Jordan Thompson entered Northwestern as a pretty highly-touted recruit. But it took the big defensive tackle until his junior year to flourish alongside current Green Bay Packer Tyler Lancaster. In his senior season, Thompson took his development to new heights, and now the Cincinnati, Ohio native has a chance to catch on at the next level.
Thompson was still recovering from surgery at Northwestern’s Pro Day after being forced to exit the Holiday Bowl early with an injury. He seems to be at full strength (or close to it) now, but was only able to undergo the bench press a few weeks ago. His 26 reps would have been good for 14th among defensive linemen at the combine.
Thompson’s weight, at just 284 pounds, is of some concern for a player who probably needs to either pick up weight or move to 3-4 defensive end to stick at the next level.
Thompson’s quickness and body control made him a relatively dangerous pass rusher from the interior at times over the course of his career, but his main growth was against the run. Pro Football Focus named him the best interior run defender in the conference last season, and his effective hole-plugging and playmaking led the 18th-ranked run defense in the country by S&P+.
Jordan Thompson was the Big Ten's second-highest graded interior defensive linemen this season pic.twitter.com/2cRGAnEO9p— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) December 14, 2018
To really show off Thompson’s prowess, look at Northwestern’s opposed rushing marginal efficiency ranking of seventh. That means that Thompson and Fred Wyatt helmed one of the best units in the country at keeping opponents “off-schedule” on the interior by not allowing healthy gains on early downs or short-yardage pickups on third and fourth down. By taking on the occasional double team, garnering plenty of tackles for loss himself, and forcing backs into his linebackers, Thompson led the way in that regard.
As mentioned above, Thompson can also get after the passer when asked to (he picked up 5.5 sacks in his final two years), and flashed his above-average instincts a time or two when he was in the backfield this season:
What an incredible play by Jordan Thompson here... pic.twitter.com/Yi2IXCh5Z1— Inside NU (@insidenu) October 27, 2018
Finally, Thompson excels at keeping it light in the clubhouse. He was a tremendous leader for this Northwestern team. always seeming to know what to do or say to keep guys on course. Sometimes, that includes a bit of dancing after a big win:
Northwestern likes to dance after they get a “W.” After their win over Wisconsin on Saturday, their defensive tackle Jordan Thompson did “The Worm.” pic.twitter.com/shgLl7ziJk— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) October 29, 2018
As mentioned above, Thompson currently lacks the size of an NFL defensive tackle. He took on his fair share of double teams over the past two years, but professional double teams are a bit different than they are in the Big Ten, and he doesn’t quite have the size to keep up.
Thompson is a bit of a tweener at this point, because he doesn’t have much more than natural pass-rushing ability to use on the outside. Because he was used exclusively on the interior in Evanston, moving to end would be a difficult transition. Wither way, Thompson has some work to do before making an impact at the next level.
After playing sparingly in his first two years with the program, Thompson broke out and impressed in his final two. The numbers aren’t eye-popping, but they speak to a player who did the dirty work and got the job done. Northwestern will miss him.
Despite the respect Big Ten opponents have for him (with Beau Benzschawel calling Thompson one of the best he faced during his time in college) there isn’t a lot of buzz around Thompson. He will be an undrafted free agent.
Thompson has the talent and work ethic to make an impact on an NFL team, but he needs to fix a couple of underlying issues to do so. There’s no reason he can’t become a Tyler Lancaster-type who works his way up in a team’s hierarchy despite being relatively unheralded as of now.