Shaq Thompson is Mike Mayock’s No. 2 Safety. Should He Be Vikings’ No. 1 Target?


It isn’t truly draft season until Mike Mayock has released his list of the top five prospects at every position (so everyone can begin ripping Mayock apart or using Mayock’s lists to prop up their own arguments).

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For our purposes we want to zero in on the safety position and see which players the estimable Mayock has in his initial top five. Here is that list (via


1. Landon Collins, Alabama
2. Shaq Thompson, Washington
3. Derron Smith, Fresno State
4. Jaquiski Tartt, Samford
5. Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern

Mayock’s list offers an answer for at least one of this draft season’s most intriguing mysteries: is Shaq Thompson a linebacker or a safety? To Mayock he’s a safety, even though Thompson saw limited action at that position in college.

Perhaps Thompson would best be characterized as “a talent.” Last year, the Vikings drafted “a talent” on defense who came in with a somewhat undefined role at least in the eyes of scouts. That player, Anthony Barr, turned out to be pretty good for Mike Zimmer.

If Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman’s prime objective is to add more talent on defense and worry about role later, Thompson is a guy who would seem like a great target. Those who think he’s a linebacker believe his best position is the Will in a 4-3. Those who think he’s a safety believe he could be great covering backs and tight ends. Either way, he seems like a fit in Minnesota.

The debate on Thompson isn’t about whether he has talent, it’s about his actual value in this draft. There will be those who argue #11 is too high for a player who may be physically gifted but may not necessarily have a position just yet.

They said the same thing about Anthony Barr last year, and that didn’t deter the Vikings from taking him at #9 overall.

The takeaway from the decision to draft Barr is that, with Mike Zimmer in the fold, Rick Spielman is not afraid to take a chance on a high-ceiling prospect who may need time to learn. Zimmer has proven his ability to teach so there should be no fear about spending a high pick on a “project.”

After what Zimmer was able to do with Barr in year one, there’s a good argument for taking Thompson at #11 and letting him grow within the system, either at linebacker or safety. Because he could be really good right away and potentially great after a couple years.

It would be fascinating to peer inside Zimmer’s brain and see what position he envisions Shaq Thompson playing in the pros. Mayock says safety, but not everyone is on-board with that opinion.

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