As the NFL draft nears, USA TODAY High School Sports will look back at the high school careers and draft prospects for some of the top players. Here is today’s installment on Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson.
High school: Grant, Sacramento
ALL-USA history: Named to the American Family Insurance first team in 2011. As a senior, he had 57 tackles, rushed for 1,134 yards and 15 touchdowns on 120 carries (9.45 yards per carry), passed for 893 yards and eight TDs and even punted.
Height, weight: 6-0, 228 pounds
By the numbers: He scored six touchdowns last season, two as a running back and four (three fumble returns and an interception return) on defense, and was voted the winner of the Paul Hornung Award, given to the player voted the nation’s most versatile.
Draft positives: Explosive, all over the field type athlete. Easy mover in space, has defensive back-caliber hips and footwork in coverage. Closes a 10-yard gap as fast as any defender in the nation. Aggressive downhill tackler, will meet the ball carrier at the point of attack and wall him with a strong initial pop. Hits hard with or without a running start, shows enough quick-twitch power to handle between the tackles duty.
Draft negatives: Gets lost in traffic and can be overwhelmed by the bigger blockers. Will over-pursue and create cutback lanes for ball carriers. Chooses to run around the action rather than filling lanes. Struggles to consistently follow assignment football.
Projection: Round 3/4
What he says: “The question I kept hearing from teams in the interviews was, ‘What would you rather play: running back or linebacker?’ They wanted to make sure my heart was on defense and not on offense. I’ve just got to stand my ground really and keep telling everybody that I want to play defense, and especially the linebacker position.”
Draft analysis by Dan Shonka, Ourlads.com