Rookie Progress Report: Darian Thompson

Posted Jun 26, 2016's Dan Salomone takes an in-depth look at the 2016 rookie class following the offseason program:

Half a year has passed since rookies played in their last college game, and yet they’ve never been busier.

Over that time, the NFL’s incoming class prepared for the combine, participated in the combine, held Pro Days, anxiously awaited the draft results, and reported for rookie minicamp before being thrown into the deep end with veterans during spring practices. Such is life for an athlete trying to make it to the professional level.

The rookies were around earlier this week for the league’s transition program, but now they're enjoying a much-needed break before reporting for training camp on July 28. So it's a good time to gauge their progress heading into summer.

Today’s rookie report is on safety Darian Thompson, the Giants’ third-round pick out of Boise State:


At Boise State, Thompson became the Mountain West's all-time interceptions leader (19), breaking All-Pro safety Eric Weddle’s record of 18 at Utah. With the selection of Thompson, the Giants used two of their first three draft picks on the secondary. They began the draft by taking cornerback Eli Apple out of Ohio State.


“Big kid, center fielder, checks a lot of boxes for us,” general manager Jerry Reese said of Thompson. “We really like how he makes plays on the football. We think he’s a solid tackler back there. Makes the calls. Captain. High test score. A lot of things to like about him.”


With no pads and playing with dozens of tryout players, rookie minicamp isn’t the time for coaches to evaluate what draft picks can do on the field. Rather, the first thing they look for is intelligence, and Thompson checked that box along with other intangibles.

“Thompson, I thought, was barking out,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said at the time. “That’s the first thing I look for in a safety. Will you be loud? Are you not afraid to make a mistake? I think that’s huge and that stuck out a little bit. We’ve got a long way to go though.”


When it came time to mix in with the veterans during organized team activities (OTAs), Thompson eventually worked his way onto the first team and remained there for most of the spring. That meant he was playing alongside Landon Collins, who is the elder statesman in the safeties room at the age of 22. The unanimous All-American out of Alabama was thrown into the fire in 2015, becoming the first rookie in franchise history to start 16 games at the position. Now it could be Thompson’s turn to do the same.

“Last year when I came here, it was very hard because we all came to a new defense,” Collins said. “Just making the right calls and stuff like that, now he’s definitely got a lot of help because a lot of us came from the same defense last year. So we’re definitely helping him out. Then just for him, just putting in the study and work that he’s doing, it’s a great thing seeing him doing it.”


During OTA No. 7, the rookie intercepted Eli Manning during a simulated two-minute drill. Needing a touchdown, Manning hooked up with Odell Beckham Jr. twice before a third pass went through the wide receiver’s hands and into the grasp of Thompson. Coach Ben McAdoo was even more impressed with Thompson’s awareness to take a knee after the turnover, knowing the defense had sealed the victory.


“D.T. is a guy who looks like he is comfortable in his skin,” McAdoo said. “He can communicate well and we know he has good ball skills. That showed up in his stat line and on his film study and he is making the most of his opportunities.”


Coaches make rookies’ heads spin during spring football, but they’re seeing how the young players react heading into training camp and the preseason. Thompson wasn’t immune to rookie mistakes, but what’s setting him apart is his fearlessness about making one and then his ability to learn from it.


“He has been working with Landon quite a bit; that kind of probably says a lot that he is up there with those guys (on the first unit),” Spagnuolo said during last week’s minicamp. “I said this before, he is still doing it, he is assertive, he is vocal, he is not afraid to make a mistake. I think the first thing that you need to do at that position when we ask you to make calls is not to be afraid of making a mistake and to be vocal. If he continues to do that, he will learn the defense. He is smart enough, and then it is just a matter of when you get out there, where is his skill level, and I think we will find out a lot when we get to those preseason games.”