2012 NFL Draft: What to Expect from Taylor Thompson's Rookie Year

Nate DunlevyGuest ColumnistMay 8, 2012

Did the Titans get the next Bo Scaife?
Did the Titans get the next Bo Scaife?Grant Halverson/Getty Images

After months of media hype, the NFL draft is over, and fans finally have new members of their team to welcome to town.

Expectations for draft picks are high, but are they too high?

Over the course of the next few weeks, "What to Expect" will examine every draft pick from the AFC South in its historical context. Using past performances from similarly drafted players and by examining the way in which each team develops certain positions, I will create a realistic baseline by which to judge the performance of each pick.

Readers should be aware that rookies historically perform much, much worse than fan expectations.

Also, keep in mind that I am not saying the player will perform to these expectations, but rather anything better than the results should be considered a successful rookie year, and anything worse would be a disappointment.

These are not predictions. They are baselines.

The Tennessee Titans surprised everyone by using a fifth-round pick on Taylor Thompson, a converted tight end out of SMU. It was an interesting pick, as late-round tight ends often produce good value.

Since 2005, there have been 30 tight ends taken in the fifth and sixth rounds. Some quality players are on the list.

  • Eighteen of the 30 played in at least 11 games their rookie year. However, six of them never played a down in the NFL. That's a 20 percent bust rate before Week 1 of the season.
  • Only three started at least eight games their rookie year. Eighteen of them started at least once.
  • Far and away the best rookie season went to Bo Scaife with 37 catches and 273 yards. Only seven of 30 had 10 catches or more. Only eight had 100 yards or more. Only 10 scored a touchdown.

Thompson is a project, and this was a good spot to take a project. There are quality tight ends on this list like Joel Dreessen and Kevin Boss. Dreessen only had five catches for 41 yards in his rookie year.

The Titans are looking for someone more like Scaife than 1995 fourth-round pick Michael Roan who caught 45 balls for 403 yards in a six-year career that involved a lot of blocking.


Thompson is an interesting player, but given his background, I don't think it's fair to expect more than five catches and 50 yards. That would put him in the top half of tight ends in this class. Ten catches and 100 yards would be top-third level production. He should see the field eight to 10 times.

Thompson may have more upside than most, but he's also a bust risk. The upper end for him will be a good quality tight end like Dreessen who is excellent in the red zone. There's about a 20 percent chance he doesn't even make the roster, however.