CARDINALS CORNER

Arizona Cardinals’ Jalen Thompson left off ESPN’s under-25 ranking

Nov 30, 2022, 10:39 AM | Updated: 10:39 am
Arizona Cardinals S Jalen Thompson points during practice on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyl...
Arizona Cardinals S Jalen Thompson points during practice on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

Safety Jalen Thompson has been a constant within the Arizona Cardinals defense over the past couple seasons.

Helping form a formidable one-two punch with fellow safety Budda Baker, Thompson has made a name for himself behind consistent play and a no-quit mentality. It’s been quite the NFL journey for Thompson, who went from a 2019 supplementary draft pick that arrived mid-training camp to starting as a rookie before eventually leading the team in tackles last year with 121.

For his efforts, Thompson was awarded with a contract extension this year, further cementing his ascension as a legit NFL defender.

But in an ESPN ranking released Monday from NFL draft analysts Matt Bowen, Matt Miller and Jordan Reid focusing on players under the age of 25, Thompson, who turned 24 in July, was nowhere to be found.

Three categories — top 25, honorable mentions and snubs — featuring 38 players and not one mention of the safety.

The safeties that cracked the rankings were Tampa Bay’s Antoine Winfield Jr. (25th overall), Miami’s Jevon Holland (honorable mention) and San Francisco’s Talanoa Hufanga (honorable mention).

Compared to the trio of defensive backs that made the ESPN cut, Thompson is ahead of all three this season when it comes to tackles (67) and is tied with Hufanga for the most passes defensed (seven).

The biggest discrepancy between Thompson and the others really comes down to usage.

Winfield (three), Holland (1.5) and Hufanga (one) all have at least a sack on their 2022 resume. Hufanga and Winfield also no fewer than five tackles for loss. Those are two areas Thompson lacks in, with nothing to show in those departments. Over his four-year career (49 games), Thompson has just three TFLs on the stat sheet, all coming in 2021. He has yet to register a sack.

It’s easy to see why, with Thompson seeing more of his snaps away from the line of scrimmage at free safety and Baker filling that do-it-all role for the room.

Entering this season, Baker had recorded at least three tackles for loss in every year played and registered no less than a sack in all but one (2019). This year, Baker has more snaps along the defensive line (34) and in the slot (106) than Thompson (nine, 90), allowing the former more opportunities to wreck things in the backfield and cause QBs fits.

But even Baker is having a down year in those regards, with just one TFL and zero sacks through 12 games played. Some of that has to do with the team turning to both Baker and Thompson in coverage more with injuries, up-and-down play and overall bad luck impacting the secondary in 2022.

Thompson wasn’t the only eligible Cardinal left off the under-25 ranking, either.

Four names that come to mind right away are wide receiver Rondale Moore (2021 second-rounder), MIKE backer Zaven Collins (2021 first-rounder), star backer Isaiah Simmons (2020 first-rounder) and cornerback Byron Murphy (2019 second-rounder).

The team’s 2022 draft choices, including second-round tight end Trey McBride, were also left off.

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