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Seahawks rookie Tedric Thompson was PFF’s “Best coverage defender” in 2016

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Colorado v Colorado State Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

If the next franchise quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers struggles against the Seattle Seahawks for his career, the Niners may have nobody to blame but themselves. With the 111th pick of the draft, the Seahawks selected Colorado safety Tedric Thompson — a move that would have been impossible if not for San Francisco giving up the fourth round pick to move up three spots for Reuben Foster on day one.

Maybe Foster becomes Seattle’s regret, but in reality, John Schneider still snagged Thompson at a cost that had absolutely no value to him. And Thompson could end up being really, really good.

Going into his senior season, expectations were high that Thompson would continue to be productive and make exciting plays (six interceptions over his sophomore and junior years) for the Buffs:

As well as a fantastic corner duo, the safeties for CU are proven and highly effective. Tedric Thompson is ridiculously fun to watch and makes wow plays consistently. Thompson should find more and more reasons to sneak up into the box and make plays at the line of scrimmage, especially now that Ryan Moeller is (hopefully) fully recovered from his head injuries last year.

In 2016, Colorado finished fifth in the nation in passing efficiency defense, behind only Florida, Michigan, Ohio State, and Clemson, the eventual national champions. Lest we forget, this is a school that hadn’t been ranked since 2005, but ended up 10-3 with a spot in the Pac-12 championship game. Thompson played a huge role in that, intercepting seven passes on the season; Colorado’s record when he did that was 5-0, including two picks in a 10-5 win over Stanford and two more in a 27-22 win over Utah.

Thompson also had 16 passes defensed, and his 23 total pass breakups (INT + PD) was tied for the most in the nation with teammate Ahkello Witherspoon.

Thompson is considered “average size” for his position, but measures in as taller than Earl Thomas, with slightly longer arms and bigger hands, at roughly the same weight give or take a couple pounds. He may not have the same “coverage instincts” as Thomas (there’s a reason Earl is a Hall of Famer) but that didn’t stop him from being seen by many as the best coverage safety in college football last season. He was named a second-team All-American by CBS Sports, and a first-team All-Pac-12 honoree by AP and several other outlets. Only Thompson and number three overall pick Solomon Thomas won multiple Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week awards last season.

ProFootballFocus wrote a very positive review after naming him as the “Coverage Player of the Year” in January:

While there were three elite performances from cornerbacks on that team, the award goes to Thompson, who lined up occasionally as a cornerback, but played the majority of his snaps as a free safety. His position, combined with his playmaking ability, made quarterbacks think twice about targeting the middle of the field and his range forced opposing signal callers to be more precise on sideline passes as well.

Thompson, who edged out Nebraska’s Nate Gerry for this award, recorded seven interceptions this season, tied for third-most in the nation and tied for most for safeties in college football. Furthermore, the Colorado safety had seven pass breakups as well, tied for third among safeties. Thompson’s best outing came against the Utah Utes, as he allowed only two receptions for one yard on 11 targets while also recording two interceptions and two pass breakups in that game. Also, unlike some other players, Thompson not only made big defensive plays, but also did not allow a lot of offensive plays. As a result, he allowed only one touchdown in coverage, which led to an opposing passer rating of 22.3 on the season, the second-lowest among safeties in the nation. His grade wasn’t the tops among all safeties this season, but his overall body of work in coverage made him our selection for this award. – Zoltan Buday

They doubled-down on that award, naming Thompson as one of the ten best mid-round picks of the draft.

He played both free safety and over the slot at Colorado, showing his center-field skills to read and make plays on the ball and the coverage skills to hold his own in the slot. That versatility will be coveted in the Seattle secondary, where Thompson can cross-train and provide valuable at multiple spots. He may have to wait his turn to see the field in Seattle, but Thompson would have started for a number of teams if he landed in a different place.

With the Seahawks, Thompson gets the luxury of low rookie expectations. He doesn’t need to start and as long as everything goes right for Seattle this year, Thompson won’t start. But he will get to spend the season learning how to be a good NFL safety while taking lessons from Carroll, Thomas, Kris Richard, and the defensive backs coaches. He may also get in on special teams, as Carroll favorites are wont to do. For the Seahawks, they now have perhaps their most adequate, qualified, and talented backup at safety that they’ve ever had under the current regime. They may also have a post-Earl future that doesn’t look as grim as it did a couple weeks ago.

Thompson looks to be a very good midround pick, not unlike most of his Seattle secondary counterparts.

Watch: Tedric Thompson’s emotional draft weekend experience