Position: Running Back
Height: 5'8" Weight: 193 lbs
College: Florida State
Drafted: Fifth round, 154th overall (2013)
Chris Thompson enters the 2015 season in a situation very similar to the one he faced when he first entered the NFL: If he can just stay healthy, he has a chance to make a name for himself as a Darren Sproles or Dexter McCluster-type weapon. Unfortunately for the diminutive third-year running back, the injury bug has proven to be quite the pest throughout his career.
#1. The Redskins drafted Thompson in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, a year after sixth-round pick Alfred Morris tore the league up as a rookie; the two late-round running back picks could not have gone much differently for Washington. Thompson has been plagued by injuries and hasn't made enough of an impact when he's been healthy, and has therefore managed just three carries in two seasons. Those carries came over a two-game span in late 2014, and they led to just 12 yards. Morris had 12 yards at the end of the first quarter of Week 1 in his rookie season, and he is already on the cusp of the 4,000-yard rushing mark.
#2. Thompson is an elusive runner with the highly-coveted ability to break off a game-changing play at any moment, but that is irrelevant if he can't stay on the field. Much like fellow 2013 Redskins draft pick Phillip Thomas, his two-year NFL career has been mostly spent rehabbing injuries — a factor totally out of either player's control.
As a junior at Florida State, Thompson suffered a horrific back injury that left him with two fractured vertebrae. Though that was the worst of his injuries, it was far from the only one. He hasn't played a full season of football since 2010, with a torn ACL, a torn labrum and a sprained ankle among his many afflictions, and he has done little to merit more responsibility when he's been on the field. Ball security and patience have been cited as his two biggest fixable problems (there's not much he can do about his size or durability), but Thompson will struggle to improve in those areas if he can't get through a full training camp.
#3. With health once again being a massive caveat, Thompson's two real chances to earn a roster spot this year are as a third-down back or a returner. Rookie Matt Jones is the early favorite to win backup duties in the backfield, but having not yet played a down as a pro, he's no sure thing. Thompson offers upside in the passing game, having caught six of the seven passes thrown his way for 27 yards and a touchdown, and he amassed 45 catches for 430 yards and a touchdown while at FSU.
His size and quickness suggest he could carve out a role as a return specialist, but he has thus far returned just seven punts (for 36 yards) and eight kicks (for 160 yards) for the Redskins, and he rarely handled those duties in college.
#4. He is built much like rookie running back Trey Williams, who, at 5'7" and 195 pounds, went undrafted in part because his frame does not bode well for a heavy workload in the NFL. If Thompson can't stay healthy or impress the coaching staff, Williams ought to step in his place as something of a reset button. The two backs have similar size and skills, but the newcomer Williams has a much better history of staying on the field.
#5. With the exception of the "professional athlete" thing, he's basically your average Washingtonian. He has a refined palette, he loves the local teams and he makes sure to distinguish himself from Marylanders and Virginians.
My craving for sushi right now is unreal.— Chris Thompson (@ChrisThompson_4) May 31, 2015
Wow! Paul Pierce Wow!— Chris Thompson (@ChrisThompson_4) May 9, 2015
Man I love how people from Maryland talk.— Chris Thompson (@ChrisThompson_4) May 25, 2015
True story! https://t.co/6ILwOjmh1i— Chris Thompson (@ChrisThompson_4) June 22, 2015
Bottom Line: Thompson should get a fair chance to earn a roster spot, but he must stay healthy and prove his worth over a handful of challengers. With Morris a lock for the starting job and Jones all but a lock to make the roster (the benefits of being a third-round pick), Thompson will have to fight off Williams and fellow hopefuls Silas Redd Jr. and Michael Hill to earn the third and potentially final running back job.