Well, we knew this was a possibility but Syracuse University football fans were hoping it wouldn’t come to pass. Ron Thompson, the team’s top defensive end and arguably most disruptive defensive player overall, has told ESPN’s Joe Schad he will go pro a year early and enter the NFL Draft.
Syracuse DL Ron Thompson told me he will enter the next NFL Draft
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) December 24, 2015
Thompson, a 6-foot-3, 255 pound athlete from Southfield, Michigan, came to Syracuse as a 4-star tight end prospect but eventually made his way over to the defensive side of the ball, where his outstanding athleticism made him one of the team’s most dynamic defensive players almost immediately. This past season, Thompson – whose nickname, Sugar Bear, wasn’t used nearly enough over the course of his career – made 35 tackles, 30 of which were of the solo variety.
Thompson also had 7.0 sacks, leading the team and ranking 9th in the ACC, and 9.5 tackles for loss in all. He was also third in the nation in forced fumbles with four and was a third team All-ACC selection. Thompson has started every game the past two seasons, and played in all 13 games as a freshman in 2013, after having redshirted in 2012. As he heads into the draft, Thompson should be one of the more athletic defensive end prospects coming out this season, and should do well at the NFL Draft Combine. Given the fact he’s a little small for a defensive end, it’s conceivable he could wind up playing more of a “spinner” role in a 3-4 defense at the pro level.
While it’s great for Thompson, assuming he winds up being drafted (remember, this time last year we all pretty much assumed Durrell Eskridge would be taken but wound up becoming a free agent), this does leave Syracuse incredibly thin at defensive end. Two freshmen played this past year in Qaadir Sheppard and Amir Ealey, but both have suspensions that will presumably carry over to the start of the 2016 season. Outside of those two, Jake Pickard – a highly touted, 6-foot-6 DE from New Jersey who redshirted this season – and incoming freshman Jamal Holloway (who would really benefit from a redshirt year given his very thin frame) are the only two scholarship defensive ends on the roster as it currently stands. Obviously, that could (and likely will) change as the rest of the recruiting class gets filled out, but it’s still a distressing prospect. Don’t be surprised to see Chris Slayton slide out from DT to defensive end, and for Dino Babers and his staff to make defensive end a high priority for the rest of this recruiting cycle.