The 2021 NFL Draft‘s cornerback class has changed complexion a great deal over the past few months. The class’ top talents generated only tepid endorsements in 2020, and the depth of the class was nothing to write home about. However, the group is unequivocally strong, with a stellar upper-tier, a voluminous middle batch, and depth through all seven rounds. Tennessee cornerback Bryce Thompson is only a small piece of the 2021 NFL Draft’s CB group, but he adds more depth and physical potential.
Bryce Thompson NFL Draft Profile
- Height: 5’10 2/5″
- Weight: 182 pounds
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Tennessee
- Current Year: Junior
Tony Pauline’s Bryce Thompson Scouting Report
Positives: Well-built cornerback who displays a developing game. Instinctive, quickly diagnoses plays, and tracks the pass in the air. Mixes it up with receivers, is quick pedaling in reverse, and does not back down from a challenge. Possesses a nice move to the throw, has a closing burst of speed, and fires to the ball out of his plant. Possesses outstanding hands for the interception. Fires upfield defending the run and screen passes.
Negatives: Gets twisted and must improve his playing balance. Tackles a bit tall at times. Struggles with deep coverage assignments.
Analysis: Thompson is a solid cornerback with next-level ball skills and terrific hands for the interception. He comes with an upside and could see action in nickel packages as a rookie. He could eventually develop into a starter on Sundays as he rounds out his game.
Bryce Thompson Player Profile
Thompson has been on the path to the NFL since high school. A four-star recruit from Ben Lippen School in Columbia, South Carolina, Thompson was one of the higher-rated recruits of 2018. He finished his high school career as the 33rd-ranked cornerback in the class and a top-10 player in his state.
Thompson verbally committed to South Carolina over schools such as Washington State, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina State. Yet, when signing day arrived in 2018, Thompson did not officially sign with the Gamecocks.
The cornerback prospect eventually flipped his commitment to Tennessee and headed inland to continue his football career. The Volunteers offered Thompson more long-term potential and an immediate opportunity to play which appealed to the four-star athlete who was eager to kickstart his ascension.
Bryce Thompson’s career as a Tennessee cornerback
Thompson hit the ground running with the Tennessee Volunteers. The South Carolina native quickly entered the team’s defensive rotation and started 10 of 12 possible games as a true freshman. Thompson converted on these opportunities with respectable production.
Through those 12 games, the Tennessee cornerback logged 32 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 3 interceptions, 4 pass deflections, and a forced fumble. Thompson was named to the SEC’s All-Freshman team, and expectations were high heading into 2019.
The following year, Thompson took over as one of Tennessee’s top cornerbacks. The true sophomore sat out the season’s first three games but rejoined the lineup and continued to produce. In total, Thompson accrued 32 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 3 interceptions, and 2 pass deflections. All three of Thompson’s picks came in one game against the UAB Blazers.
2020 was Thompson’s first year of NFL Draft eligibility. Although injuries prevented him from maximizing his last opportunity, the Tennessee cornerback flashed his potential. In ten games, the true junior amassed 36 total tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 2 pass deflections, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a defensive touchdown.
In early January, after the conclusion of the 2020 campaign, Thompson opted to forego his senior season and declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Bryce Thompson’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
While Thompson owns a consistent track record of production, his NFL Draft stock is up in the air. On the one hand, he may have declared too early, but on the other hand, it’s hard to project how much he would have gained from playing one more season. In theory, Thompson could have broken out in 2021 had he stayed with the Volunteers. Conversely, his skill set makes that a less likely possibility.
Thompson isn’t the largest cornerback, standing at around 5’10” and 182 pounds. He’s also not an overwhelming athlete for that size. He has good athletic traits, but many other cornerbacks offer much better size/speed combinations. At his pro day, Thompson earned a Relative Athletic Score of just 4.86.
He was marked down for his low weight, and he only recorded a 4.52 40-yard dash and a 34-inch vertical. His 120-inch broad jump was a bit better, but Thompson didn’t test out at elite levels overall.
Even so, the draft evaluation does expand beyond the numbers. On tape, Thompson is reasonably fluid, and despite his lesser size, plays with adequate toughness and physicality. He also owns admirable body control and ball skills, as evidenced by his production. Unfortunately, Thompson’s frame hinders his upside. He has experience all across the secondary, but he may never be more than a rotational contributor with special-teams utility.
Where does a player like Thompson go?
Thompson’s limited upside relegates him to a spot further down the draft board. As a result, he’s been buried by the depth of the cornerback class. Nevertheless, on mid-to-late Day 3, he makes for a solid draft selection. He has the wherewithal and competitive toughness to provide dividends in limited opportunities. His experience on the boundary, in the slot, and at safety allows him to fulfill some degree of versatility at the NFL level.
Related | SEC Scouting Reports for 2021 NFL Draft
Schematically, teams that don’t stringently stick with top-tier athletes at cornerback might better fit Thompson. Teams like the Bills, Vikings, Bengals, and Texans stand out as decent fits. Additionally, any team that needs defensive back depth could benefit from adding Thompson in Rounds 5 through 7.
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