Weight: 230 lbs.
NFL Draft: 2015 - Round: 1 - Pick: 25
As a rookie, Shaq Thompson has claimed a starting role as an OLB in the Panthers very impressive 4-3 defense. That's a significant accomplishment in-and-of itself. He's the only rookie on the Panthers roster to start this year. Thompson missed most of OTAs and a portion of training camp with a hamstring injury, and then two games this season with a knee injury, and still has solidified his starting role on the defense. That's even more impressive.
In the games he has played (including six starts), Thompson has looked like a star. He already has 22 tackles and a sack on the season and has been a play-maker for the Panthers. Don't forget that he's accomplished all that with two of the best LBs in the league beside him making tackles right and left. One of those LBs, Thomas Davis, is currently 32 years old and Panthers fans and media alike are already talking about how Thompson is the ideal replacement for Davis once he's done.
Thompson has incredible speed and really completes what's probably the best LB corps in the NFL. If you want to see what he's becoming, just look at the hit Thompson put on Titan RB Dexter McCluster last week:
These are the kinds of plays I'm talking about when I say he's a play-maker. He's a big hitter.
The thing that sticks out the msot for me about Thompson is his aggressiveness. The guy stats constantly active. He has great agility and instincts, as well. Much like the other LBs there in Carolina, Thompson excels at reading a play very quickly and taking action decisively. Rather than deal with blockers, he's especially adept at simply avoiding them. He's fast and elusive.
However, he also has the strength to deal with blockers on occasion. He's not quite as big and strong as you'd like in an OLB, but he's not weak by any stretch. And, as you saw above, his tackling in the open field is just about textbook. I should also mention his versatility as he's played RB and S in college along with his more natural LB role. Many people think he could play either spot at the NFL level.
The only knock on him is size. Many thought he'd be best suited for S in the league because he's a little small, but he's enjoying a lot of success at LB for the Panthers. Though he has the one sack on the season, he's not really much of a pass rusher.
Potential Against the Redskins
The Redskins really enjoyed getting their running game back on track last week against the Saints, but guys like Shaq Thompson are going to make repeating that success a tall task. Thompson has the speed and tackling technique to be a serious threat to all three of our RBs and is uniquely skilled to be one of the better opponents we've faced covering guys like Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson. He covers a lot of ground in a flash and his presence on the field will make it tough for Kirk Cousins to pass over the middle. Even when the Redskins find completions, YAC could be limited by Thompson. The 'Skins thrived on YAC last week and Thompson's speed and tackling make him especially dangerous in this area.
Still, he is a rookie. Rookies make rookie mistakes. The Redskins may be able to throw some stuff at Thompson that he hasn't seen before and slow his reaction time. Additionally, they may be able to confuse him and get him out of position. Considering the other LBs on the Panthers, Thompson is naturally the one to try to go at.
Shaq was a standout baseball player in HS. He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 18th round of the 2012 MLB Draft. He even played for their rookie-level team in the Gulf Coast League in the summer of 2012. He was terrible and that helped him make his decision to be a football player. Here's what I mean by terrible: 0-39 with 37 strikeouts over 13 games.
He's a gifted sprinter (as evidenced by his play on the football field) who lettered in track all four years of HS.
While being recruited to college, Shaq was the #1 safety in the country, and the #3 overall prospect, according to Scout.com. Before committing to Washington, he actually committed to UC-Berkeley before changing his mind.
His older brother Syd'Quan played for the Denver Broncos.