Wedged between minicamp and training camp, in the slowest time of the NFL’s yearlong calendar, is the supplemental draft.
Last season, two players were taken in the league’s special summertime exemption draft. This year, it was just one player. The Arizona Cardinals spent a fifth-round pick to add Washington State safety Jalen Thompson.
If Thompson doesn’t do much as a rookie, that’d be par for the course.
In 2018, the New York Giants used a third-round pick to take cornerback Sam Beal. He missed last season recovering from shoulder surgery. Still, the Giants and general manager Dave Gettleman are high on Beal.
“For what it’s worth, we really feel strongly that if Sam were in this draft he’d be a second-round pick,” Gettleman said at this year’s NFL Combine.
The other player taken last year was cornerback Adonis Alexander, whom Washington used a sixth-round pick on. He played sparingly in nine games last season and had just four tackles.
The other four players who entered the 2019 supplemental draft — Northland Community College tight end Devonaire Clarington, Syracuse linebacker Shyhem Cullen, Saint Francis defensive back Bryant Perry, and West Virginia wide receiver Marcus Simms — became free agents.
How does the NFL Supplemental Draft work?
The order for the supplemental draft is split into three tiers. The first tier consists of teams with six wins or less in the previous season. The second tier is the remainder of the teams that didn’t make the playoffs. The final tier is for playoff teams. A random draw orders each tier.
The full order this year is as follows:
If a team wants a player, it places a bid in a corresponding round. If two or more teams place the same round bid on a player, the pick is awarded to whichever team is highest in the order.
If a player is awarded to a team, the team gives up the corresponding round pick in the next year’s draft. A team can’t bid a pick in a round that they don’t own. For instance, the Bears can’t bid a first-round pick on a player in the supplemental draft because it was traded to the Raiders as part of the Khalil Mack deal.
The Cardinals’ decision to spend a fifth-round pick to acquire Thompson means they’ll be without a pick in the fifth round in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Players can only enter the supplemental draft if their eligibility has changed since the NFL draft in the spring. Those players also have to be approved by the NFL.
Here’s what you need to know about Thompson and the best of the free agent class, Marcus Simms:
Jalen Thompson, S, Washington State
Thompson considered entering the 2019 draft, but chose to return to Washington State for his senior season. He started three seasons for the Cougars, earning freshman All-American honors in 2016. He was a second-team all-conference player as a sophomore, and earned honorable mention for the All-Pac-12 team last season.
Over three seasons and 39 starts, he had 191 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, six interceptions and 23 passes defended. He was expected to be Washington State’s best player on defense this season. However, he was forced to enter the supplemental draft after testing positive for a banned substance.
According to a source, #WSU's Jalen Thompson lost his final year of eligibility because he purchased an over the counter supplement at a nutrition store. The source made a point to emphasize it was not a steroid Thompson bought. Will gather more details as they become available.— Theo Lawson (@TheoLawson_SR) June 29, 2019
Thompson’s athleticism, experience and versatility was enough to convince the Cardinals to take a chance on him late in the supplemental draft.
At Washington State, Thompson moved around as a safety, and would often come down into the slot to cover a wide receiver or tight end. In that role, he excelled.
Thompson is quick to react to make a play on the ball and rarely finds himself out of position in coverage. He has speed to break on the ball quickly and chase down after the catch. He’s solid as a tackler, but won’t ever be known as a big hitter. Sometimes he’ll try to lay a hit, and whiff on the tackle. At a listed 6’0 and 195 pounds, Thompson is a little bit on the smaller side.
Thompson’s appeal for the Cardinals was as a coverage safety who can be relied on in man coverage. He’s not bad against the run, but not a star two-way safety like Malcolm Jenkins of the Eagles, for instance.
Marcus Simms, WR, West Virginia
On a pass-happy West Virginia team, Simms was often the third option after Gary Jennings and David Sills. Over three seasons with the Mountaineers, he had 87 receptions for 1,457 yards and eight touchdowns.
After West Virginia hired Neal Brown as head coach this offseason, Simms attempted to transfer. Instead, he found himself in the supplemental draft. While he didn’t get picked Wednesday, he didn’t take long to land with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Source: The #Jaguars are signing former West Virginia WR Marcus Simms, pending a physical tomorrow. Had several offers after today's supplemental draft ended. One to watch in camp.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 10, 2019
Simms’ speed is what stands out the most about his game. He can get out over the top, and uses his quickness to beat the press. He’s good at tracking the ball and has some wiggle after the catch.
What likely held Simms back from getting picked is the lack of routes he was asked to run at West Virginia. After missing rookie camp and minicamp, Simms will have to catch up in a hurry in the NFL. Simms also enters the NFL with some character dings.
He was charged with two DUIs early in his college career, and admitted to marijuana use. Those negatives can give teams pause about a player in the supplemental draft. Still, the Jaguars will willing to take a chance on Simms as a free agent because he’s so naturally talented.