Some league analysts were skeptical when the Titans traded up 10 spots with Miami to select SMU’s Taylor Thompson in the fifth round (145th overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft. But if Friday’s rookie practices were any indication, the college defensive end looked just fine playing tight end, a position he excelled at during high school.
The Titans liked Thompson’s size, speed, athleticism and hands as a tight end, despite not having any college film on him at the position.
On Friday, Thompson displayed the same traits the Titans saw during their pre-draft evaluation process, running smoothly on routes and catching every pass thrown his way.
“It was great. I felt very comfortable on offense. I’ve learned a lot the past few days and I’m just having a great time,” Thompson said of his first day. “I’m pretty familiar with what they’re running here. It’s similar to what Coach (June) Jones ran at SMU.”
Thompson was an All-State tight end in Texas in high school, but was needed as a defensive end at SMU, racking up 4.5 sacks as a junior when he was named first-team Conference USA.
Thompson told reporters why he switched back to tight end, despite playing 80 snaps per game at defensive end in college.
“We had a package that Coach Jones would run in practice. He never really ran it in the game. Since I came out of high school as a tight end he told me if I ever wanted to play in an all-star game as a tight end that he could probably help me with that,” Thompson said. “I figured if anything it could show that I’m an athlete, so I decided to do it.”
Thompson entered the draft as a defensive end, but had several teams interested in selecting him as a tight end, including the Titans.
Having played on defense in college, Thompson said he understands the mindset of his opponent.
“A huge thing in football is to understand the enemy,” Thompson said. “I have that athletic side of me that I can bring to offense. I can be an aggressive and athletic tight end to help make plays in the pass game and in the run game.”
The Titans hope Thompson can join Jared Cook as another play-making tight end within their offensive arsenal.
Thompson believes he can make big plays down field and help in the run game, even though he flew under the radar in the NFL Draft.
“It’s tough when teams didn’t have film on me,” he said. “That was my downside.”
For the Titans, it appears it worked to their advantage.
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