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Skylar Thompson forcing Dolphins to make hard choices

Very few people knew the name Skylar Thompson when the Miami Dolphins drafted him in the 7th round of the 2022 NFL Draft. In fact, many were wondering why Miami would use a draft pick on a QB who many believed would be available as an undrafted free agent. Surely, there were other developmental players available the Dolphins could invest in during a win-now year.

However, from the moment he put on the uniform, Skylar Thompson was turning heads.

The 25-year old rookie out of Kansas State is showing extreme poise under pressure. Granted, he’s playing against backups the majority of the time, but his preseason performances are undeniably impressive. In just over five quarters of preseason play, Thompson has gone 29-of-38, with 347 yards and two touchdowns.

Even the team’s starting quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, can’t help but be impressed by Thompson’s play so far.

“I’ve been extremely impressed with Skylar.” Tagovailoa said after Saturday’s game. “Skylar handled the Tampa game extremely well, and then now he comes in a little later into the third quarter, gets his group going, has — I don’t even know how many plays he had. He probably had a 10-play drive leading up to the score that we had our first score that we had here at Hard Rock for this 2022 season. But I think he has handled it extremely well. He gave us an opportunity to kick a field goal to win the game. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, but I think he has done an extremely great job for us.”

To some draft pundits, Thompson’s success comes as no surprise. Matt Waldman – creator of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio since 2006, stated during his evaluation that Thompson has at least one trait that stands out above every other QB prospect in this draft.

“Thompson has the best pocket management of this class. He maneuvers from all types of pressure better than at least half of the NFL starters I’ve watched this year.  He also takes hellacious hits and maintains the equanimity to deliver an accurate ball.”

Perhaps what held Thompson back during the draft were the injuries he suffered at Kansas State. During his senior year in 2020, Thompson suffered an upper-body injury which limited him to only three starts. But in those games, he went 40-of-64, 62.5 completion percentage, 626 yards and four touchdowns.

He didn’t have much better luck in 2021, as he suffered a knee injury that allowed him only ten starts. However, he still put up decent numbers (162-of-233, 69.5%, 2,113 yards, 12 TDs, four INTs) and finished his career by winning Texas Bowl MVP honors in the team’s win over a depleted LSU roster, in which he went 21-of-28, 259 yards and 3 TDs.

Had he been healthy throughout his collegiate career, it’s safe to assume Thompson would not have fallen all the way to the 7th round. His lack of production at Kansas State was partly due to those injuries. It was also partly due to the demands of the scheme he was in. Nonetheless, coach Mike McDaniel saw something in Thompson that caused the Dolphins to deem it fit to use a draft pick on him.

So far, McDaniel appears justified in that assessment.

“He just gets better every day.” McDaniel said after the preseason loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. “This game the operation was better. There was one time that he kind of lost the play clock a little bit, and we had to burn a timeout, but more than anything, he really had command over everything. And he is starting to make plays that when one or two aren’t there, feeling the concept. And like that touchdown they threw to ‘Z. White’ on the left-hand side, that’s something that Skylar doesn’t make at the beginning of preseason. So, I’ve seen continued improvement, but he is very diligent about the process. He has got the makeup of what it takes to be an NFL quarterback. So I think all of his teammates can feel that too.”

Now given the opportunity to produce in a QB friendly offensive scheme, it’s clear Skylar Thompson’s production was not due to lack of skill. PrizePicks.com had Thompson’s O/U on passing yardage at 165.5 yards, assuming that he would play the entirety of the second half if not more.

In spite of entering the game with less than a minute left in the 3rd quarter, Thompson was nearly able to reach that prop. As he led the Dolphins down the field and nearly led what could have been the game-winning drive, Thompson went 9-of-10 for 129 yards and a touchdown, all in the span of barely over one quarter’s time.

Skylar Thompson wasn’t supposed to make things difficult. But he is. Now, the Miami Dolphins have a difficult choice to make. Do they run the risk of letting him test the waiver wire? There are surely QB-needy teams who would love to claim him as their own. Or, alternatively, do they roster three quarterbacks? That idea is unprecedented in today’s modern NFL, but the Dolphins may not have a choice.

Veteran backup QB Teddy Bridgewater has a contract worth up to $10 million. $6.5 million of it is guaranteed. The way it’s structured, as of this moment, releasing Bridgewater saves Miami a grand total of zero dollars in cap space. And it puts them in a deep hole financially as they would be forced to pay him that amount no matter what.

However, if the Dolphins can trade Bridgewater, that changes. Trading him saves Miami $4.5 million in cap space with only $2 million in dead cap. The hard part is finding a trade partner.

These are the questions Skylar Thompson is forcing the Dolphins to answer. His performance in preseason and in practice make it extremely difficult to justify waiving him. By the same token, keeping him instead of Bridgewater hurts the team financially. In 2023, Miami is going to need every penny they can save.


And if they simply keep all three QBs? Then another position that may need the extra depth will lose an important piece. The Dolphins are low on cornerbacks and good offensive line depth. Can they afford the extra roster spot? It’s up to Mike McDaniel to weigh the pros and cons and make that choice.

As for Skylar Thompson himself, he’s determined not to let the situation get to him as the preseason rapidly approaches its end.

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“That decision is out of my control.” He said. “All I can do is focus on being the best teammate that I can possibly be every day, continue to grow and try to learn and get better. That’s really all I’m focused on right now, and everything else I know will take care of itself whichever way that may fold. This is out of my hands. I’m just here to be a good teammate – help the team the most whichever way I can.”

Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for eight years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung

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