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2022 NFL draft scouting report: Oregon EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux

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Oregon EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux

6-foot-4
254 pounds

Yahoo Sports' 2022 NFL draft grade

6.56 — certain first-round pick; immediate-impact prospect

Here's how we use our prospect grades for the 2022 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Here's how we use our prospect grades for the 2022 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

TL;DR scouting report

Twitchy, gifted edge rusher with some special traits and very good potential, but he might never become an elite pass rusher

The skinny

A 5-star Rivals recruit (No. 6 nationally) in 2019, Thibodeaux turned down most of college football's blue-blood programs to sign with Oregon. As a true freshman with the Ducks, he started five of 14 games and was named the Pac-12 coaches' Freshman of the Year with nine sacks and dominated the Pac-12 title game with 2.5 sacks and a blocked punt. Although Thibodeaux was limited to three sacks in seven games in 2020, he rebounded with seven sacks, along with two forced fumbles, in 11 games in 2021. He declared early for the 2022 NFL draft.

Oregon EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux is one of the most gifted players in the 2022 NFL draft. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Oregon EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux is one of the most gifted players in the 2022 NFL draft. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Upside

  • NFL-caliber athlete before he sets foot in the league

  • Unusual mix of length, speed and bend for his size

  • Strong, natural athletic instincts — good reactionary skills

  • Explosive power generated from lower body through his hands

  • Stresses blockers immediately off the snap with burst — great first step

  • Able to win in a variety of ways

  • Arrived at Oregon as speed rusher but has added and developed potent power element

  • Uses length to keep blockers at bay, keeps head and eyes up and can disengage to make plays

  • Has shown good effort on pursuit plays and fending off persistent blockers

  • Flattens down the line to flush out wide run plays

  • Great flexibility and bend to stress the corner and change directions quickly

  • Rarely seen being dominated on individual snaps

  • Able to rush effectively from both sides, multiple techniques

  • Sets up blockers with changeup moves, keeps them guessing snap to snap

  • Active hands — looks to dislodge ball, disrupt passing windows

  • Loose enough athlete to drop into space and used in short coverage

  • Appears to want to be great

Downside

  • Appears to have skipped a few leg days — under-developed lower half

  • Thinner upper half that could use more strength and armor

  • Aggressiveness will be used against him on read-options, pitches and screens

  • Freelances and guesses, which can lead to loss of gap integrity

  • Widens rush paths and allows runners to slip inside him

  • Doesn't always wrap up — lets would-be tackles slip through his grasp a bit too often

  • Lines up off the line to gain a runway, and it can work against him vs. run, short passing game

  • Flagged nine times in 2021 (two declined), including targeting call late in loss to Stanford

  • Gets turned sideways, perpendicular to line of scrimmage, too often

  • More effective rushing from defensive right side than left

  • Pass-rush variance only so so — needs to string moves together better

  • Streaky sack production — they come in bunches with some gaps in between

  • Still limited in coverage — likely won't be a huge element in his game

  • Not as effective harnessing his length inside

  • Snap-to-snap consistency and effort remain a work in progress

  • Big, boundless personality with extreme confidence can be viewed as borderline arrogant/spotlight seeker

  • Some coachability concerns

Best-suited destination

Some NFL teams we've spoken with feel that Thibodeaux could be a great player in time if he's fit into the right situation. There's a belief that pairing him with the right veteran defender and defensive coaches might be the key to unlocking his rare talent. There are still too many teases with Thibodeaux's talent, but he could thrive in a veteran locker room with a demanding, tough-love staff that fuels his desire to achieve greatness.

Did you know

An avid chess player, Thibodeaux loves playing the game aggressively from the start and says he believes pass rushing and chess strategy have a lot of overlap.

"Chess is life and chess is football," he said at the NFL combine. "You talk about your first move, and your first move is gonna set up your second move, and then you've got to think about your third move ahead. ...

"You have to put people in pressure moments so you get want you want out of situations. For me, I'm putting my queen out there first and I'm making you make decisions. Because a lot of people make bad decisions when they're under pressure — just like a quarterback."

Player comp

There are a lot of comparisons to Jadevon Clowney in Thibodeaux's game — for both good and bad reasons.

Expected draft range

Top-10 pick