draft.