NAME: Darwin Thompson
SCHOOL: Utah State
POSITION: Running Back
JERSEY: No. 13
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
WT: 190 lbs
Vision – Vision betrays him often and limits his ability to be an explosive playmaker in a rotation. Late to see cutback lanes on wide zone flow, regularly running his way into traffic when there’s clear daylight available. Gets tunnel vision when trying to pick his spots and will leave himself susceptible to backside pursuit despite having the elusive traits to win with cutbacks. Bounces off of his OL’s backs with disturbing frequency and often lucks into space by disappearing behind bigger bodies.
Burst – Has some juice but is not as fast as you’d like to see for a scatback type. Is more quick-footed than anything else; struggles to open up his stride and chew up ground when working through the tight areas of the second level. Does not have the explosiveness to slash through flow on inside/outside zone. At his best when beating second/third level pursuit angles with quick explosiveness, but can’t maintain his speed.
Change of Direction – Wiggle is where he wins. Slippery player who does well to angle himself through arm tackles and force tacklers to try and drag him down outside of their radius and off-balance. Again, not much of a jump-cutter (see: Vision) but has the agility to make defenders miss by cutting against the grain. Short strides lead to a high step frequency, though he doesn’t have great instincts in space to capitalize on his body control.
Power – Feisty. Has some good lower body power for his size and can maintain his balance through arm tackles, which is a significant trait when paired with his phone booth agility. Runs with his pads in front of toes and can finish forward accordingly. Mass concerns should illustrate a back that does not win with power at the next level, however.
Second Level Speed – Doesn’t have a desirable second gear for his mold as a player. Despite lower weight, can’t open the tank and fly — breakaway runs often ended much closer than comfort would allow. Is limited by short strides when looking to eat up ground.
Contact Balance – Big plus in his game, especially at his size. Can absorb contact from all angles and has a strong base to maintain his footing. Regularly breaks arm tackles and can maintain forward momentum through awkward angles/footing. Does well to initiate contact with lower pads to deliver a hit and make staying upright that much easier.
Decision-Making – Poor. Will fold and burrow into contact in the first level when he has the physical traits to create space for himself. Often late to daylight, even in short-yardage situations when urgent running is a must. Is too patient/indecisive when working second-level defenders and can expose himself to unnecessary tackle attempts by dawdling in the hole.
Pass Catching – Has a ton of experience and positive film on swing routes and screens. Can make the first defender miss in space and works screen blockers relatively well. Hands catches appear on film, and there doesn’t seem to be a drop issue. More downfield routes would be interesting.
Pass Protection – Lacks an NFL future here — frame limitations all but preclude him from being an effective pass protector, and what little hope is left is eliminated by a milquetoast approach to the responsibility.
BEST TRAIT – Change of Direction
WORST TRAIT – Decision-making
RED FLAGS – Size
PLAYER COMPARISON – Tyler Ervin
Darwin Thompson should hope to stick on a roster as a returner/scatback, but that will be an uphill battle. Thompson does well to win with quick feet and good contact balance as a runner, but he lacks the expected burst/long speed profile of a change-of-pace back and a kickoff returner. Undersized and without much physical upside, Thompson will be relying heavily on his elusive traits, but he lacks great anticipation and vision to maximize his ability in space. Too often he gets caught up in traffic that he can’t beat, and he’ll struggle to turn garbage into gold by hitting home runs like he did with the Aggies. He projects best as a fringe 53-man player out of camp, who will fight to make a roster with special teams contributions.