It is July, so for the NFL that means we get a little more time before the news cycle once again starts churning in earnest. In less than a month, training camps will be in progress and we’ll be looking forward to the 2019 college football season.
But to whet our appetites for the return of actual football news, there is the NFL Supplemental Draft.
Last year the New York Giants spent a 2019 third-round pick to select Sam Beal, cornerback out of Western Michigan. This year, the NFL got a surprising entry into the Supplemental Draft when Washington State defensive back Jalen Thompson was denied his final year of eligibility. Thompson has been regarded as one of the best safeties in the Pac 12 and was considered one of the better senior defensive back prospects in the 2020 draft.
The Giants have gone to a lot of effort to improve their secondary. Should they be put in a bid for the second year in a row?
Weight: 195 pounds
40 Time: 4.57 seconds
- Very quick mental processor.
- Good short-area quickness.
- Flashes solid tackling skills.
- Has the ability to cover short areas near the line of scrimmage.
- Solid ball skills and has solid production over three years (190 tackles, 11.0 for a loss, 6 interceptions, 17 passes defensed)
- Durable player and a reliable starter.
- Foot quickness is a question.
- Doesn’t appear to have great speed.
- Might struggle with man coverage against NFL receivers.
- Rarely asked to blitz (no sacks in three years)
(Thompson is DB number 34)
Should the Giants be interested?
The Giants have poured a ton of resources into their secondary over the last calendar year. Starting with selecting Sam Beal in last year’s supplemental draft and ending with selecting Corey Ballentine in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Giants have added a lot of bodies to their secondary.
It’s worth noting, however, that they only added two safeties — though there has been discussion of transitioning one or more of their young corners to safety.
Free agent Antoine Bethea is expected to be the Giants’ starting free safety, manning the single high zone which so often let the Giants down with Curtis Riley. He hasn’t played that role since 2017 and at 35, it is fair to wonder how long, and how well, Bethea can cover such a huge area of the field. Jabrill Peppers was added via trade, but he was at his best as a pseudo-linebacker for the Browns and did not fit the free safety role when played there.
Thompson has experience as a slot corner, box safety, and free safety, and that experience and versatility should appeal to the Giants. Personally, I like him best as a free safety manning the deep middle or a deep half of the field. There. he is able to take advantage of his impressive ability to read and react to the offense, while also not being put into a position to expose his (somewhat) average speed. The Giants should value his background as a hybrid corner/safety, and that could allow James Bettcher some freedom and flexibility in scheming coverages.
Thompson isn’t the same kind of Supplemental Draft prospect as Sam Beal was. Where Beal was something of an unknown coming out of Western Michigan, Thompson has started every game he was at Washington State. When he surprisingly lost his final year of eligibility, he was on pace to set a school record for games and snaps played and regarded as one of the best safeties in the Pac 12.
Tony Pauline of Draft Insider has written that scouts have a third/fourth round grade on Thompson. Teams putting in bids in the supplemental draft tend to go a round or two below where a prospect is rated.
Considering, however, that Thompson is a proven player at a position at which the Giants are unsure, I would suggest they make a strong bid on him — perhaps matching the third-round selection used on Beal. While Bethea is certainly expected to be an upgrade over Curtis Riley, he is not a long-term answer. Getting a player in-house who could supplant him and give the Giants long-term stability at the free safety position with time to learn from Bethea would be a smart team building decision.