Kayvon Thibodeaux 2021 Preview By Charlie Campbell
Career Recap: It can be hard for freshmen to become instant starters and playmakers in college football. They are competing against players eho are 2-3 years older and have spent more time in the strength and conditioning program for the more physically demanding level of play. Like former teammate Jevon Holland, Thibodeaux was an exception to the trend, becoming 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 Oregon's seven-game 2020, recording three sacks but improving his tackle total to 38.
2021 Season Outlook: Thibodeaux will see some quality opponents in 2021, including Ohio State in Week 2. He will see a potential left tackle prospect in the Buckeyes Thayor Munford. Other quality programs on his schedule include Stanford, Washington and Utah.
Skill-Set Summary: Immediately when watching Oregon, it becomes apparent that Thibodeux is an excellent athlete who is very fast. His excellent burst off the ball is the first thing that jumps out. He flies upfield, displaying an explosive first-step that routinely has him the first player out of his stance on either line. Offensive tackles are surprised by his speed and how he fast is off the snap. Aside from his blinding first-step, Thibodeaux has the speed to turn the corner and a real burst to close on the quarterback. Thibodeaux is a blur once he's free, eating up space and darting into the backfield. When hr gets home, he shows some physicality with his tackling and how he puts quarterbacks into the turf.
While Thibodeaux is a fast pass rusher, he also possesses the functional strength to bull rush offensive tackles and roll them backward in the pocket. That power also lets him fight off blockers, turning Thibodeaux from just a speed rusher into a player with a versatile skill set. Thibodeaux has active hands and an ability to redirect, as despite his longer frame, he is agile and not overly stiff on the edge. He regularly use his speed to get upfield and he shows the ability to sink his hips to dip under offensive tackles. Thibodeaux has serious speed to power that could only get more deadly as he develops in a pro strength program.
Thibodeaux shows 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 the ball.
Thibodeaux can hold his ground against the run and keep offensive tackles from driving him off the ball. While Thibodeaux is not an overpowering force, he will solidly hold his gap rather than get blown off the ball. On some plays, Thibodeaux can fight off his blocker to pursue to the ball. There are also flashes where he fires into the backfield or cuts around the line to notch a tackle in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage. Thibodeaux could stand to improve his run defense for the NFL, but he showed progress from his freshman to sophomore years while he was a teenager taking on more experienced competition. That progress could continue in the years to come. Thibodeaux has the makings of a solid run defender and a dangerous quarterback hunter.
It would help Thibodeaux to show more variety in pass-rushing moves in 2021. The junior could stand to refine a spin move, a rip move, and a club move. Right now, Thibodeaux is a bit basic with speed to the outside, to the inside, or a bull rush. Continuing to improve his hand fighting and shedding blocks are other areas that Thibodeaux could stand to improve.
Thibodeaux could be a standup outside linebacker in a 3-4 or a right defensive end in a 4-3 in the NFL.
2022 NFL Draft Expectations: Entering the 2021 season, Thibodeaux is viewed as a consensus top defensive talent that has high first-round potential.