As the NFL becomes more of a passing league with each passing year, pass rushers are at a premium. Never has that been more evident than in the NFL draft. This year, Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux will be one of the first selected.
Take a look at this year’s top EDGE prospect: Kayvon Thibodeaux
Kayvon Thibodeaux’s Background
Formerly the number one overall high school recruit in the country, Thibodeaux was a three-year contributor for the Oregon Ducks. With nine sacks in his freshman season, his hype only got bigger. In 2021, he would finish the season with 49 tackles, seven sacks, and two forced fumbles. He has been named to the All-Pac-12 First Team twice while also being a unanimous All-American in 2021. He dealt with injuries to his lower leg throughout 2021, but none of them is considered to be detrimental long-term.
Thibodeaux’s athleticism instantly jumps off the tape. Often used on the edge, he is asked to cover in space at times and does so with ease. He has great quickness and moves fluidly for a guy of his size. This athletic ability consistently poses a problem for offensive linemen as they attempt to match his startlingly explosive first step. In congruence with this first step quickness, Thibodeaux’s hand placement and power are top-notch. While doing well to get inside his opponent’s chest, he has some dominant reps when utilizing a bull rush. One of the biggest appeals to his game is his adaptability.
He can play as a 5-tech, 3-tech, and was even used as a true linebacker on blitzing downs. He will have to gain more weight to play as a defensive end in an even front in the NFL, but he certainly has the power to do so. His run defense is excellent as well. Refusing to be moved off his spot, his ability to anchor in the run game is impressive, as he rarely misses tackles when given the opportunity.
Kayvon Thibodeaux just abused Will Craig here… pic.twitter.com/GYQGsmUPOh
— Austin Silvey (@FilmRoomScout) January 29, 2022
At this point, Thibodeaux wins most often because he is the best athlete on the field. While he displays heavy hands and has good speed, he does not always appear to have a pass-rushing plan pre-snap. Instead, he attempts to overpower his opposition, which leads to him just staying blocked at times as he struggles to disengage. In the NFL, he will have to work more counters into his game plan as he faces offensive tackles who are becoming increasingly athletic themselves. To become a truly game-changing pass rusher, he must improve in this regard.
Thibodeaux has just about everything the NFL wants in its pass-rushing prospects. An absurd athlete who flashes bend, speed, and power while also being utilized all over the defense. Currently relying on athletic ability first and foremost, if he can learn the technical side of the position, he can become a truly dominant pass rusher in the NFL. He is projected to be a top-three pick in the 2022 NFL draft, so he will be well worth the selection in due time. He is not the finished product that Myles Garrett, Nick Bosa, or Chase Young were when they entered the league, but he has all the potential to be as good as all of those players.
*Top Photo: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports