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Film review: Chiefs rookie RB Darwin Thompson

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The former Utah State running back could become a dynamic weapon for the Chiefs.

Utah State v Michigan State

Editor’s note: This is our fifth film review of the Chiefs’ 2019 draft class. If you missed our review of second-round wide receiver Mecole Hardman, click here. If you missed our review of second-round safety Juan Thornhill, click here. Our review of third-round defensive tackle Khalen Saunders is located here. Finally, find our review of sixth-round cornerback Rashad Fenton here.


Team fit is paramount when evaluating draft results.

It’s not everything, but being dropped in a situation that matches your skill set and ensures you are appropriately utilized goes a long way in allowing a player to sustain his career.

I may not like wide receiver and second-round pick Mecole Hardman as a top-50 player in this class, but I certainly see a path to success, illuminated by the play calling of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.

Hardman has been dropped into a perfect situation with a brilliant offensive mind who knows how to develop players with similar traits to him and a quarterback with the capability to get him the ball all over the field. The Chiefs are equipped to get the most of out the Georgia wide receiver.

Utah State RB Darwin Thompson

5’8” | 200 lbs.

The same can be said about Chiefs sixth-round pick Darwin Thompson, who has been placed into the perfect situation for his skill set. His tape is littered with lateral agility, balance, ability after the catch and more.

What sticks out first is Thompson short stature—he uses it to his advantage.

Some guys are small and it hinders their projection. I think it helps Thompson. He has a naturally low center of gravity, is well built and is tough to bring down with arm tackles in space. Here, he displays strong balance while running upfield to not go down on initial contact. Second and third-level defenders are going to have be sure with their technique to bring Thompson down.

Thompson has some of the best tape of the entire class. He’s an explosive, agile, quick, fearless player with only one year of Division I football under his belt.

On this play, Thompson exploded off his plant foot and made a smart hurdle in space near the goal line. The decision this close to the goal line was smart. This play set his team up inside the 5-yard line. It was also the third time he hurdled a defender in this game, and all worked and were right decisions.

Most of Thompson’s success will likely come away from the box, but he didn’t need much space in college to make things happen.

If you’re running between the tackles at the next level, you’re not going to have much space to operate.

Thompson has shown that he can play to his stature inside and find space. I anticipate the majority of his touches aren’t going to occur between the tackles. You want him working outside.

Thompson bounced this play outside, showed good agility, made an explosive cut upfield and a broke a few arm tackles by longer, more prominent defenders on his way to finishing the play in the end zone. He does a good job of keeping his legs moving. When you combine that with the low center of gravity and the explosive power in his legs packed in such a small frame, there should be belief the Chiefs will be able to get value out of this late day-three selection.

The big question for Thompson will be how his contact balance will translate against bigger defenders in tighter spaces. He does a good job of reducing surface area and avoiding big hits. His ability to maintain that balance at the next level will determine his success.

As long as he minimizes his strike zone and gets opportunities in space, he could be a dynamic piece to a running back committee. You don’t see Thompson take on many big hits when watching his film. He keeps himself cleaner than other backs in this class.

I prefer to see Thompson do his work outside the hashes on plays like the one above and this one.

This is one of my favorite plays watching him. Thompson is a very sudden athlete with cuts and explosiveness. He makes the first defender miss but puts his balance and agility to work immediately after the cut to avoid a second defender while staying on his feet to get to the end zone. The movements after he avoids that first defender show so much twitch from his compact frame. Thompson makes this play look easy, but the combination of twitch and balance isn’t common in this class. Many other running backs don’t finish this play how he did.

Thompson will scare defenses in space. Reid and Mahomes afford him opportunities to flash his skill set in space. The last two plays show a functional ability as a pass catcher that should help his utilization as well. It’s a match made in heaven.

The bottom line

The Chiefs diversified their running back room with a small, elusive, twitched up and dynamic offensive weapon. It’s against the norm of what they typically covet, but I love that they did it.

The Chiefs need to continue to amass a variety of player types that Reid and Mahomes can use to their advantage, especially with the looming issues with Tyreek Hill and his availability moving forward.

Thompson can be utilized in a variety of ways for the Chiefs. He has more-than-capable hands and is a dynamic weapon in space. He made more people miss than anyone in college football last year and has balance to sustain plays through contact. There is a special athletic ability for a player his size, power, explosiveness and pass catcher traits. What’s more is he’s raw and still developing.

Thompson doesn’t have the best vision in the class and he’ll likely be reduced to a smaller workload, but he’s an excellent, explosive and dynamic piece to a committee that can get five to 10 touches a game.

The Chiefs are well positioned to get the most out of Thompson’s skill set. It’s not difficult to see him becoming a fan favorite. In Thompson, the Chiefs have a chess piece that could be excellent value from day three of the draft. I anticipate he carves out a role for the 2019 season.