clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Steelers 2016 Draft Prospect Breakdown: Boise State safety Darian Thompson

With the 2016 NFL Draft approaching, the Pittsburgh Steelers will look to make upgrades to their 30th-ranked pass defense. Will the team target ball-hawking safety Darian Thompson to pair with Mike Mitchell?

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Despite owning one of the league's worst secondaries, the Pittsburgh Steelers came within seven points of reaching the AFC Championship game in 2015. Over the past several years, the team has used early-round picks to bolster its front-seven; the exception being the selection of Mississippi cornerback Senquez Golson in the second round in 2015. Should the Steelers look to target another defensive back in this year's draft, they might consider ball-hawking safety Darian Thompson from Boise State University.

Thompson, a Senior, tallied 19 interceptions over the course of his four-year career at Boise State. He picked off seven passes in 2014, and added five more in 11 games in 2015. But the rangy safety is more than just a ball hawk. A willing tackler, Thompson amassed 242 career tackles, including 8.5 tackles or loss in 2015.

(Video courtesy of Harris Highlights)

Thompson's ability to make plays in coverage on the back end, and his physicality in the box, makes him one of the best all-around safety prospects in the draft class. His willingness to sacrifice his body, and to take chances to undercut throws, really stand out on his highlight tape.

Physical Tools

Height: 6'2"

Weight: 215 lbs.

Arm Length: 30 3/8"

Hand Length: 9 1/4"


2012: 41 tackles, 3 interceptions, 3 passes defensed

2013: 63 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 1 pass defensed

2014: 71 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 7 interceptions, 1 pass defensed

2015: 65 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 5 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 4 passes defensed


  • 2014 and 2015 All-Mountain West First Team selection
  • Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist
  • Mountain West Conference all-time interception leader (19)


Thompson is projected to be a second-round pick by most NFL scouts. His impressive performance at the Senior Bowl turned some heads, and garnered attention from national media outlets and NFL scouts. If he's able to parlay his outstanding Senior Bowl with a strong performance at the NFL Combine, he could see himself climbing up several team's draft boards come April.

Tale of the Tape

(Video courtesy of Draft Breakdown)

One of Thompson's best games of his senior season came against the University of Virginia. Here, we see the senior safety show casing his high football IQ, and his ability to play as a run stopper in the box. Prior to the snap, Thompson creeps toward the line of scrimmage. He recognizes the receiver in motion at the top of the screen, diagnoses the play, and makes the tackle in the backfield.

The difference between Thompson, and a player like Gerod Holliman, who the Steelers selected in the seventh round of the 2015 draft, is his physical demeanor. When watching Thompson's tape, you'll constantly see him weaving through traffic in the box and taking on running backs in the hole.

(Video courtesy of Draft Breakdown)

Thompson is a complete safety. Here, we see him playing center field, playing about 15 yards off the line of scrimmage. At the snap, he drops into coverage, reads the quarterback's eyes, and makes a play on the ball.

As I mentioned above, Thompson had 19 career interceptions at Boise State,  a Mountain West Conference record.

(Video courtesy of Draft Breakdown)

The knock on Thompson, aside from playing at a smaller school in a weak conference, is his awareness in coverage. He has a tendency, at times, to lose track of receivers down the field. There's a fine line between playing aggressive, and playing undisciplined. Thompson crosses that line from time to time, and that will be a concern for NFL scouts when looking at his tape.

In Conclusion...

Thompson is certainly an attractive prospect for the Steelers, who are in need of help at the safety position. Mike Mitchell showed tremendous improvement in his second year with the team, and has several more years left on his contract. But head coach Mike Tomlin and General Manager Kevin Colbert need to find someone to pair with Mitchell for the 2016 season, and into the future.

Veteran free agent Will Allen did an admirable job at strong safety in 2015, but he's 33 years old, and will be 34 by the time training camp begins if the Steelers decide to re-sign him. Shamarko Thomas, on the other hand, has all the physical tools, but he's had major issues grasping the mental aspect of the game. His inability to crack the starting lineup in his third year is a clear indication that he's not the answer.

Robert Golden played well in limited snaps filling in for an injured Allen last season, but he's a core special teams player, not a starting caliber safety on a Super Bowl contender. The Steelers need to find a blue chip safety pair with Mitchell. Thompson, despite some of his shortcomings, could be a valuable long-term asset for a team looking to plug holes in a leaking secondary.