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2015 NFL Draft: The versatile Shaq Thompson could be the player the Steelers are looking for

The Paul Hornung Award winner for most versatile college football player, Shaq Thompson can seemingly do it all. His jack-of-all trades repertoire and tenacious demeanor on the football field could be exactly what the Steelers defense needs.

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

"That kid, to me, is perfect Steelers player."

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports reporter Gary Dulac said the above statement about Shaq Thompson, the linebacker/running back/kick returner/safety from Washington. Thompson, a junior that declared early for the NFL Draft, won the fifth annual Paul Hornung Award given to the nation's most versatile player, is slated to be selected either later in the first round or somewhere in the second round of this year's NFL Draft.

The versatile Thompson is a classic high risk, high reward player, whose ability and play making potential could outweigh questions regarding his size and ability to master one position in the NFL. Given Thompson's upside and what the Steelers need on both defense and even on offense, it's a risk the Steelers should seriously consider.

Recruited three years ago to play corner for the Huskies, Thompson played in all 13 games his freshman season, picking off three passes, recording 74 tackles (8.5 for loss) to go with two sacks and six passes defensed. But after gaining 10 pounds that off-season, the 6'1'', 228-pound Thompson moved over to outside linebacker. Thompson thrived in his new position, playing in all 27 games and tallying 159 total tackles in 2013 in '14. In 2014, Thompson was a force on both sides of the ball, forcing three fumbles and scoring four touchdowns on defense while rushing for 456 yards for a 7.5 yards per carry as a running back on offense.

Thompson's versatility doesn't end on the football field. According to his bio on, Thompson was drafted in the 18th round by the Boston Red Sox in 2012 before Thompson decided dedicate himself to football.

The pros regarding Thompson's attributes far outweigh his cons. praised Thompson for his ability to get to the football in space, and his "second gear to finish the chase." They also credited Thompson for his ability to win match-ups against linemen, his intelligence when reading quarterbacks and his ability to cover running backs out of the backfield. Thompson was also praised for his his knack for forcing turnovers, something the Steelers defense could use after forcing just 21 turnovers in 2014, 20 both in '13 and '12, and 15 takeaways in 2011.

The biggest attributes regarding Thompson is his ability to potentially fill voids the Steelers could need filled at the safety, running back and special teams positions. stated that Thompson is "fluid enough in space that safety could be a position consideration for the right team." The bio also stated that Thompson could be a team's No.3 running back, and his experience both returning kicks along with his 19 tackles on coverage units could make him a valuable special teams performer.

To reinforce Dulac's statement as being a "Steelers player", two huge assets the Steelers have always coveted in their players are two things credited Thompson for having: a strong work ethic and possessing team-oriented mindset. With the departure of Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and Brett Keisel, the Steelers could use young players on defense to follow in their footsteps of being hard-working, team-first players.

Like 2014 first round pick Ryan Shazier, size is a concern with Thompson, along with several technical issues that includes developing his hands better when matched up with linemen and his inability to "fully utilize his explosiveness."

But while his size is a question mark, his ability to make plays surely isn't. Thompson's knack for creating turnovers and turning them into touchdowns isn't just a coincidence. There are also several plays showcasing Thompson as a running back, particularly his ability to cut back through the line and finishing through the defense with his game-breaking speed. Take a look for yourself.

Thompson doesn't come without question marks, as alluded to above. But Thompson's attributes and X-factor qualities makes him worth the gamble, especially if he falls to the second round. The Steelers need depth at various positions along with a playmaker on defense that can add speed, tenacity, and potentially, leadership. Shaq Thompson looks like he could fit the bill and help the Steelers in multiple ways in 2015 and beyond.