(Editor's Note: Heading into the upcoming NFL Draft, held April 30-May 2, DallasCowboys.com will take a closer look at the prospects, including some that could be potential fits with the Cowboys. Today's featured player is Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson).
Name: Shaq Thompson
Honors: Thompson was named first-team All-Pac 12 and first-team All-American after he posted 81 tackles and scored four defensive touchdowns in 2014. In 2012, the Boston Red Sox drafted him in the 18th round of the MLB draft.
Key stat: He has made it clear he has no desire to play offense in the NFL, but Thompson has the potential to be one of this draft's better running backs. He rushed for 451 yards and two touchdowns for the Huskies last season, averaging 7.5 yards per carry.
Where He's Projected: Thompson has the unfair distinction of being lumped into the same group with a bunch of edge-rushing, 3-4 linebackers, while he is a standup outside linebacker for a 4-3 scheme. He's highly rated at his position, and depending on who you ask he's either a first or a second round pick.
How He Helps the Cowboys: The linebacker spot looks a little crowded after free agency, where the Cowboys signed Rolando McClain, Jasper Brinkley and Andrew Gachkar. Thompson would still give them an athletic outside linebacker for the foreseeable future. He'd be great insurance against Sean Lee's injury problems, and he might even be able to compete for the strong side linebacker spot.
Scout's Take: Versatile athlete that has played on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. There are teams that are talking about playing him at safety, but I feel like his best position is at linebacker. Stays active with his feet. Playing speed is outstanding. Plays with a burst and range. When he is on the move he can be difficult to block. Is a reactionary athlete that plays with lateral quickness. Has a nose for the ball. Works his way through gaps and cracks. I thought he needed to do a better job of taking on square when those situations were called for. Tends to use his shoulder more than hands. There are snaps where he gets bounced around or gets tied up on the play. Some initial pop but didn't feel like he was a strong player. Where he gets in trouble is when he guesses instead of trusting what he sees. Was a wrap-up in open field. Needs to be on the move to make plays. Solid when he gets in position. When he avoids blocks can make plays. If not blocked, he is going to make tackles all day. Can run to the ball when in space. Simple zone drops, will take a peek to find man, then react. Showed awareness for the screen. Plays with discipline. Not often out of position while in coverage. Has the quickness to cover "Texas" route underneath. Can really run to get to the flat. Not often used as a blitzer, but did see a snap against California when the coaches brought him and he was able to knock the pass down on his rush. Has a knack for creating turnovers. Is always ripping or pulling at the ball while tackling. Run-hit type of player that has the ability the stay on the field for all downs.