Whether or not the Packers try to turn Wake Forest's Jeremy Thompson into a pass-rush specialist in his early years in the NFL remains to be seen.
But the Green Bay scout who followed his college career is curious just how good the 264-pound workout warrior could be at rushing the passer if he got to focus on it.
Brian Gutekunst, who scouts the Southeast region for the Packers, said Thompson was asked to play various roles as a starting defensive end for Wake. He'd drop back into coverage as well as play the run and rush the passer, and Gutekunst thinks his modest total of 6 1/2 sacks last season was a reflection of those various duties.
"They didn't let him pin his ears back like at a lot of schools and just go go go," Gutekunst said. "I'll be interested to see when he gets a chance to just pin his ears back. At Wake I thought they asked him to do a lot of things, read-and-react stuff, more than just set him out wide in a stance and come off the corner. I'll be excited to see that, see how he develops in camp with that, getting more opportunities that way."
The Packers chose Thompson early in the fourth round on Sunday, trading with the New York Jets once again. This time, the Packers moved up 11 spots from No. 113 (the pick acquired Saturday from the Jets in the swap of picks 30 and 36) to No. 102 and surrendered a fifth-round selection (No. 162). It marks the first time Green Bay GM Ted Thompson has traded up in the nine drafts he's run (four with the Packers, five with the Seahawks).
Jeremy Thompson joins his older brother, Orrin, in Green Bay. Orrin is a backup offensive tackle after a college career as a defensive tackle at Duke.
The Packers have no plans to change positions with this Thompson, and though his early fit in Green Bay could be as a pass rusher, he's seen as an all-around defensive end for the long term. His senior season, Thompson totaled 46 tackles (35 solo), including 11 for loss.
Gutekunst said he could see Thompson adding 10-15 pounds to his frame without losing any athletic ability. At his current size, he showed enough ability to defend the run, but he'll likely need that added bulk to do the same in the pros.
"One thing I really liked about him is he stays on his feet," Gutekunst said. "He's a good athlete, he doesn't get knocked down. He's not a 300-pound set-the-point-of-attack guy, but he uses his length, he drops his weight and stays on his feet. He keeps things alive that some guys can't do, and he's got enough speed and range in chase when the ball is running away from him that he'll make plays on the backside as well."
Thompson feels he defends the run and rushes the passer equally well, and he's shown no ill effects from a season-ending knee injury sustained in the second half of his sophomore season (2005).
"I just worked it really hard with my therapist, and now it's a lot better," Thompson said. "It's stronger than my good knee."
Like many Green Bay draft picks, Thompson also is an admirable individual off the field. He was one of 10 finalists for the National Sportsmanship Award, which is given to the college player who best personifies the spirit of sportsmanship.
"It's a great honor to know I was being recognized for something other than football," he said. "The culture at Wake Forest is to do things just as good off the field as you do on the field. I was very honored by it."
In that spirit of off-field commitments, Thompson was going to have to spend Sunday night studying for his last final exam at Wake. The class, "Fathers and Daughters," about the pitfalls in relationships between those family members and how they can be improved, didn't sound particularly taxing, but Thompson insisted he'd cut off the draft day celebrating in time to take care of his studies.
"This is a great kid," Gutekunst said. "He's really smart, loves football."