Jalen Thompson, a senior safety for the Washington State Cougars regarded as one of the best at his position in the Pac-12, has been declared ineligible for the 2019 season due to a violation of NCAA rules and has declared for the NFL’s Supplemental Draft, it was revealed Saturday.
The news was first reported by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, who tweeted that Thompson learned on Friday he will not be eligible for the upcoming season and had then decided to put his name into the NFL Supplemental Draft, which is set for July 10.
WSU later confirmed that Thompson lost his final year of eligibility “due to a violation of NCAA rules.” The Spokesman-Review reported that the violation “stems from the purchase of an over-the-counter supplement at a local nutrition store” although the source told the paper that “it was not a steroid.”
The news is a big blow for the Cougars as Thompson had started all 39 games in his WSU career with 191 tackles and six interceptions and was recently picked as a first-team All-Pac-12 player for 2020 by Athlon’s College Football preview after having been named a conference honorable mention selection last season and to the second team in 2017. “Could emerge as the Pac-12’s top safety in 2019,” wrote Athlon’s.
But the development also gives NFL teams a suddenly intriguing player to possibly add to their roster a few weeks before training camps open, with the early consensus that Thompson is likely to be selected (Rapoport reported that Thompson has already hired agent Brad Cicala, whose firm also represents former UW standout John Ross as well as former Seahawks Paul Richardson and Malcolm Smith).
Thompson had already been generally projected as a possible pick anywhere from rounds three to six for the 2020 draft with the thought that his stock could rise if he were to have an especially productive senior year.
And that raises one other obvious question — could the Seahawks be interested, making WSU’s loss potentially Seattle’s gain?
First, it may be worth a refresher on how the draft works.
The Supplemental Draft uses the same order as the regular draft last April, meaning the Seahawks are at 21. The way the draft works is teams put in blind bids, entering the round in which they would take the player. If two or more teams each bid on a player in the same round, the team with the highest pick gets the player. The team that gets the player then loses its 2020 pick in that round.
Seattle, with an expected nine overall picks in 2020, has the draft capital to put in a bid for Thompson if it wants. Along with having their own first-round pick and a second-rounder from the Chiefs via the Frank Clark trade, the Seahawks have their own picks in rounds three, four and five, when Thompson might most logically be taken. The Seahawks traded 2020 sixth- and seventh-round picks during or shortly after the draft for receiver John Ursua and tight end Jacob Hollister, respectively.
But Seattle is also expected to be awarded picks in the third, fourth, sixth and seventh rounds as compensation for free agent losses in 2019, and the Seahawks could make a Supplemental pick with the knowledge of what it is expected to get.
In terms of raw numbers, Seattle isn’t in obvious need of safeties with eight on its roster, including two it drafted in 2019 — strong safety Marquise Blair (second round) and free safety Ugo Amadi (fourth round).
Blair and Amadi added to a safety corps that also includes veteran Bradley McDougald, who will start at either free or strong, along with 2017 draft picks Tedric Thompson and Lano Hill and another former WSU Cougar, Shalom Luani, whom the Seahawks traded a seventh-round pick to Oakland for before last season (others on the roster are undrafted rookie free agent Jalen Harvey of Arizona State and veteran free agent Marwin Evans).
But the safety spot is also among the most unsettled on Seattle’s team, both in terms of the immediate and long-term futures.
McDougald, Hill and Blair were all out for most or all of the offseason program due to injuries, which left Seattle generally using Thompson and Luani as its starters during OTAs and minicamp, which had coach Pete Carroll saying when minicamp ended that it was hard to get a good read on the safety position heading into training camp — the first Seattle will hold since Carroll became coach in 2010 without at least one of Earl Thomas or Kam Chancellor on active roster.
“It’s a little bit difficult (to read) because Bradley is not out there,” Carroll said on June 13. “Bradley really has been the leader and the best communicator for us and just the experience and all of that. And then Hill hasn’t been there and (he) made a big push at the end of the year and he’s a guy (we) really think is in the mix. So we’re going to have to reserve judgment a little bit in how it’s going to wind up in the starting spots.”
The long-term future is hardly clearer.
McDougald has two years remaining on his contract but had surgery in the offseason to repair a partially torn patellar tendon injury he said he suffered at midseason, and like most Seattle contracts, his deal is structured in a way that means he could be a salary cap casualty in the final year — McDougald has a $5.433 million cap hit in 2020 but a dead cap number of just $1.333 million, meaning Seattle could save $4.1 million releasing him.
And none of the other players on the roster has as of yet proven himself as a legitimate starter in the NFL — Thompson had 10 starts last season and Hill two while none of the others have started a game for the Seahawks (Evans had one start while with Green Bay in 2017 and Luani one start with the Raiders in 2017).
The Seahawks also have been toying with the idea of using Amadi as a nickel corner, a spot where he saw considerable action during his career at Oregon.
Given Carroll’s “Always Compete” mantra, the importance of the secondary in his defense and the uncertainty at the safety spot, the Seahawks may at least have to think about it.