Matt Waldman’s RSP Twitter Vids: QB Skylar Thompson (Kansas St.) Is Legit

Skylar Thompson is a legitimately underrated quarterback prospect among draft media. Matt Waldman shares some film outtakes he’ll be bringing to a future RSP Film Room with Mark Schofield later this month. 

Skylar Thompson has the tools and craft to develop into one of the great anomalies of draft history. He’s a compelling quarterback prospect whose career doesn’t fit the rubric of traditional draft analysis.

Despite arriving at Kansas State as a top-15 dual-threat quarterback in prep guides, Manhattan hasn’t been a hotbed for future pro quarterbacks. Thompson’s arm strength and overall performance at the Manning Passing Camp last summer surprised and impressed several scouts in attendance, including Senior Bowl Director Jim Nagy. However, Nagy’s evaluators didn’t extend an invitation to the all-star game at year’s end.

Based on an interview Nagy delivered the fall prior, there’s a strong chance that Thompson’s lack of statistical production was a significant factor. When asked what Thompson needed to do to raise his draft stock and improve his chances for attention, Nagy repeatedly alluded to production.

Speaking with researcher and analysts Chad Reuter last night, Thompson’s passing map often pales in the volume of throws to the established names in this class. It’s clear that if your process for scouting quarterbacks includes college production, Skylar Thompson will be an afterthought on your draft board.

The film is another matter. If you’ve defined traits, techniques, concepts, and account for the way a quarterback can integrate these things into his game, then there’s a strong chance that Thompson’s game will at least make you do a double-take.

At this point, Thompson’s game is grabbing me by the collar, and, with the voice that sounds like Lawrence Fishburne, saying, “I imagine that right now, you’re feeling a bit like Alice. Hmm? Tumbling down the rabbit hole?”

Thompson has the best pocket management of this class. He maneuvers from all types of pressure better than at least half of the NFL starters I’ve watched this year.  He also takes hellacious hits and maintains the equanimity to deliver an accurate ball.

His accuracy data isn’t strong, but as I noted years ago, the way accuracy data is traditionally tracked can be misleading — see Baker Mayfield: Accuracy Is a Deceptive Category. When charting Thompson’s placement with criteria like mine, which accounts for more nuanced factors that go into accuracy including placement based on the route type, primary coverage, and ancillary coverage, Thompson’s accuracy isn’t far from or stands up directly to his peers in this class.

What really shines is his technique and creativity against pressure, throwing the ball, and his management of a pro-style offense in situational football that outpaces the top of this class in areas such as red-zone management and pre-snap adjustments.

Kansas State’s offensive coach came from North Dakota State and brought the Bison’s West Coast Offense with him. This pro-style offense places more pre-snap demands on the quarterback than most college schemes and you will see in the upcoming Film Room that I will do with Mark Schofield how well Thompson executes the mental game in addition to his physical toughness that’s clearly on display.

Like Trey Lance, who earned unfounded and ignorant criticism of his game because those levying it didn’t understand the nature of the offense, Thompson has been written off on the basis of production analysis that doesn’t account for the scheme’s demands.

Here’s a taste of many of the things I just shared about Thompson’s game. You’ll see more from me about him in the coming weeks.

Pocket presence…

Pocket management and progression reads…

Tight-window downfield accuracy. (Note the open receiver, up the left hash because some of you will think Thompson missed this throw. If you look again, he’d have to throw this at least 60 yards and there was a safety covering him before peeling off to attack the target Thompson delivered.)

The pocket clock that most quarterback prospects lack in the college game. Thompson preemptively adjusts after initial routes don’t come open. Few quarterbacks have this awareness at this level of football.

This is the type of pressure that leads many quarterbacks to “Turtle” or overreact to the point that they have to readjust their stance to get the ball out, which means they never do.

I have some comparisons I’m working on with Thompson that I don’t want to share just yet but in many respects, I think Thompson is what many in the scouting community thought they saw when they were looking at Daniel Jones.

I’m not one to normally play the draft game, but based on what I’ve searched around about Thompson after scouted and extensively charted five games of his, if Thompson earns a third- or fourth-round selection, it will be a shock to the public but not as big of a surprise among a handful of insiders.

It’s best to bet that Thompson will be a third-day pick, likely after the fourth round. It means he’ll have a long road ahead to buck the odds that the biases of draft capital instill when it comes to reps and internal team evaluations of late-round players.

Still, there’s a lot more talent in Thompson’s game than the buzz he’s earning. If the opporutnity matches his potential, Thompson could be the name you remember fondly from this quarterback class that has a lot of interesting but incomplete talents.

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