It wasn’t all that long ago that Oregon EDGE was one of the two or three players widely considered to be in contention for the first overall pick.
Thibodeaux was the top recruit in the nation when he committed to Oregon, and his ability simply leapt off the field. Thibodeaux has all the tools a defensive coordinator could want with speed, agility, technique, football IQ, and enough power. Thibodeaux was able to take over games at the collegiate level and has the potential to be an instant impact player in the NFL.
So why has he become a polarizing player who’s sliding down some draft boards?
Well, he had a bit of a disappointing 2021 season. Thibodeaux missed three games after having his ankle rolled up on by another player in the season opener. He never really found his stride the rest of the season, flashing brightly at times, but not consistently.
He is also a very frank and straightforward person who isn’t afraid to say what’s on his mind. That simply rubs some people the wrong way, and many “Football Guys” would really rather that players be seen and not heard.
How do the New York Giants come down on Thibodeaux? He would certainly upgrade their pass rush, and his versatility could be put to great use by Wink Martindale.
Games Played: 30
Tackles For a loss: 35.5
Forced Fumbles: 3
Passes Defensed: 7
Games Played: 10
Tackles For a loss: 12.0
Forced Fumbles: 2
Passes Defensed: 1
Best: Explosiveness, athleticism, get-off, technique, pass rush, run defense, versatility, football IQ
Worst: Length, inconsistent ankle flexibility
Projection: A starting EDGE with scheme versatility and Pro Bowl upside.
Oregon EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux has a great combination of size, explosiveness, athleticism, versatility, and football IQ to play the position at the NFL level.
Thibodeaux lined up across the Oregon defensive formation. He rushed from both the left and right edges, as a stand-up rusher and a down defensive lineman, he reduced inside and rushed as a defensive tackle, and even rushed from an inside linebacker position on occasion.
Thibodeaux has a flexible lower body, allowing him to settle into a compact stance and fire off the snap with great pad level. Thibodeaux is a versatile pass rusher with the ability to win with pure speed, technique, and with power off the edge. He has an impressively explosive first step which is capable of stressing almost any offensive tackle he lines up against. He is able to use his first step to win quickly around the edge or set up a quick inside move. Thibodeaux also brings a good array of pass rush moves, including club, rip, swipe, and long-arm moves.
He also has the ability to uncoil his hips, transfer his initial speed to power, and walk blockers who overcompensate for his speed into the backfield. Thibodeaux has enough play strength to be an effective bullrusher with good leverage. He generally does a good job of gaining inside leverage and bench pressing offensive tackles to create separation. He also does a good job of using his hands and contorting his upper body to “get skinny” and split double-teams.
Thibodeaux is a smart, savvy rusher who shows evidence of a definite pass rush plan, mixing his speed and power over the course of a game. Likewise, he usually seems to come to the line of scrimmage with a primary and counter-move prepared.
He is a capable run defender on the edge and uses his leverage, play strength, and technique to set a firm edge. Thibodeaux shows good competitive toughness in pursuit of the play and willing to fight through multiple blockers. He has good awareness of the play, taking smart angles to the ball when scraping over the top, and is generally disciplined in playing his assignment.
Thibodeaux has enough athleticism to drop into shallow zone coverage on occasion. He gets good depth relatively quickly and is capable of running with tight ends in the flats. He shows solid awareness and movement skills in space, making coverage drops a viable option for disguising zone blitzes.
While Thibodeaux is by no means undersized, he does lack ideal measurables. At 6-foot-4 and with 33-inch arms, Thibodeaux doesn’t quite have prototypical length for the NFL. That isn’t much of an issue on tape, but it could give pause to teams with strict measurable thresholds.
There is also some slight concern regarding Thibodeaux’s ankle flexibility. He occasionally runs on his toes at the top of his arc, limiting his contact with the ground. Thibodeaux can occasionally have his feet go out from under him when turning particularly tight corners. Teams will want to do their due diligence to see if his early-season ankle injury had any impact on his lower-body fluidity.
Overall Grade: 9.1
Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux projects as a starting EDGE with scheme versatility at the NFL level.
Thibodeaux should be able to line up as a 4-3 defensive end, an outside linebacker in a 3-4 front, or do a little bit of everything for a “multiple” defense. He’s a reliable and disciplined run defender and has the potential to be a dominant pass rusher from just about any alignment or stance.
Thibodeaux would likely be at his best in an aggressive defense that will let him attack on every play, and make full use of his ability to move around the defensive front. Not only is Thibodeaux a dangerous pass rusher, but he can also help disguise exotic blitz packages by effectively dropping into coverage. He is capable of legitimately taking over games when he fully unleashes his explosive first step and uses that to set up the rest of his game – he can be almost unblockable in obvious passing situations.
Thibodeaux appears to be a smart, savvy pass rusher, who already knows how to rush with a plan and play off of linemen’s expectations. That football IQ should allow him to pick up an NFL defense quickly and he should be able to produce quickly.
Teams will want to do their due diligence to make sure Thibodeaux doesn’t have any lingering issues from the ankle injury which cost him time at the beginning of the 2021 season. If Thibodeaux checks out medically, he has Pro Bowl upside in the right situation.