Darwin Thompson 2019 NFL Draft Profile

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Darwin Thompson
EAST LANSING, MI - AUGUST 31: Utah State Aggies running back Darwin Thompson (5) celebrates a fourth quarter touchdown during a non-conference college football game between Michigan State and Utah State on August 31, 2018, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, MI.(Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Overview
Position
: Running back
Height: 5’8″
Weight: 200 pounds
School: Utah State Aggies

Pro Day Results
40-yard dash
: 4.50 seconds
Bench press: 28 reps (would’ve been second-best among running backs at 2019 Combine)
Vertical jump: 39 inches (would’ve been third-best among running backs at 2019 Combine)
Broad jump: 10 feet, 6 inches (would’ve been tied for fifth-best among running backs at 2019 Combine)

Darwin Thompson 2019 NFL Draft Profile

Every year, there are a handful of NFL Draft prospects whose collegiate career began at the junior college level. Darwin Thompson fits the bill as he spent his freshman and sophomore years at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. Prior to college, Thompson won a state title as a senior with Jenks (OK) High School. He played a significant part in that triumph as he rushed for 144 yards on 13 carries in the championship game.

Thompson emerged as one of the top backs at the ju-co level during his two-year tenure with the Norsemen. He rushed for over 1,000 yards in both seasons, earning Southwest Junior College Football Conference second-team honors as a freshman while winning offensive MVP of the league a year later. His sophomore year saw him lead the nation among junior college running backs with 1,619 all-purpose yards. In total, he finished with 14 games off 100+ yards rushing.

Upon transferring to Utah State, Thompson made an immediate impact. He was one of four Mountain West running backs to eclipse the 1,000-yard plateau as he finished with 1,044 yards. He showed a knack for finding the end zone with his 14 rushing touchdowns second in the conference behind fellow 2019 draft prospect Alexander Mattison of Boise State. And his 6.82 yards per carry ranked eighth in FBS among players who garnered a minimum of 150 attempts.

Strengths

  • a chiseled, compact frame with above average strength for his size;
  • exhibits good vision in detecting seams when running between the tackles;
  • relentless leg churn to keep plays alive;
  • a patient runner who can wiggle his way through tight gaps;
  • plays with impressive contact balance;
  • clearly hit his Pro Day out of the park;
  • received high marks in virtually all of Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics;
  • shows some value as a pass-catcher as he averaged 15.3 yards per catch on 23 receptions in 2018.

Weaknesses

  • clearly on the low end of NFL-caliber from a size standpoint;
  • not particularly laterally athletic;
  • lacks the quickness necessary to beat elite speed on perimeter runs;
  • shows extremely little in terms of pass-blocking ability;
  • inconsistent react and adjust skills when running lanes close on him;
  • inexperience is a concern as he played just one year at FBS level.

NFL Comparison: Zac Stacy

Teams With Need at Position: Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Projection: Sixth to seventh round

Bottom Line

In his lone season with the Aggies, Thompson burst onto the scene as a big-play back capable of finding the end zone with regularity. His play strength jumps out on tape and he exhibits good pad level which gives him the contact balance necessary to gain yards after contact. He wasn’t at the Combine but proved during his Pro Day that he probably deserved an invite. In the four events he took part in, he would’ve placed top-five among running backs in three of them.

But Thompson is certainly undersized for the position and his lateral twitch isn’t particularly eye-catching. Though he showed consistency as a between the tackles runner, it’s a huge question mark as to whether he can beat speedy edge players to the perimeter. He’ll also definitely receive the “raw” designation by a lot of scouts as he only played against FBS talent for one year. And it was mostly against lesser non-Power Five competition.

Ultimately, Thompson’s pass-catching ability augments his value at the next level. There’s no doubting his toughness and there’s also every indication that he’ll put in the work necessary to make a difference. But he faces an uphill battle if he wants to develop into a starting-caliber NFL back. It’s possible that he signs with a team as an undrafted free agent but after his Pro Day, he might have played himself into coming off the board late in the draft.

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