Any team as bad against the pass as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were last season is bound to be targeting improvement in the secondary as a priority in the off-season.
We’ve already seen the team sign one free-agent defensive back in Kentrell Brice from the Green Bay Packers. This coupled with word the team is looking at moving second-year player M.J. Stewart to safety in 2019 means the Bucs have two more safeties on the roster than they did entering the off-season this January.
Alabama safety Deionte Thompson is one of the top guys in his group entering this year’s draft and could very well hear his name called on the first day of the NFL Draft. However, if he’s still around on day two, the Buccaneers could certainly give him a long look before deciding on who they ultimately select in the second round.
So, before we get there, let’s take a look at the Crimson Tide defensive back ourselves.
Deionte Thompson’s Career
We’ve already established Thompson played for the Alabama Crimson Tide. The SEC juggernaut is well known for being a NFL factory and the Bucs currently enjoy the spoils of having one ‘Bama product on the roster in the form of O.J. Howard.
In his three seasons of action, Thompson appeared in 29 games including 14 in 2018 and tallied three interceptions in his career in Tuscaloosa.
If you’re thinking Thompson’s career is a little underwhelming for an Alabama defender, you’re correct. However, it’s important to remember you’re feeling that way because he’s an Alabama defender.
Due to the talent he was following in Alabama, Thompson didn’t get substantial playing time until this last season. In his one year opportunity, he became a Consensus All-American and finished fifth in the SEC with three forced fumbles.
Showing the talent his school has become known for, Thompson entered the NFL Draft after the season, and while some will wish he’d gone back for another year to develop and show even more there is no denying he has talent to succeed at the next level right now.
Plays with the aggressiveness coaches like Todd Bowles and Bruce Arians target in young players. Good in pass coverage and solid against the run. Physical, but smart in his play taking good angles against runs and consistently showing intelligence while in pursuit.
Solid interception and forced fumble numbers display his desire and ability to get turnovers while his experience on special teams shows grit and the willingness to earn every snap he takes.
With the right coaching and usage, will become a solid NFL starter within three years.
Hits harder than his body type is likely able to handle for long periods of time against NFL competition.
While he tracks the ball well in the air and is relatively good at reading a quarterback, smarter veterans will be able to manipulate him early on moving him out of position and opening up potential for big plays.
One real year of college experience as a starting safety is worrisome, and will cause his stock to dip below the normal range of most All-American Alabama safeties.
Doesn’t look like a guy you can install on day one as an every down starter at the safety position, so he’ll need to be used within specific parameters as he learns how to become a complete NFL defender.
Why The Buccaneers Need Him
Some will say fans of the Alabama Crimson Tide are spoiled and entitled. And some are, I’m sure. However, the players seem to be mostly humble men who appreciate opportunities and work hard to make the most of them. Most, anyway.
Thompson was a four-star recruit out of high school, so he had plenty of offers to go to colleges and likely even had promises of starting from day one to a few. He chose to go to Alabama and scrap his way to a starting role.
Bottom line is, this is a guy who is ready and willing to be an underdog. He may even enjoy it.
The Bucs are the ultimate underdog. Back-to-back 5-11 seasons saw their coaching staff fired, star receiver traded and two fan favorite ‘heart’ players leave in free-agency.
If there was one position group in the debacle of coach Dirk Koetter’s last two years which was the most responsible for the fall, it was likely the secondary.
Any defensive back joining this group is going to be underestimated and down-right doubted. The group needs talent. Justin Evans is good, but battle injury and inconsistency in 2018. Stewart is new. Brice is new and was a back-up in Green Bay (not known for defense either). Isaiah Johnson has shown some flashes of being a solid contributor, but doesn’t appear ready for a starting role.
There’s an obvious need, and with coach Bowles’ history of using many safeties, there may be room for one more.
Will It Happen?
It may be a little anti-climactic, but I’m going to put a ‘maybe’ on this one. Tampa Bay could certainly use help in the safety group. But they need help elsewhere too, and from the way I project things going in the draft, there are going to be players more talented at their positions of need for the Bucs than Thompson is at his.
But - and this may surprise some of you - the NFL Draft seldomly goes the way I predict it to. So, if there is a run on linemen, edge defenders or cornerbacks earlier than expected, Thompson could be the most talented guy left on the board on day two when Jason Licht gets his first crack at making a pick.
If this is the case, then Thompson would be an easy pick with a high probability of success. Earlier in the off-season, he was projected as the top safety in the class. Now, more and more he’s being moved to day two. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah doesn’t even have him in his Top-50 at the moment.
So it appears likely the Bucs will have their chance to grab him if they want him.