Safety Jalen Thompson picked as most underrated Cardinal by PFF

May 30, 2020, 6:30 AM
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Kerrith Whyte (40) is tackled by Arizona Cardinals strong safety J...
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Kerrith Whyte (40) is tackled by Arizona Cardinals strong safety Jalen Thompson (34)during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Remember when the Arizona Cardinals were the only team to make a selection in the NFL’s 2019 Supplementary Draft?

Turns out that pick is paying off.

The selection was Washington State safety Jalen Thompson, who had a strong rookie season and is Pro Football Focus’ pick as the most underrated player on the team.

We only have one season of NFL data on Thompson — a partial season at that after he didn’t see the field until Week 5. But what he did as a rookie (particularly late in the year), combined with what we saw from Thompson at the college level, offers plenty of reason for excitement about his prospects moving forward. Coming out of Washington State, PFF’s lead draft analyst Mike Renner said of Thompson, “Coverage is king in today’s NFL, and Thompson brings an intriguing mix of slot and deep coverage ability that will be coveted by two-high heavy defenses.”

Thompson spent most of his time as a rookie deep at free safety, but he showed some of that coverage ability with a 70.3 coverage grade that ranked third among rookie safeties last season (behind only Juan Thornhill and Darnell Savage). He’s not even 22 years old yet — his continued development will be key on a defense that hopes to be much better in coverage in 2020.

That progress in the second half was evident to see for cornerback Patrick Peterson too.

“JT … once the game came to him, it was so remarkable to see him flourish,” he said on a conference call Thursday. “To see him start to talk, to see his confidence level go through the roof through the back-half of the season as well.”

The Thompson pick, made in July of 2019, took the place of a fifth-round selection the Cardinals would have had in this year’s NFL Draft. Arizona had an extra fifth to spare because of the Josh Rosen trade, a pick that ultimately went back to the Miami Dolphins in the Kenyan Drake deal, leaving Arizona without a pick in the round.

Thompson made nine starts in 2019, racking up 57 total tackles with one interception, three passes defensed and a fumble recovery.

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