The Ravens have been looking for a premier ball-hawk since safety Ed Reed departed.
Boise State free safety Darian Thompson emulates Reed, and his numbers suggest he has the potential to be an interceptions monster like the future Hall of Famer.
If Thompson where drafted by the Ravens – he's expected to be taken in the second round – the well-rounded and rangy safety could help fill the void.
"That's funny that you say that because I was going to say Ed Reed," Thompson said. "[He's] great with the ball skills, great tackler, great leader and somebody I model my game after."
Last season, Thompson set a Mountain West Conference (MWC) record with 19 career interceptions. His 2014 junior campaign certainly helped in reaching that milestone, as he finished with the third-most picks (seven) in the nation.
The previous MWC record-holder (18) was Eric Weddle, who was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 2007, became a three-time Pro Bowl safety and earned All-Pro honors five times.
Of course, just because Thompson looks up to Reed doesn't mean he is *the next *Reed. It wouldn't be fair to put those expectations on him.
In addition to more than a decade of NFL production, they are also built a bit differently. Thompson is actually bigger than Reed. He's three inches taller and 10 pounds heavier, standing in at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds.
But Thompson does have the instincts, speed and hands to hunt down the ball and pluck it out of the air. And just like Reed, Thompson credits film study as the key to creating so many turnovers. Reed was known for being obsessed with watching tape, and always tried to instill those study habits in the team's younger players.
"I would give credit to film study on that," Thompson said. "I do a lot of film study during the week of my opponents. When it's time to play the game, I have the tendency of knowing what's coming before it happens. I'm a good student of the game and I study it and figure out the tendencies for the offense, which ultimately makes it easier for me to make plays back there."
One of the Ravens' biggest offseason priorities is to find playmakers that can create turnovers. The defense finished last in the league with six interceptions, which was a franchise low. To put that in perspective, Thompson's five picks as a senior in 12 games was just one short of the Ravens' team total in 16 games.
While he's generally considered the best free safety in this year's draft class (and second-best overall safety behind Florida State's Jalen Ramsey), Thompson hasn't received a ton of national attention. It didn't help that his Broncos team had three losses and didn't finish at the top of their smaller conference.
Thompson boosted his stock at the Senior Bowl, however, as one of the biggest risers in the secondary, along with Southeastern Louisiana's Harlan Miller. Thompson backed up a strong week of practice by winning the North MVP honor after posting five tackles and two pass breakups in the game.
The knock on the Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist was that his aggressive demeanor would sometimes lead to missed plays and tackles. That could be due to trying to do too much on a struggling team.
"I want to show them that I'm a leader back there," Thompson said. "I know how to make calls, get guys lined up, hustle every single play, and I have a knack for the football."