I kept thinking about former Gophers standout Cedric Thompson, as I read this story by Vikings beat writer Matt Vensel: "Standout safeties hard to find in NFL draft."
The Vikings, like many teams, will enter this weekend’s NFL draft with the intention of selecting a safety, a position that now has increased job responsibilities as spread passing attacks and athletic tight ends have become commonplace at the pro level.
The problem is that the supply does not match the demand, and the style of offense played at the college level has made safety one of the toughest positions for the NFL to evaluate.
Thompson will be an interesting player to track Saturday, on the final day of the draft. And if he doesn't go by the seventh and final round, it won't take him long to get invited to an NFL rookie camp.
Anybody who's followed my Gophers coverage closely the past 2+ years can probably guess how I feel about Thompson. In my 20+ years of sports writing, he ranks right at the top of the people I've ever come across. The story of his rise from Bombay Beach, Calif., to the Big Ten, and soon the NFL -- it's the stuff of movies. Actually, Thompson was featured prominently in the award-winning documentary "Bombay Beach." The place looked so surreal, we had to go see it. Thompson gave a guided tour two years ago, when photographer Jerry Holt and I went to see him for this story and video.
Anyway, the guess here is that Thompson will get drafted Saturday. That might surprise some people because Thompson wasn't invited to the NFL Combine, but he lit it up at the Gophers' pro day. Here's the report from NFLDraftScout.com:
Thompson ... ran his 40-yard dash in the 4.38-4.44 range and recorded impressive results in the vertical (40.5-inches), broad jump (10-feet-2) and bench reps (21), according to a scout in attendance.
Compare that to how the safeties fared at the NFL Combine. From what I can gather, Thompson would have had the fastest 40-yard time, the highest vertical leap, and tied for the most bench reps. Last year, former Gophers safety Brock Vereen had his stock climb and wound up becoming a fourth round pick by the Bears. Thompson might become the Gophers' next draft surprise.
As Vereen told Jack Satzinger for this piece in today's Minnesota Daily: Thompson's "name might have blown up after his Pro Day, but [for] anybody who’s played with him, his performance wasn’t a surprise at all. He’s just one of those guys who’s just a freak athlete [and] smart — definitely as smart of a [defensive back] as you’ll come across. He just loves the game."