With the fifth pick in the 2022 NFL draft, the New York Giants select Oregon EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Let’s start with the effort debit regarding Kayvon Thibodeaux. As you can see below, the tape tells a very different story. You will also hear evaluators tell you that Thibodeaux is limited with his relative lack of bend around the arc, but there are many ways to get to the quarterback. As an inside/outside disruptor, Thibodeaux has few peers in this class.
Height: 6’4″ (56th) Weight: 254 (20th)
40-Yard Dash: 4.58 seconds (93rd)
10-Yard Split: 1.59 seconds (87th)
Bench Press: 27 reps (78th)
Vertical Jump: N/A
Broad Jump: N/A
3-Cone Drill: N/A
20-Yard Shuttle: N/A
Wingspan: 79 1/2 inches (35th)
Arm Length: 33 1/8 inches (34th)
Hand Size: 9 3/4 inches (39nd)
Bio: “I don’t think I need to convince teams of it, but that’s the media narrative. There always has to be some narrative that’s drawn. For me, I’m an L.A. kid, and if you know the adversity I went through to get here, and the things that I had to sacrifice, and the things my mother had to sacrifice for me to be here, you’d really understand how I feel in my heart. When you talk about fire, when you talk about passion, I think you can’t really explain it. I get emotional thinking about it, because all the sacrifices it took for me to get here, I wouldn’t have made those sacrifices if I didn’t love the game. I’m blessed to be here, and I’m just happy that these teams want to talk to me, and they want to get to know me.”
That’s what Kayvon Thibodeaux said at the scouting combine when asked how he was going to convince NFL teams that he actually loves the game of football. A weird thing for a guy with as much great tape as he has, but Thibodeaux has been bucking a landslide media narrative that he doesn’t, and when that train leaves, it generally doesn’t stop until after the draft is over.
As to the facts: Thibodeaux grew up in South Central Los Angeles with his mother, and attended three different high schools. His final stop was Oaks Christian in Westlake Village, where he played under head coach and former NFL assistant coach Charles Collins, and former NFL defensive lineman Greg Townsend, the team’s defensive line coach. The five-star recruit could have chosen any major college, but chose Oregon in part because the school understood that he had “interests outside of football.” (Gasp!)
He was the Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year in 2019, won the Morris Trophy as the conference’s top defensive lineman in 2020, and made Unanimous All-American and First-Team All-Pac 12 in 2021. Thibodeaux led the Ducks in sacks and tackles for loss in each of his three seasons.
Stat to Know: Over those three seasons, Thibodeaux had 115 total pressures… on just 812 pass-rushing snaps. He also allowed 10 receptions on 13 targets for 76 yards, 56 yards after the catch, two pass deflections, and an opponent passer rating of 90.5.
Strengths: So, let’s talk about Thibodeaux’s alleged effort issues. This sack against Washington State has him starting off inside the left tackle, and riding all the way to the other side of the formation before closing to the quarterback. I’m reminded of Yannick Ngakoue, one of the better effort pressure ends of his era.
If this is goldbricking, sign me up.
Thibodeaux’s positional versatility extends beyond his ability to move to either shoulder of a tackle — here, he’s off-ball until late in the pre-snap phase, then he lurks up to blitz, demolishes the right guard, and this play is over.
This play against Oregon State… I mean, where does this effort crap come from? This shows Thibodeaux mugging the play-side tight end to eliminate the quarterback’s quick read, which forces the quarterback to extend the play outside the pocket, a process that Thibodeaux then shuts down by moving off the tight end to the quarterback himself.
Weaknesses: Thibodeaux is not yet evolved enough with his hand technique to disengage from blockers in that way, which shows up when he’s engaging but not really getting anywhere. With his athletic attributes, he should be able to rip away from his opponent and go pure aggro in the backfield. He’s also not a natural bender around the edge, so if you’re really into that, he might not be your guy.
Conclusion: When evaluating players, you have to understand the difference between effort and impact. There are players who make things look easier than they should be, and there are players who aren’t always utilized in all the ways that could make them special. It’s my belief that Thibodeaux suffers from both issues. He’s such an amazing raw athlete, we wind up expecting more of him at times than he may be capable of, given his current techniques and limitations. Is Thibodeaux’s impact muted at times when it shouldn’t be? Yes, but I do not see a consistent effort problem that would drop him down my rankings. I see a player who is not a traditional edge defender, and may be capable of much more in a different structure.
NFL Comparison: Julian Peterson. This is a bit of a stretch, but I don’t get the frequent comparisons between Thibodeaux and Jadeveon Clowney. Perhaps those were amplified when Thibodeaux called himself “Jadeveon 2.0” at the combine. Instead, I’d like to see Thibodeaux’s NFL team try him a role like Julian Peterson’s. Peterson was ahead of his time with his positional versatility — selected with the 16th pick in the 2000 draft by the 49ers, Peterson could line up everywhere from end to box to slot to safety at 6-foot-3 at 245 pounds. Thibodeaux’s movement skills in space and overall athleticism had me thinking that he could excel in a Peterson-style role, which the NFL is far more adept with than it was in Peterson’s era.