Andy Nelson/Associated Press
There was a time, not that long ago, when Oregon edge-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux (B/R Scouting Report) was being talked up as not just the top pass-rusher in the class but also the No. 1 prospect overall.
“There wasn’t a dominant edge-rusher in the 2021 class, but that’s not the start of a trend, ESPN’s Mel Kiper said of Thibodeaux in May 2021, per Marcus Mosher of Raiders Wire. “Thibodeaux, who was the No. 1 -ranked high school recruit in 2019, is a stellar talent. He’s the clear best pass-rusher in the 2022 class. He had nine sacks as a true freshman two seasons ago, and he had three sacks and 9.5 total tackles for loss in seven games last season. Thibodeaux is an elite prospect.”
In at least one person’s opinion, nothing has changed. Thibodeaux believes all the recent criticism leveled at him has been full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
“The most ridiculous thing I’ve heard is that I’m not the best player in this draft,” he told reporters. “I really don’t listen to anything else, but that to me, that’s outrageous. With the film, with the numbers and what I can do, as far as my ability, I have confidence in what I can do.”
However, as ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller wrote recently, those concerns have only become amplified the closer we get to the draft.
“Thibodeaux didn’t show the quickness and burst expected (in 2021) on his way to seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss — good numbers, but not those expected of a player deemed a front-runner for the No. 1 pick. Beyond those numbers, scouts and front-office execs with whom I’ve spoken have praised his talent but consistently questioned his motor. ‘Lack of fire’ is not the type of label prospects want.”
Given all that has been said and written about Thibodeaux of late, he’s been falling in mock drafts, and Miller posited that it’s a real possibility he could drop out of the top 10 altogether.
This is another situation where the caveats of draft season apply. The criticisms of Thibodeaux’s motor could be coming (at least in part) from teams that want him to drop just far enough to snatch him up. It only takes one team to decide Thibodeaux is “the guy” to halt a draft-day slide.
When Thibodeaux is healthy and on his game, he has generational potential as a pass-rusher. He has ridiculous bend and burst off the edge and has things that cannot be taught. And for what it’s worth, there were concerns about Myles Garrett’s engine back in 2017.
Those seem rather silly now.
However, Thibodeaux isn’t Garrett. There is more than one red flag. There’s the inconsistent (and underwhelming) production. The effort concerns. A series (per Miller) of poor interviews with NFL teams.
The more flaws that keep popping up, the harder it is for teams picking early in Round 1 to ignore them.
It may be that Thibodeaux will go on to make the teams that passed on him regret the decision.
But it’s looking increasingly likely that several will.