What you need to know about him: Christian Thompson, a 21-year-old native of North Lauderdale, Fla., is 6-feet and 211 pounds. He played at South Carolina State, where he played free safety this past fall after starting at strong safety as a junior.
Why the Ravens picked him in the fourth round, No. 130 overall: Because the secondary is getting old and lost several key players to free agency. Ed Reed, who mentored Thompson for two months leadingto the draft, turns 34 during the season. Reed is an eight-time Pro Bowler, but how many great seasons does he have left? Safety Haruki Nakamura signed with the Panthers and Tom Zbikowski agreed to terms with the Colts, who hired former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano as head coach, during the offseason.
Cause for concern: Thompson began his career at powerhouse Auburn, but after a freshman year as a backup safety, it was clear he wasn’t going to ascend the depth chart. He transferred to South Carolina State, which meant he went from playing on college football’s highest level – the Southeastern Conference – to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, which includes Morgan State as one of its members. But if you consider who the Ravens have picked to play in the secondary, they have earned the benefit of the doubt. Thompson’s ability to play special teams adds value.
Significance of his selection: He gives the Ravens versatility. Thompson had a fantastic senior season, making a career-best 68 tackles, two interceptions and averaging 20.5 yards on kickoff returns. He’ll compete for playing time against Reed, Bernard Pollard, Sean Considine and Emanuel Cook.
Crystal ball: He’ll probably be as productive as Nakamura, who parlayed his four seasons with the Ravens to a three-year, $4.8 million deal with the Panthers. Nakamura, however, was a sixth-round pick in 2008.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees to the team’s website on Thompson: “We had [Thompson] very high on our board on defense and are really kind of shocked that he was still there in the fourth round. To get a guy that we had ranked as high as we had him ranked, I wanted to hug Ozzie. That was a great pick. We always talk about taking the best available, but he wasn’t only the best available, but you get a two-run homer when you also get a need filled.”
Did you know? Thompson is the first player from South Carolina State to be drafted by the Ravens. He’s also just the school’s fifth player to be drafted in the past dozen years.
Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 19 years of experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game.