Next up in the Unpacking a Future Packers countdown is Tariq Thompson. The San Diego State defensive back checks in at number 50 in the countdown.
It’s a tale as old as time. A team can never have enough pass rushers. It’s also becoming a popular adage, that a team can never have enough quality defensive backs.
The Green Bay Packers found that out the hard way in the NFC Championship Game when the Cyborg that is named Tom Brady picked on Chandon Sullivan and Kevin King.
Luckily for the Packers and Brian Gutekunst, the 2021 draft class is loaded at cornerback and has a handful of versatile safeties that could help the Packers. San Diego State’s Tariq Thompson is one of those versatile defensive backs.
Thompson broke onto the scene for the Aztecs as a freshman in 2017. That season Thompson recorded 63 tackles, three tackles for loss, five interceptions, and nine pass deflections.
As a sophomore, Thompson recorded 60 tackles, five tackles for loss, two interceptions, and 10 pass deflections. In 2019, Thompson recorded 55 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, four interceptions, and 12 pass deflections.
In eight games this past season Thompson recorded 41 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one interception, and four pass deflections. During his four years at SDSU, Thompson was one of the best defensive backs in the country.
“Thompson has been one of the top defensive backs in the Mountain West ever since he stepped foot on the field as a freshman in 2017. He earned a 78.4 coverage grade this season, making it four straight years of eclipsing a 78.0 mark. Thompson ranked second among MWC defensive backs in passing stops with nine. That brought his career total to 54 — 19 more than anyone else in the conference since 2017.”
In today’s NFL, where matchups and sub-packages are king, a team can never have enough versatile playmakers. Thompson fits the bill. He can lineup anywhere in the secondary and make an impact.
“The thing I like best about Tariq is his versatility in the secondary,” Michael Wittmann, a contributor for mwcconnection.com said. “He can impact the game in numerous different ways, which allows him to constantly be contributing in the game. Thompson is all over the field on film, seemingly appearing wherever the play is.”
Thompson is a football magnet. He has a nose for the football and does a great job of reading the quarterback’s eyes. The four-year starter has a high football IQ and possesses a great understanding of route concepts. He finished his career with 12 interceptions and 35 pass deflections.
“He seems to be at his best in coverage, he excels at getting his hands on the ball,” Wittmann said. “Although he is a bit undersized to play safety and does not seem to be a fit as a traditional corner, He may wind up as a hybrid or sub-package defensive back. Regardless, his ball skills are great and his skill set should allow him to matchup on nearly every different type of receiver.”
Thompson is a good athlete and has loose, fluid hips. He does a great job of maintaining leverage and staying in position.
“Thompson plays physical in coverage, sticking to receivers without letting them get much separation,” Wittmann said. “In zone coverage, he tracks the ball well in the air and gets himself in position to make a play on the ball.”
Thompson is excellent coming downhill in run support. He closes quickly and could play linebacker in sub-packages. Thompson packs a punch as a tackler and does a great job of driving through the belt of the ball carrier.
“He is great in run support,” Wittmann said. “He can play up in the box or close the gaps coming from the second level. Tariq also tackles well in space, laying hard hits and wrapping up well.”
Fit with the Packers
With Jaire Alexander, Adrian Amos, and Darnell Savage Jr, the Packers have the makings of a budding secondary. Now it’s up to Gutekunst to add to that mix.
Thompson has the versatility to impact the game in a variety of ways. He’s a ball hawk. He can play close to the line of scrimmage. He can play safety. He can help on special teams coverage units.
“I like Thompson was a pick in the back of the draft because he can do a little bit of everything,” Wittmann said. “He may not have top end athleticism but he is a reliable player who will find a way to make an impact. Even if he doesn’t reach his ceiling as a starter, he will likely find his way onto the field on special teams and as an extra back in sub-packages who can cover multiple players.”