2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Kayvon Thibodeaux
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: It can be hard for freshman to become instant starters and playmakers in major college football. They are competing against players who are 2-3 years older and have spent more time in the strength and conditioning programs for the more physically demanding level of play. Like former Oregon teammate Jevon Holland, Thibodeaux was an exception to the trend, as he became a star edge rusher in his first season for the Ducks. Thibodeaux broke out in 2019 with nine sacks, 35 tackles and three passes defended. He then played well in the seven-game 2020 season, recording just three sacks but improving his tackle total to 38.
Thibodeaux suffered an ankle injury early in the 2021 season and missed a few games. Often a prospect would have shut their year down to get healthy for the combine and pre-draft workouts, but Thibodeaux returned to the field to help his team and played at less than 100 percent. The junior showed a strong motor all year long, fighting hard through a lot of double teams. Offenses rolled plays away from him, but he still totaled seven sacks 49 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, one pass batted and two forced fumbles in 2021. Thibodeaux then wisely decided to skip the Alamo Bowl to close out his year.
Immediately when watching Oregon, it becomes apparent that Thibodeux is an excellent athlete and a disruptive defender. He has a good burst off the ball to work upfield and a first-step that routinely lets him be the first player out of his stance on either line. Offensive tackles are easily surprised at how quickly Thibodeaux gets off the snap. He also has enough speed to turn the corner and is able to close on the quarterback. Thibodeaux is not a blinding speed rusher, like a Von Miller or Brian Burns who just blows by tackles, so he does not have elite speed, but he is sufficiently fast and can get wins with his power.
While Thibodeaux is not a large end like Joey Bosa or Jadeveon Clowney, Thibodeaux is extremely strong and has some serious power packed into his size. There is no doubt that he has functional strength to bull rush offensive tackles and roll them backward in the pocket. With some functional power to fight off blockers, Thibodeaux is not just a speed rusher because he has versatility in his skill set. Thibodeaux shows active hands and an ability to redirect. With good athleticism, he shows agility and is not an overly stiff defender on the edge. Regularly, Thibodeaux uses his quickness to get upfield and then shows an ability to sink his hips to dip under offensive tackles while using his power to swipe their hands away. Thibodeaux has serious speed to power, and that could only get more deadly as he ages in a pro strength program. When Thibodeaux gets home, he shows some physicality with his tackling and how he puts quarterbacks into the turf.
Thibodeaux has quality vision that leads to him having nice read-and-react skills. While moving upfield, he keeps his eyes on the play, and that leads to him being able to redirect to get to the ball.
Thibodeaux can hold his own in the ground game and keep offensive tackles from driving him off the ball. While Thibodeaux is not an overwhelming force as a run defender, he is solid at holding his gap and not getting blown off the ball. Many times, Thibodeaux can fight off his blocker and pursue to the ball. There are also flashes where he fires into the backfield or cuts around the line to get a tackle in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage.
Thibodeaux has areas to improve for the NFL, like many college players. He could stand to refine a spin move, a rip move and a club move. Right now, Thibodeaux is a bit basic with speed-to-power sheds to the outside, the inside, or a bull rush. He also has upside to develop if he works hard at his craft - like most. Thibodeaux has the skill set and versatility to play as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end. A 3-4 defense might be Thibodeaux's best fit considering his weight.
Thibodeaux looks like he has the potential to become franchise defensive player in NFL as an edge rusher capable of producing double-digit sacks on an annual basis. He could be a player who goes to multiple Pro Bowls and is one of the most dangerous pass rushers in the NFL. Thibodeaux is worthy of being a high first-round pick in any draft class. For the 2022 NFL Draft, he looks likely to be a top-five pick.
Player Comparison: Khalil Mack. Team sources have compared Thibodeaux to Mack. Thibodeaux could make a similar level of impact as a pass rusher as Mack in the NFL.
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