Jalen Thompson, the stalwart of the Washington State Cougars defense who was poised for a huge senior season at safety, has lost his eligibility for 2019 due to a violation of NCAA rules, according to the school. He has decided to enter the NFL Supplemental Draft.
The news was first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The statement from WSU said, “Washington State University safety Jalen Thompson will not return for his senior season after losing his final year of eligibility due to a violation of NCAA rules. Thompson has entered the NFL Supplemental Draft set for later next month.”
The Spokesman-Review’s Theo Lawson is reporting that it’s a PED violation stemming from the purchase of an over-the-counter supplement that was “not a steroid.” According to NCAA rules, a PED violation carries a mandatory one-year suspension. In theory, Thompson could have redshirted and come back in 2020 for a fifth year, but it makes little sense for him to do so.
Thompson sent a message to the WSU fanbase on Twitter but did not comment on the reason for his ineligibility.
Thompson has been a three-year starter at safety for WSU, improving each year to the point that it was believed he explored the idea of turning pro this offseason, anyway. He obviously did not, and he figured to anchor what should be another strong defense under defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys.
It’s probable Thompson would have been the defense’s best player, and a case could be made that he might have been the best player on the team, full stop. He was an all-Pac-12 honorable mention selection last year, and Pro Football Focus has long been in love with his productivity in the defensive backfield.
The question, of course, is what the Cougars do now. Claeys has a plethora of bodies to choose from, as defensive back was a heavily recruited in the 2019 class. In spring practice, Skyler Thomas played nickel after having started next to Thompson at safety in 2018; he could be an option. Bryce Beekman was highly regarded out of junior college, and at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds could fill a similar role to Thompson — he filled Thomas’ old role in the spring.
Other candidates include redshirt freshman Tyrese Ross, juco transfer Shahman Moore, or Chad Davis Jr., who redshirted last year after transferring from junior college. There also could be a player thought to be headed for cornerback, such as juco transfer Derrick Langford, moved to see what he could offer.
Thompson finished fourth on the defense in tackles last season (66), picked off two passes and tied for the team lead in passes defensed (8). He played in all 39 games in his WSU career, starting from day one as a true freshman, amassing 190 tackles and six interceptions.
If he is selected in the supplemental draft — as Rapoport seems to think he will be — then the team who picks him will forfeit the corresponding pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. If Thompson goes unselected, he’ll be eligible to sign an undrafted free agent deal with any team he chooses. Two of the most famous supplemental draft picks were Bernie Kosar in 1985 and Brian Bosworth in 1987.