With the retirement of Marshawn Lynch, the Oakland Raiders now have another avenue they can take with how the 2019 NFL Draft is approached. The narrative is that Alabama running back Joshua Jacobs could be selected by Oakland in round one. In my opinion, with more pressing needs on the opposite side of the ball, I feel it would be in the team’s best interest to hold off on selecting a running back till a later round.
Enter Darwin Thompson.
Thompsons’ path to the draft is different than most. Coming out of high school he didn’t have schools lined up throwing offers at him, so he elected to go the junior college route before making it to Utah State. All things considered, Thompson told me, “JUCO was the biggest blessing of my life.” He said it was all about the grind and “embracing the struggle.”
Dealing with adversity and being overlooked is nothing new for Thompson. Standing at 5-foot-8, his measurables were a likely reason he was snubbed from any significant offers coming out of high school. Fast-forward to the present day, and Thompson was a snub yet again, this time at the 2019 NFL Draft Combine. Despite the snub, Thompson remains one of the most level headed athletes I’ve talked with. He told me, “I believe it’s all God’s plan.” Thompson added, “You can’t cry about it, you ain’t got no time for crying.”
Instead of feeling sorry for himself, Thompson has continued to put in the work to refine his craft. If you ask him, he says, “I feel like I’m one of the top backs in this draft.” To be frank, I agree with Thompson’s assessment.
An area that stood out to me when studying Thompson is his level of ball security. During Thompson’s collegiate career, he only had two fumbles, both dating back to his freshman season. I asked Darwin if there was a secret to keeping ahold of the rock and he told me it was a curl bar he kept in his dorm room in junior college.
Thompson said, “before I got out of bed or before I wanted to get into bed, I had to do curls.” He went on to say, “The motion of doing curls is the motion of holding the ball. That’s one thing I thank coach Matt Wells for. He was on me every day at practice.”
With a myriad of different takes on what Thompson will bring to his future employer, I went straight to the source and asked him not only what type of running back he will be, but who does he see as a legitimate comparison.
He was quick to answer both of those questions, saying, “I’m an every down running back.” He acknowledged those who say otherwise as he told me, “People might not say that I am because of my size. I’m not small, I’m short.”
Thompson is a firm believer in himself, as he should be, and with that he said, “Once I start playing, and once I get a chance to show what kind of player I am, I think it will cancel out all that.” He furthered that notion by saying it’s “just like Phillip Lindsay. I love backs like that. The underdogs. They got to prove their stuff year in and year out.”
As far as a direct comparison, Thompson told me his game is similar to that of San Francisco 49er’s running back Jerick McKinnon. Thompson expressed that he’s a “finesse back with power, not a power back with finesse.” He made it clear, “I’m a finesse back, but I can bring the power when I want to.”
Everything about Darwin Thompson screams Gruden Grinder to me. No matter the situation, all he wants to do is become the best running back possible. I asked him what his plans were for the draft and he told me, “I might still be training to be honest with you.” Thompson said he will let his agent and family handle the other stuff while he works on his game.
Since his childhood the dream for Thompson has been to reach the NFL. It’s not about being a certain draft pick or making a certain amount of money for this guy. After talking with him it was evident, this man loves the game of football and wants to achieve greatness with whatever team calls his name. Thompson said, “I love football. I want to get a gold jacket and win a super bowl.”
Now, the question is, what team will he land with? If the Raiders do select this former East Oakland native to fulfill the shoes of another local product in Marshawn Lynch, they will reap the rewards for years to come.