Skylar Thompson has proven this preseason he belongs on an NFL roster. Will it be with the team that was smart enough to use a seventh-round pick on him?
The Miami Dolphins took Thompson late in the draft as a developmental quarterback, yet the rookie enhanced the timetable. Miami has two quarterbacks on its roster in Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater, who will enter the year as the top signal-callers.
Will the Dolphins create a roster spot for Thompson as the No. 3 quarterback? If they don't, the rookie will certainly be claimed on waivers by a quarterback-needy team.
"He's made it tough, hasn't he," Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said Saturday. "I think those type of players that are able to, as rookies, come in and contribute, are always really exciting, and it's more rare that you see a quarterback doing that."
Thompson shattered expectations in his first preseason, completing 36 of 48 passes (75%) for 450 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions (138.4 rating). He led the league this preseason in passing touchdowns (five), touchdown percentage (10.4) and passer rating amongst qualified passers. Thompson was also second in the league in completion percentage and average gain (9.38).
"It's more than just his quarterback rating and his completion percentage," McDaniel said. "He has owned the responsibility of the quarterback in terms of all the other players on the field with him. He's made them better by helping them get aligned, and we've had very few procedural issues."
Thompson has set himself up to make an NFL roster, yet he spent the whole offseason learning the one in Miami. In five years at Kansas State, Thompson threw for 7,124 yards with 42 touchdowns to just 16 interceptions. The 247th overall pick in the draft, Thompson came into this preseason with very high expectations for himself -- making his performance less surprising for him.
"I think I've done everything I can do in my control," Thompson said. "I really appreciate my teammates doing a great job of playing for me. Going out there, guys are making plays for me, blocking me, protecting me, allowing me to be at my best.
"That's what I'm most grateful for, just getting the opportunity to go out and play this game at this level. That's what I've been dreaming about my whole life, and all the other stuff is out of my control. I just try to have fun and put the team first in everything I do and control the things I can do."
McDaniel has clearly been impressed by Thompson, but keeping him may come at the expense of another position. The Dolphins are built to win this year and could use help at other positions. They also can't let a diamond in the rough get away, either.
"It's rare that a guy can be a seventh-round draft pick and people outside of the organization actually know his name," McDaniel said. "I think he's opened eyes with the way he's played, and it's made that situation very tricky, in terms of whether or not you can try to have him on practice squad or keep him on the 53.
"One of the things I was most happy with in this past game is pretty much all the participants can hold their head high and stand on what they've done in the preseason, with the closing of it being last night. And he should hold his head high and hopefully rest easy because he has done quite literally everything you can to be a part of this team."