New York Giants: Mykkele Thompson’s move to cornerback could mean new life

Aug 20, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills defensive back Corey White (30) and New York Giants defensive back Mykkele Thompson (22) during the game at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 20, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills defensive back Corey White (30) and New York Giants defensive back Mykkele Thompson (22) during the game at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports /

Plagued with injuries since he was drafted by the New York Giants in 2015, Mykkele Thompson will begin his transition from safety to cornerback. 

New York Giants’ Mykkele Thompson was spotted practicing with a different squad than normal at Tuesday’s OTAs. Rather than practicing with his fellow safeties, Thompson was instead on the field with the cornerback group for the first time in his professional career. Unfortunately, Thompson’s short time spent with Big Blue has been riddled with injuries, specifically an ACL injury the year he was drafted followed by a knee injury in 2016.

Thompson’s lack of playing time due to those injuries can directly be attributed to his current position change to cornerback. This offseason, the Giants made it a priority to stock up on safeties and now find themselves crowded at that position with no room for Thompson. The Giants safety crop currently includes Landon Collins, newly signed Duke Ihenacho, Darian Thompson, Nat Berhe and Andrew Adams. Sure, there are injury concerns among those players, but the depth of players in that role is sufficient — whereas the same cannot be said at cornerback.

This is a scene all too familiar for Thompson, as he found himself in a similar role during his senior year at the University of Texas. Thompson joined the Longhorns as a freshman offensive star — only to be converted right away to the defense as a safety.

The transition was not an easy one, as he struggled to adjust to defensive schemes he had not been all that familiarized with in the past. Despite the challenge, his tackling skills increased over his years with the Longhorns and he was eventually moved again from safety to cornerback. In his games spent playing at cornerback, Thompson did not allow one gain of over 40 yards in the secondary.

More from NFL Spin Zone

Now, there are many NFL players who find themselves making similar position changes. Yes, on the defensive end, they are mostly transitioning from cornerback to safety. Yes, it is typically due to age and the decrease in abilities that come with it. But as this is obviously the revers, it’s a different case.

As such, the question are these: What skill sets are truly needed for a cornerback, and does Mykkele Thompson have what it takes to be a successful one for the New York Giants?

Typically, scouts look for the following when evaluating safeties:

  1. Knowledge of coverages
  2. Speed, agility and good instincts
  3. Ability to burst out of tackles
  4. Knowledge of which direction to take the first step in
  5. An athlete who is “As athletic as a cornerback and as tough as a linebacker” (per Bleacher Report)

When evaluating cornerbacks, scouts look for:

Again, an athlete who has knowledge of coverages

Speed is a must, including quick feet

Ability to burst off the line

Ability to read receiver

Agility when turning hips and running with receiver

More from New York Giants

Thompson should have no issues with the different types of coverages the Giants play, being that he has been on the team for the past two years. Sure, he hasn’t been on the field because of injuries, but give the guy the benefit of the doubt here that he’s studied the playbooks. His speed and versatility at both safety and cornerback were two prime reasons why the Giants selected him in the 2015 draft, a strategy that has clearly that has paid off this season.

On Burnt Orange Nation’s 2015 scouting report on Thompson, there were naturally mixed reviews. Some of his strengths were listed as his physical tackling and straight-line speed, but his weaknesses including his tendency to take poor angles and difficulty with turning in coverage.

Should this scouting report from 2015 be alarming? Not one bit — but it just goes to show you where Thompson’s strengths and weaknesses sat two years ago since we have not been able to see him on the field in action. These are skills that can be refined anyway, especially under the watch of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Janoris Jenkins and a healthy Eli Apple.

The Giants hands may have been tied into pushing Thompson into a transition to corner, in a sense that their roster is currently overflowing with safeties. Yet they clearly see what the Texas Longhorns saw during Thompson’s college tenure. Remember, when he was moved to cornerback at Texas, he shined in comparison to his time spent at safety.

Next: Each team's chances of winning Super Bowl 52

Unfortunately, it seems like this may be Mykelle Thompson’s last shot at a spot on the Giants roster, but it can really mark the beginning of something new for the now cornerback. As long as Thompson stays in good health and puts his injuries in the rearview mirror, he will now have the opportunity to train with one of the best cornerback cores in the NFL and a top-five defensive squad.