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Scouting Jets wide receiver Deonte Thompson

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Detroit Lions v Buffalo Bills Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

As camp approaches, we’re going to take a look at some more of the Jets’ offseason acquisitions, continuing today with Deonte Thompson.

Thompson is a 30-year old wide receiver who was undrafted out of Florida. He is 6’0” and 204 pounds and has caught 94 passes for 1,193 yards and four touchdowns since entering the league in 2012. Thompson has played for four different NFL teams, including the Bears, where Adam Gase and Dowell Loggains were his offensive coordinators. He caught 17 passes and made six starts with the Cowboys and Bills last season.

Background

Thompson was recruited to Florida in 2007, where he redshirted his first season. In his redshirt freshman year, he played in every game and caught 18 passes as the Gators won the BCS title.

His production increased over the next few years and he had career highs in catches (38) and receiving yards (570) as a redshirt junior. However, his production dipped during an inconsistent senior year.

He ended his college career with 101 catches for 1,446 yards and nine touchdowns but - despite an excellent pro day - went undrafted in 2012.

He began his NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens, seeing time as a kick returner in his first two seasons, which also saw him catch 15 passes in 13 games.

In 2014, he played in just one game, with the Buffalo Bills, but signed with Gase’s Bears in 2015 and played in seven games. Again he had a role in the return game, while also making two big catches on offense.

In 2016, as Gase departed and Loggains took over the offense, Thompson earned the first six starts and scored the first two touchdowns of his career. He ended the season with 22 catches for 249 yards.

Despite making a good start to the 2017 season, during which he started three of the first five games and caught 11 passes, Thompson was released and picked up by the Bills, with whom he caught 27 passes in 11 games. He ended the season with career high totals of 38 catches and 555 yards.

Last year saw him play five games (two starts) with Dallas and eight (four starts) in his third stint with the Bills. He ended the season with 17 catches.

Now let’s take a look at what Thompson brings to the table, divided into categories.

Measurables/Athleticism

Thompson is a good athlete and his speed shows up on film. He conducted his pro day workout at UCF back in 2012 where he posted excellent numbers for speed, strength and explosiveness. His 40-time was officially 4.31.

His agility numbers were not as good, as he posted an average three-cone drill and a below average short shuttle.

Usage

Thompson has played mostly on the outside, but has also had plenty of snaps and some production out of the slot. Eight of his 38 catches in 2017 came from the slot.

He’s carried the ball a few times in his college and pro career, but without much success.

Deep threat

Thompson has definitely established himself as a vertical threat since entering the league. He has the speed to get over the top and tracks and locates the ball really well.

Routes

As you’d expect for a player with Thompson’s experience, the veteran shows some polished route running ability. Note how he embarrasses his man here in this practice drill.

That translates to game action as well, as he is quick off the line to get clean releases, makes sharp breaks and understands how to lean on his man to maintain a leverage advantage.

However, there were some plays where he seemed to go through the motions or wasn’t strong enough coming back to the ball, which led to incompletions or interceptions.

Hands

Thompson’s catch rate is below 60 percent, which is not ideal, although that’s partly because he was targeted a lot down the field. Although his hands were a concern after his senior season with the Gators, Thompson doesn’t drop a lot of catchable passes, although he has had a few, including a costly one in the end zone on fourth down.

Thompson displays good concentration and an ability to adjust to poorly thrown passes and can make contested catches in traffic. This clutch play in the snow led to the winning score in overtime.

Red zone

Three of Thompson’s four NFL touchdowns in regular season action have come in the red zone, although only one of his three preseason touchdowns was inside the 20.

Yards after the catch

You’d expect Thompson to contribute more with the ball in his hands on offense, since he has the experience as a kick returner. However, he doesn’t break many tackles. Here’s a play where he does break a tackle to make some extra yardage, but he hasn’t racked up good numbers after the catch since his rookie year.

Thompson has not had any fumbles on offense during his career so far and will fight for yardage, as he does on this second-and-short conversion.

Blocking

Blocking is an area where Thompson contributes particularly well. He gives a good effort, stays on his block and can redirect his man to create running lanes.

Physicality

Thompson has good strength and shows physical play as a blocker, when running routes or if he gets the ball. As noted, he will sometimes fail to be physical at the catch point, but these seem to be lapses as there are also examples of him going after contested catches aggressively.

He’s not afraid to go over the middle and has shown that he can hang on even when taking a big hit.

He has had 11 penalties on offense in his career, six of which were for offensive holding.

Special Teams

Thompson has posted pretty decent kick return numbers during his career, averaging just under 25 yards per return despite not scoring a touchdown. That includes six returns of over 40 yards in 88 attempts, although none of these came in the last two seasons. He’s also had a few balls stripped away from him at the end of returns.

He does not have any experience as a punt returner, although he has seen some action as a punt gunner. He has no tackles though and a couple of missed tackles and penalties.

In preseason action, he returned this missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown.

Instincts

Thompson displays good instincts as a kick returner in the open field and shows an example here of his ability to find an open spot when a play gets extended.

There were a few plays, however, where fans felt he was at fault because he ran the wrong route on some unsuccessful plays.

Two of his penalties were false starts and one was for illegally going out of bounds on a kick.

Attitude

Coaches have praised Thompson’s attitude, his physical and mental toughness and his underdog spirit. He was surprised when the Bears cut him in 2017 because he had felt he was developing into a leader.

Looking back, he had off-field issues in the past. He was arrested in 2014 for drug offenses and charged with a felony for possession, although these charges were later dropped.

Injuries

Thompson hasn’t had problems with serious injuries, but he’s had a few issues that have slowed down his career at times. He was waived/injured by the Bills after injuring his foot during preseason in 2015 and had a shoulder problem in 2017 that almost caused him to miss the postseason.

He was also slowed in camp last year with an Achilles strain and another shoulder injury.

Scheme Fit

Thompson has played in the league long enough to fit into any offensive system. With his ability to be a vertical threat, play in the slot and his open field running skills, he could be viable cover for any of the Jets’ three top receivers.

Conclusions

In preseason action, guys like Thompson usually have some success. He’s been in the league long enough that he doesn’t need to work on his strength or route-running skills any more, knows how to read coverage and should be able to exploit the young cornerbacks who he’s likely to come up against.

You can probably expect him to have a productive preseason, which will mean that his roster chances come down to the Jets choosing between him and a younger player with more upside.

His ability to return kicks is a useful string to his bow, with his numbers actually better than those of Andre Roberts when he took over the role with the Jets last year. However, the fact he doesn’t return punts hurts him.

This was a smart pickup, giving the Jets a player the coaching staff is familiar with that they can fall back on as a replacement level backup if none of their younger options step up and take a role for themselves.