The 2022 NFL Draft is very near, with the first round scheduled for Thursday, April 28th. And while no Kansas State athlete is expected to go in the first couple rounds, there are still a handful of guys that might hear their name called before the draft wraps up on Saturday, April 30th.
Our next preview of potential Wildcats in the draft looks at former BMOC Skylar Thompson.
Thompson was a 4-star recruit out of Ft. Osage HS in Independence, MO. He was easily the highest rated recruit for K-State in his class, a class that features two current NFL players in Byron Pringle and AJ Parker, current USFL player Abdul Beecham, as well as fellow draft/NFL hopefuls Corey Sutton (who finished his career at Appalachian State) and Jahron McPherson.
Thompson eventually lasted in Manhattan for six seasons. After redshirting in 2016, Thompson spent much of 2017 and 2018 oscillating with Alex Delton for the starting QB role, but still managed over 2,000 yards combined in those two seasons, with 14TDs to 7 INTs. He also ran for over 600 yards and 8 TDs in his first two seasons.
Then Bill Snyder retired and Chris Klieman arrived in Manhattan, and the QB controversy was ended quickly. And Skylar (mostly) thrived. In 2019, while leading K-State to an 8-5 finish (and a huge win over eventual CFP also-ran Oklahoma), Thompson threw for 2,315 yards and 12 TDs, while also running for 405 yards and 11 TDs to lead the team in ground scoring.
Even more was expected in what should have been his final season in Manhattan, but 2020 was full of twists. Of course Covid derailed the season as a whole, but in an already shortened season, during the third game, not even to halftime yet, Thompson took a
cheap-shot late targeting hit from Texas Tech’s Riko Jeffers and tore his pectoral muscle while landing. He had led his team to another win over OU, this time in Norman, and was on pace to pass his previous season’s personal passing record before he was knocked out for the remainder of the season.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Choosing to use the extra season granted because of the pandemic, Skylar returned to form at astonishing pace for the 2021 season. Again, a quirky injury caused a derailment, when he strained his PCL while attempting to turn up-field to block for Deuce Vaughn during the second game of the season. But when he returned against Oklahoma a few weeks later, the limit to his ability to run actually turned Thompson into a better passer. Even missing most of three games, Thompson finished the 2021 season leading his team to another 8-5 record with 2,113 passing yards and 12 TDs to just 4 INTs, moving him into second-place all-time at K-State with 7,124 yards through the air as well as 42 TDs. And while he didn’t run much over the last two seasons, he still finished with over 1,000 career rushing yards.
Thompson played decently well in the East-West Shrine Bowl, and was especially noted for his time in practice, but didn’t stand out next to his peers at the game. The same was true of the NFL Combine, where he was slow in the 40-yard dash, but rated well in the quickness and agility drills. Again, he didn’t really stand out against his peers at the event in the measurable drills, but was solid in the throwing drills, especially in the intermediate throws.
Probably his biggest knock, and something that hurt him at times at K-State, is his deep passing. His accuracy suffers on deep throws, and he lacks the “elite” arm-strength to push the ball down field without being properly set-up. He’s also “old” for a rookie, and will be 25 when his first NFL season rolls around. Of course there is the recent injury history, but he bounced back rapidly from both and that should be more of a positive than a negative.
His biggest positives are his ball control, as well as his ability to move in and beyond the pocket while still making good throws. He also really improved his ability to work through his progressions in his final season in Manhattan, and became very good at spreading the ball around to his targets. When fully healthy, Thompson’s deceptive speed and good running vision can also make him a threat to pick up yards on the ground.
Thompson, whose best NFL comp is probably Alex Smith, likely won’t start in the NFL, but has a very good shot at being a career backup like Chase Daniel. But that doesn’t mean he won’t get drafted. Teams still draft back-up QBs, especially ones that can be trusted to run the offense well and not cause issues in the locker room. He was a great leader and unselfish teammate while at K-State, and it’s exceedingly rare for guys like that to become locker room cancers.
Thompson could fall out of the draft completely and end up as an un-drafted free agent. But it’s more likely that he’ll end up in one of the last couple rounds, though some draft experts have him going as high as the 4th round, so that’s cool.
Regardless of how he goes, whoever picks up this young man is going to be very happy with him.