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Arizona Cardinals spend fifth-round pick on WSU safety Jalen Thompson in supplemental draft

UPDATED: Wed., July 10, 2019

Washington State safety Jalen Thompson stands on the field during the second half of an NCAA college football game against San Jose State in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. (Young Kwak / AP)
Washington State safety Jalen Thompson stands on the field during the second half of an NCAA college football game against San Jose State in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. (Young Kwak / AP)

Jalen Thompson, whose Washington State career ended unceremoniously two weeks ago when the standout safety learned he’d lost his final season of eligibility, was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the fifth round of Wednesday’s NFL supplemental draft.

The All-Pac-12 safety had been projected to be a mid-round selection in this year’s supplemental draft, held for players whose eligibility has changed since April’s NFL draft.

Thompson would’ve been a potential All-American had he returned to the Cougars this fall for his senior season, but the Downey, California, native committed an NCAA violation that forced him to lose a year of eligibility. The infraction resulted from the purchase of an over-the-counter supplement, a source confirmed to The Spokesman-Review.

The WSU defensive back acted quickly to hire agent Brad Cicala, and on Monday held a workout for 26 NFL teams, including the Cardinals and a handful of other teams who were reportedly interesting in spending a supplemental pick on Thompson.

According to NFL draft analyst Tony Pauline, Thompson interviewed and tested with the Green Bay Packers on Tuesday. The results of those tests were supposed to be shared with the rest of the league’s teams.

As was expected, Thompson was the first player taken in the supplemental draft; he also wound up being the only one. In using a fifth-round pick for the WSU safety, the Cardinals now forfeit a fifth-round selection in the 2020 NFL draft.

Thompson started 39 of a possible 39 games for Washington State during his three seasons with the Cougars, all at the safety position. Arizona brings back both of its own starting safeties, former Washington star Budda Baker and D.J. Swearinger Jr., so the Cardinals could either take him on as a depth piece or convert him to a cornerback or nickel back – both positions of greater need on Arizona’s roster.

The Cardinals are under the direction of first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who played quarterback for WSU coach Mike Leach at Texas Tech in the early 2000s.

The Cougars and Thompson could cross paths this fall, presuming Thompson earns a spot on Arizona’s 53-man roster. WSU visits Arizona State in Tempe on Oct. 12, one day before the Cardinals host Atlanta at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Timm Rosenbach, who played quarterback for the Cougars in the late 1980s, is the only other player in school history to have been chosen in the supplemental draft. Ironically, he was also one of the the last taken by the Cardinals – at the time the Phoenix Cardinals. Rosenbach did not declare for the NFL draft before its deadline and thus joined a pool of five players who were taken in the 1989 supplemental draft. The Cardinals picked him in the first round.

Thompson was a three-time all-conference selection at WSU who finished his career with 190 tackles, six interceptions, 17 passes defended and five fumble recoveries. He represented the Cougars at Pac-12 Media Day last July and was expected to take a leadership role for Tracy Claeys’ defense with the graduation of linebacker Peyton Pelluer.

Thompson’s focus now shifts to earning a spot on Arizona’s 53-man roster – the Cardinals begin training camp on July 24 in Glendale – while WSU’s focus turns to replacing him. Skyler Thomas could return to safety and play alongside Bryce Beekman after switching to nickel during spring camp, or the Cougars could entrust a player like Tyrese Ross or Chad Davis Jr. with Thompson’s spot.

With Thompson’s loss, the Cougars now return just two players in the defensive secondary – Thomas and cornerback Marcus Strong.

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