The 6-foot-6, 240-pound senior out of Stephen F. Austin stood out most for his physical traits, combining a long and lanky frame with explosive athleticism. But according to Thompson, his calling card will always be his elite speed.
“Especially with my pash rushing ability, I was blessed with great athletic ability,” he explained to reporters on Saturday. “So I’m always going to go with speed first. I’m always going to try to use my speed — my athletic ability — to be able to bend around that edge and that corner.”
Thompson’s athleticism certainly stood out to Kansas City. Scout Jason Lamb called him a “freaky athlete” who caught his attention at the East-West Shrine Bowl.
“I mean his bend, his flexibility, the ability to come off the edge is pretty impressive,” he told the media after Thompson’s selection. “You kind of saw that, obviously, through his whole time at SFA — and then also in the East-West Shrine Game they played at. That’s where he just really jumped off the page. So you’ve got a long athletic defensive end — ‘arrow up’ on this kid — with ability to rush the passer.
“I mean... you get excited about that.”
Lamb also said Thompson’s balance was another thing that caught the team’s attention.
“You see a guy that just knows how to rush off the edge,” he explained. “This guy is bendy. He does some plays coming off [the edge] where you think his knees are going to buckle... but this guy is able to keep his balance, keep his feet and still just kind of bend off the edge. He’s got long arms, so he gets underneath the tackle and can drive back and press off the edge.”
Lamb said that Thompson played at 220 pounds in college — lighter than most NFL defensive linemen — but added 20 pounds before his pro day. The Chiefs hope he can continue to fill out his frame — while retaining his speed and athleticism.
“It’s definitely ‘arrow up,’” said Lamb, “and he’s got the frame. He’s tall, he’s got the length — [so] this kid could easily gain another 20 pounds. So you take that time to add the weight — and you have the frame — when it’s all said and done, this kid will fit perfectly.”
Thompson is well aware, however, that just his size and athleticism won’t be enough.
“I feel like I’m just scratching the surface right now,” he said. “I feel like a lot of my college career, I have developed into a pretty good pass rusher — [I] learned some moves here and there — but I feel like I’m nowhere near what I’m capable of doing.
“[For] a lot of the pass rush, I relied on my athletic ability — my speed and my ability to just beat tackles. I know I’m not going to always be able to do that — especially at this level.”
Thompson is looking forward to developing the skills he will need.
“I feel like there’s no wonders what I can end up turning out to be.”