There is an adage about NFL offenses that crops up every draft season. Particularly in the modern NFL, where the passing game is king.
You either have the quarterback, or you are looking.
There are always exceptions. Teams that have younger passers are hoping that player develops into the quarterback they saw in him when the organization drafted him to begin with.
That would apply to the New York Giants, who are hoping that Daniel Jones takes the steps forward to solidify his position as the leader of the Giants’ offense for the next ten years.
However, there is also an offshoot of that philosophy: If you are unsure if your quarterback is the answer, then, well, you have your answer.
Now that might lead one to the conclusion that the Giants should pick a quarterback with one of their two picks inside the top ten next week. As we have already discussed, given the other needs with this roster that is a proposition that is unlikely to come to fruition.
But that does not mean that the Giants should avoid the position entirely next weekend.
While Joe Schoen has five picks in the first three rounds at his disposal, those can be used to address more pressing needs for the 2022 season. Cornerback, offensive line, defensive line, pass rush, tight end, positions that have critical needs for the season ahead.
When you get to the third day of the draft, New York has four more selections. A pick in the fourth round, a pair of picks in the fifth, and one more in the sixth.
In a quarterback class with perhaps more questions than answers, and in a draft cycle where the Giants have bigger needs, that might be the ideal plan of attack.
As a firm believer in the idea of adding to the quarterback room whenever possible, using a Day 3 pick on a quarterback in this class makes sense. The hit rate on later-round picks is low to begin with, but if the Giants are lucky enough to identify a quarterback with potential in the later rounds and add him via the draft, that might be a wise use of one of those Day 3 picks.
Now, who might that passer be?
I have a suggestion.
The Kansas State passer has caught a little attention in the scouting community, perhaps most notably from Matt Waldman, the creator of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio. For Waldman, Thompson is his top quarterback in the draft. Of Thompson, Waldman writes: “A talent possibly underrated due to logo scouting, injury, and lack of attention-getting production.”
Thompson stepped into the 2017 season as a backup, but started the final four games of the season. He started ten games in 2018, completing 58.7 percent of his passes for 1,391 yards and nine touchdowns, along with four interceptions. In 13 games during the 2019 season, Thompson completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 2,315 yards and 12 touchdowns, against just 5 interceptions.
Thompson played in only three games during the 2020 campaign, as he was dealing with an upper-body injury. He managed to complete 62.5 percent of his passes in those three starts for four touchdowns, without throwing an interception. He returned for one final season with Kansas State this past year, starting ten games while dealing with a knee injury. In those starts Thompson completed 69.5 percent of his passes — a career-high — while hitting for 12 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.
For strengths, what stands out for Thompson is his pocket presence. While other quarterbacks in this class might be more athletic, who can escape pockets and rely on their elusiveness, Thompson has feel. He can slide, climb and maneuver around pressure in the pocket, getting to the right read and decision with the football even under duress.
Take this play against Oklahoma:
Thompson begins this snap reading the concept on the left side of the field, but as that concept is taken away from him — and the pocket begins to collapse — he moves and resets, finding a receiver on the right side of the field to move the chains. He not only works through the progressions while facing pressure in the pocket, but he still makes a strong, accurate throw on-time and in-rhythm despite the duress he faces in the pocket.
Thompson also throws well on the move, and can attack vertically in the downfield passing game with touch and placement. This touchdown against Iowa State combines those two traits into one nifty highlight-reel throw:
For my money, Thompson might have delivered one of the best throws from any quarterback in this draft class. It came in Kansas State’s bowl game against an undermanned LSU roster, but still, this throw — and aggressive downfield decision — stands out among this crop of prospects at the quarterback position:
This play comes on the “post/over” route combination you see every Sunday in the NFL. Somehow Thompson has the arm talent to drop this throw over the cornerback, away from the trailing defender in coverage, in front of the safety peeling off the post and before the receiver gets to the sideline.
All with a defender having a free shot at him with about ten yards of steam.
Not too shabby at all.
Of course, Thompson is not a perfect prospect. He did not put up the kind of production that other members of this class did on the field. He has an injury history to consider. There are mechanical inconsistencies with his throwing motion, particularly an over-stride with his front leg that impacts his release point, that he will need to refine.
But for the Giants, who have the luxury of giving Jones one more year while they address other positions of need, Thompson might offer a brilliant hedge in the later rounds. Sure, the Giants added Tyrod Taylor this off-season, and have other options behind Jones in Brian Lewerke and Davis Webb. But adding Thompson gives them another young arm to evaluate over the course of this season.
And while the rumbling about the 2023 class is already building towards more of a dull roar, as fans of teams that have quarterback questions are starting to take a look at Bryce Young, and C.J. Stroud, and Will Levis, and what could be a much stronger quarterback crop, we cannot forget that things change.
After all, this time last year the two quarterbacks discussed most often as the guys who would come off the board early in the 2022 draft were Sam Howell and Spencer Rattler.
Howell might wait until the second round to hear his name called next week.
Rattler lost his job and is now a member of South Carolina’s football team.
Adding a quarterback in the later rounds gives you another player to evaluate. That player should be Skylar Thompson for the Giants.