On the surface, there’s not much to be excited about in regards to Darwin Thompson.
He’s a sixth-round rookie out of Utah State who finds himself buried in a Chiefs depth chart that also includes Damien Williams, Carlos Hyde, and Darrell Williams.
He’s only 5’8″ tall, weighs in under 200 pounds, and posted a sluggish 4.60 40-yard dash time.
So why am I here in my pajamas writing a piece about this guy who many aren’t even aware is in the NFL?
Because he’s going to be great.
Thompson began his college football career at Northwestern Oklahoma A&M College. He earned second-team All-America honors after churning for 1,391 rushing yards on 185 carries, eight rushing touchdowns, 13 receptions, 150 receiving yards, and one receiving touchdown during his sophomore season.
Thompson transferred to Utah State for his junior season, where he rushed for 1,044 yards on 153 carries and netted 14 rushing touchdowns. He also tacked on 23 catches for 351 yards and two receiving touchdowns.
He decided to forego his senior year and declared for the 2019 NFL Draft, where he was taken in the sixth round by the Chiefs.
The assumption going into this season was that Damien Williams would be depended on as the lead guy in the Kansas City backfield.
After Williams suffered a bit of a hamstring scare, Andy Reid confirmed that he expects a committee approach for the Chiefs’ running backs in 2019.
While this certainly strays from the approach that Reid typically takes with his backfield, it means that there is a real opportunity for Darwin Thompson to see the field as a member of what should be one of the best offenses in the NFL. If given an opportunity, Thompson has a good chance to steal the starting job once his talents have been put on full display.
Looking at his measurables and combine performance, you would assume that Darwin Thompson is nothing more than just a guy.
He’s only 5’8″ tall and a mere 200 pounds. Certainly, he can’t handle a large enough volume to maintain fantasy relevance, right?
While the pool is limited, we have seen NFL running backs succeed despite their relatively diminutive statures. Philip Lindsay measures in at 5’8″ as well. Maurice Jones Drew was an absolute beast despite punching in at 5’7″ on the measuring stick. Tarik Cohen is making defenders look silly while only standing 5’6″.
Thompson’s size should not exclude him from breakout consideration, especially when he can run like this:
He maintains balance through contact and fights for extra yardage, skills he also displays on this play:
Oh, and this one:
He can also bang it in on the goal line:
Turns out that Darwin Thompson is incredibly strong.
Here, he front-squats 500 pounds with ease. Reports claim that he has been able to hit 625. Keep in mind that he’s only 200 pounds.
While he may be small, his strength indicates that he is physically capable of handling a large volume.
He also looked great in the Chiefs’ preseason game against the Bengals, albeit against depth pieces.
Here he puts on a little route-running clinic before catching the pass and scampering for the easy touchdown:
He also showcased his ability to drive through tackles and willingness to fight for extra yardage:
There is obviously some serious potential for this young man to be a producer in the NFL, but how will it impact fantasy players in 2019?
If we’re being realistic, Darwin’s chances of taking the fantasy world by storm in 2019 are slim. He’s in a backfield behind veteran guys with a head coach who is capable of making a fantasy-relevant RB out of basically anyone willing to accept the workload.
However, that has the potential to work in his favor. Andy Reid seems disappointed with Damien Williams’ recent absence, and Carlos Hyde is a safe but known commodity.
There exists a universe in which Darwin Thompson does see the field as a rotational piece in the supposed KC committee, demonstrates his pass-catching ability, strength, and fantastic contact balance, and Andy Reid decides to continue to do what he’s done since the days of Jamaal Charles and lean on one guy as the focal point of his backfield.
If those stars align and Thompson somehow becomes the lead back in the Chiefs’ offense, he’ll be a bonafide league winner at his current ADP. The Chiefs’ offense is destined for prolificity, and the lead back spot appears to be up for grabs. Thompson has the talent and physical ability to take that job.
Is it a stretch? Sure.
Is it completely outside the realm of possibility? Absolutely not.
Damien Williams’ current ADP is inflated by the assumption that he will be the lead back in Kansas City.
Darwin Thompson’s current ADP is deflated by the fact that he’s a late-round small-school rookie.
There’s a very real chance that Thompson does absolutely nothing this year and this entire article was for nothing.
There’s also a very real chance that Thompson breaks out and sees a workload unimaginable for a guy at his current ADP.
I’m passing on the risky early-round investment and taking the flier on a guy I believe can steal the job.
I’m all in on Darwin Thompson.
(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)