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Complicated Kayvon Thibodeaux has big goals, on and off the field

How good will the Giants’ No. 5 overall pick be?

NFL: New York Giants Minicamp John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Kayvon Thibodeaux will be one of the most fascinating New York Giants to watch this season, and probably for several seasons to come.

Thibodeaux, the No. 5 overall pick in the draft, comes to the New York/New Jersey market with a big personality, intelligence that leads him to interests outside of football and desire to be prepared for his post football life, and questions from some corners about how much he loves the game and whether or not he plays hard all the time.

Oh, he also comes with a ton of talent. Enough talent that he was at one time considered a potential No. 1 overall pick before the narrative turned to all of those things that made some NFL talent evaluators not named Joe Schoen leery of using top of Round 1 draft capital on the Oregon edge rusher.

It is now Thibodeaux Time as we continue rolling through player-by-player profiles of the Giants’ 90-man roster. So, let’s discuss the many facets of this interesting young man.

By the numbers

Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 254
Age: 21
Position: Edge
Experience: Rookie
Contract: Four years, $31.339 million [Fully guaranteed] | 2022 cap hit: $5.698 million

Career to date

Thibodeaux was a First-Team All-American in 2021, when he had 7.0 sacks, 12.0 tackles for loss, 49 tackles and two forced fumbles. For his career, Thibodeaux had 19.0 sacks in 32 games.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic had Thibodeaux ranked as his No. 8 overall prospect heading into the draft. His scouting report hints and both the talent and the conundrum Thibodeaux presented to NFL evaluators:

Thibodeaux is physical vs. the run and rushes with upfield urgency and cornering skills to skirt blockers. His go-to move is a powerful jab step that helps open up his options, but he is still learning how to efficiently patch together his rush moves. Overall, Thibodeaux isn’t a fluid mover, and his impact runs hot-and-cold, but he understands how to create leverage as a pass rusher with his length, flexibility and hand strength. He draws comparisons to Jadeveon Clowney with NFL teams and has the talent to develop into a high-end starter if he stays committed.

Thibodeaux drew attention for some of the Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deals he was able to sign, and for being critical of the education he would have gotten had he attended Alabama. There was also the narrative that Thibodeaux did not always play hard, as evidenced by these comments from Todd McShay at the Senior Bowl:

“I heard a lot about Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, including concerns that he just doesn’t play with the same fire as some other top prospects. His ceiling is high, but the floor is lower than what you want for a top-five pick.”

2022 outlook

GM Joe Schoen acknowledged after selecting Thibodeaux that “he’s a very outgoing individual. He’s got a lot of personality.” Schoen said the Giants “got to know the kid [Thibodeaux] maybe more than any player in this draft” during the pre-draft process.

Back at the Combine, Thibodeaux had said that during his Indianapolis interview with them the Giants “were kinda on me, they were giving me a hard time, but, you know, I feel like it was like that big brother moment where they give you a hard time because they’re interested in you and they like you.”

Turned out, Thibodeaux was right. They liked him enough to make him the first draft pick of the Schoen era as GM.

Head coach Brian Daboll said the organization “felt very comfortable” with Thibodeaux after multiple visits with him, including Schoen having dinner with Thibodeaux at a Korean barbecue restaurant of Thibodeax’s choosing.

“I like coaching good guys. Everybody has a different personality. When you’re coaching in the National Football League for 22 years, you come across a lot of different characters, and as long as they love football and they are a pro on and off the field,” Daboll said. “I have six kids, and they all have different personalities. And that’s the job of a coach, too, to learn your players, what makes them tick, how to push them when they need pushed, how to hug them when they need a hug. Felt very comfortable with him.”

Much has also been made, of course, about Thibodeaux listing former Giants great and NFL Hall of Famer Michael Strahan as a mentor.

Strahan said on WFAN that Thibodeaux was “a good pick who’s going to bring some joy to Giants fans for some years to come.”

Strahan also told Tiki Barber this during his WFAN appearance:

“He understands that in order for all those other things to happen, as you and I did, then you gotta be a great football players, because that’s your primary business. Never mess up your primary business expecting for a secondary business to take off. Because at his age, there’s no business that’s going to be as good for him as football is going to be good for him. And he gets that, he understands it and I think the kid’s gonna be a great player.”

Thibodeaux will almost certainly start at one edge position, with 2021 second-round pick Azeez Ojulari occupying the other.

Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said Thibodeaux was “my number one guy” coming out of the draft process.


“Just all his different flexibilities and the way we can use him in the scheme and his pass rush ability,” Martindale said. “He’s a bright, very football-smart kid that has a lot of aspirations and goals, and don’t we all want our kids to have aspirations and goals. I’ve loved him since day one.”

Thibodeaux sat out most of the on-field work in the spring due to a minor hip issue, but told NFL Network that he is “fully healthy” and ready for training camp.

Thibodeaux has big goals for his rookie season:

“I don’t want to think too big. You have to compartmentalize the season,” he said, adding the message from the coaching staff to him has been to stay in the playbook during the team’s down time. “If I could average at least one sack a game or contribute five to 10 tackles a game, then I’ll be good.

“That’s the smartest way to do it. You never want to look at the end. You always want to take it day by day. If you reach for the top, you’ll miss those steps right in front of you. So I know if I take those small steps and get that one sack or five to 10 tackles a game, by the end of the season, I’ll be where I want to be.”

Multiply those numbers out by 17 games and that would be a monster season. No one should be expecting that, but the Giants are counting on Thibodeaux to be a major factor in Martindale’s “pressure breaks pipes” defensive style.


Will Kayvon Thibodeaux break Azeez Ojulari’s NYG rookie sack record of 8.0?

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