The Giants came into this offseason with a trio of young, unproven, inexperienced players at safety and they were hoping one of them would emerge as the starter. On Friday night they added a fourth to the mix, and he enters the race as the favorite.
Darian Thompson of Boise State was selected with the 71st overall pick in the third round on Friday night. His college career included 19 interceptions, 12 of them in the past two seasons.
“A centerfielder,” general manager Jerry Reese said after making the pick. “He checks a lot of boxes for us.”
Interestingly, Thompson actually did play centerfield when he was a baseball player in high school. At the Combine he told reporters that he thought playing the outfield helped him on the football field because he was able to use his smarts and his instincts together.
“A lot of tracking the ball,” he said. “I guess that helped me a little bit. I can definitely see the correlation there.”
Safety was a sad position for the 2015 Giants. At various times in the preseason the Giants had hopes that either Nat Berhe, Mykkele Thompson or Bennett Jackson would step up as a starter with rookie Landon Collins, but none of the three made it to the regular season and all required season-ending surgery. That left veteran leftovers Brandon Meriweather and Craig Dahl on the field and forced Collins, last year’s second-round pick and a potential emerging star, to play out of position.
Thompson, if he wins the starting job, should not only provide the Giants with a strong last line of defense but allow Collins to play up in the box where he is better suited.
“You always keep that in mind,” director of college scouting Marc Ross said of the potential Thompson-Collins team, “but what we like about this guy is that he’s played both. He’s played strong, he’s played in the slot, he’s played a little linebacker position. They move him all around.”
With the Giants, though, he should be the deep man.
“He makes the calls back there for his team, he’s a ball hawk back there,” Reese said. “I think his skillset is a free safety skillset.”
And as an interception artist.
“The game is about the ball,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “You need to get the offense the ball.”
Thompson said he is aware that he is coming to a team with no established veteran penciled into his position. In fact, he’s the only one of the Giants’ first three picks who can say that. But he was quick to add that he won’t let that affect his mindset when he arrives with the team later this week.
“When I get in there, have my best foot forward and just continue to work,” he said. “I believe I have a great work ethic and nothing’s going to change from that, so whatever happens when I get there, it just happens. I’m excited. I’m going to give it all I have and see what happens when I get out there.”
He’ll still have to beat out Berhe, Mykkele Thompson and Jackson, along with Cooper Taylor, for the job. He has more bona fides out of college than any of them had, but proving it on the field will be the only way he gets to play and establish himself.
“We think he’s going to create a lot of competition in the secondary at that safety position,” Reese said. “We’re looking forward to getting him in here.”
“We have a lot of young guys in the safety mix and quite frankly we haven’t seen them,” McAdoo said. “They’ve been nicked up, they basically had a medical red-shirt type of year last year. It was good to get them back out there . . . We’re champing at the bit to get a look at those guys and Darian is a guy we’re going to throw into the mix and let them all compete.”