The biggest surprise of the 2012 draft probably won't come in the draft's first 3 rounds, but it's one of the biggest surprises I can remember. Can anyone else ever remember a player switching from defense to offense, to a position he never played in college, at his Pro Day, only around 3 weeks before the draft, and then jump half way up the draft board?
SMU finally had their Pro Day in early April, and I just now found the results for DE Taylor Thompson, only he's no longer a DE, he's now listed as a TE. During the season Thompson was listed as being 6-6, weighing in the high 280's, and running in the mid 4.8's. However, he worked out at his Pro Day as a TE, a position he hadn't played since high school, and they say he looked great in the drills. Here are his Pro Day numbers:
33 3/4 inch arms
10 5/8 inch hands
22 bench reps
37 inch vertical jump
10-6 broad jump
7.43 3-cone drill
4.38-20 yard shuttle
12.00-60 yard shuttle
Thompsons Pro Day workout, and position change was so stunning that nfldraftscout.com/cbssports.com has moved his overall draft ranking up to #130 (#138 at Pro Football Weekly). Those rankings are up from the high 280's or lower just a month ago, when he was still considered a 3-4 DE. He was voted 1st Team All-Conference USA in 2011, with 41 tackles, 7.5 TFL's, 7 sacks, and 6 forced fumbles. As I wrote before, as a 6-6, 285 pound, 3-4 DE, most probably might have thought if he were to move from 3-4 DE it might be to 4-3 DT on passing downs.
I wouldn't get too excited about his current #130 ranking, I think it's just an over reaction to his great Pro Day workout. The pendulum should swing back a little on Thompson's draft rankings by draft time, the more they think about him not having played TE in college. The question is, if Thompson should fall back into the early 5th (or even 6th round), should the Panthers consider drafting him?
If the Panthers are interested in Thompson, I would think it would be as a backup, pass rushing DE first, and a blocking TE second (maybe he can develop into a realiable pass catcher in time). Consider this, his 4.57-40 would have been the fastest "official" 40 time for any DE at the Combine, except for 245 pound Bruce Irvin who's considered a OLB in the NFL, and Nick Perry's "unofficial" 4.50-40. Thompson's draft case is healped by the fact that this draft really doesn't have a pass rushing DE after Vinny Curry, in the 2nd round, with better than 4.8 speed. If Thompson could get 7 sacks as a 3-4 DE, playing around 25 pounds heavier than he is now, and running around 3/10ths of a second slower than he does now, what can he do as a 4-3 DE in the NFL?