By Dylan MacKinnon
When I started these articles, I had no plans to write about Kayvon Thibodeaux. Not because he isn’t worth the pick. In fact for the opposite reason. It seemed impossible that he could fall to where the Eagles could take him. If he wasn’t the best prospect, he was second or third. And he still may be the best prospect. But all of a sudden, there are rumors he will fall in the draft. And while that may be some team trying to muddy the waters with fake reports to hurt his stock, it means Thibodeaux is worth talking about as a prospect for the Eagles.
Even with the Hasson Reddick Signing the Eagles need another DE. We already talked about David Ojabo, Jermaine Johnson, and George Karlaftis, but Kayvon may be the best of the bunch. So let’s take a look at Kayvon Thibodeaux and if he would fit in Midnight Green.
A Disruptive Force
“We feel he’s the most disruptive player in college football. He’ll be used as such,”- Mario Cristobal on Kayvon Thibodeaux
There is not a much better way to describe Kayvon Thibodeaux than that. The presence of Thibodeaux is felt every time he steps onto the field. The 6’4″ DE made his mark across his 3 years at Oregon. Racking up 19 sacks, and over 90 QB pressures in just 30 games. Thibodeaux has been considered a potential first overall pick in the draft since High School.
He burst onto the scene his Freshman year with 9 sacks, 14 tackles for a loss, 3 deflected passes, and even a blocked kick. That earned him an All Pac-12 Honorable mention, and he was named conference Defensive Freshmen of The Year. Then he came back his sophomore year to make the 3rd Team AP All-American team, won the Morris trophy, and was named the PAC 12 Conference Championship game MVP. Finally his final season he was First Team All-American and was a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik, Ted Hendricks, and Bronko Nagurski Awards.
His pass-rush win rate in college was 17.5%. The average was 9.8%. Thibodeaux is the type of guy opposing teams will fear. And he lives for that fear.
“Fear is a big thing in football. Once they fear you, they’re done.”- Kayvon Thibodeaux
So what makes him so good? To start, he is big and explosive. Physically he can match up with anyone. He has the power to run through someone, but also the speed and agility to hit you with finesse moves at times. What stands out watching him is his burst. He gets off the line as fast as anyone, which is why he so often gets offensive linemen off balance. And he is flexible and capable of escaping blocks in many different ways.
Just look at this collection of highlights from his in Oregon’s game vs Cal to see how he is capable of beating blockers with many different moves.
Kayvon Thibodeaux dominated last night— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) October 16, 2021
25 snaps rushing - PFF has him with some form of pressure (sack/hit/hurry) on *11* of those pic.twitter.com/M6xkgBbFaf
And he has the hustle to match his ability. He runs all over the field, covering sideline to sideline. You will even see him chase ball carriers down from behind at times. He also fights through blocks. Thibodeaux has all the tools and all the traits you want for an edge rusher. If you were going to build a pass rusher from scratch, with all the ideal attributes they should have, the end product would look a lot like Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Doesn’t Lack Confidence
Kayvon Thibodeaux knows he is the best. he has a ton of confidence in what he does, and he’s not afraid to talk about it. This is what Thibodeaux had to say about the rumors that his stock was falling.
“The most ridiculous thing I’ve heard is that I’m not the best player in this draft. 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.”
Some may see that as ego. And perhaps it is. But it is more than that for him. Thibodeaux sees himself as a brand. It’s not just a game or entertainment for him. He is creating a legacy. And when you see yourself as a brand, you have good reason to protect that brand from any negativity. He even tattooed the words “Chosen One,” onto his right arm. When asked why this is what he said.
“I got it because no one in my family has done anything. We don’t have anything to live for. The name means nothing. Thibodeaux means nothing. The opportunity that I have and the talent that I’ve been blessed with, I’m able to change the dynamic and change the forefront of my future, my family’s future.”
But don’t mistake this for him being someone hard to deal with. Thibodeaux may think very highly of himself, but he puts the work in to earn it.
“He loves to talk to people. Loves to learn and he’s mature and wise beyond his years. I can easily see Kayvon just walking up and introducing himself and carrying on a conversation with anybody. Kayvon is a great athlete. He’s an even better person. He is a continuous learner. He is always raised his hand when we’re at events. He’s volunteered to MC.”- Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens told The Athletic.
Thibodeaux wants to leave his mark, both on the field, and in the real world. He has spoken about wanting to eventually open a school the way Lebron James did. And he has already utilized the new NIL rules in College to open other opportunities for himself.
Areas For Improvement
While Thibodeaux is big and fast and strong, he is also still raw. His technique could use some work. The primary place he needs to improve is in how he uses his hands. According to some who scouted him, he tends to latch on with his hands, as opposed to using them to punch or rip through blocks. Better hand usage will allow him to be even more effective as a pass rusher. In the NFL he will be an athletic mismatch less often, considering the insane athleticism of some modern Offensive Tackles. Technique will matter much more in the NFL.
With that said, the fact that he is so effective as a pass rusher with less than ideal technique speaks to him having room to grow. A good D Line coach can work with him on using his hands better. No one is going to teach someone to be as explosive and sudden as he is though.
Some in the media seem to suggest he lacks heart. But that seems strange considering every scouting report I read from people who watched tape of him praise his aggressiveness. In fact, his aggressiveness can sometimes hurt him. Thibodeaux will over pursue in the run game at times. He takes too aggressive of angles and takes himself out of plays.
With the way he plays, and the way he speaks I find it hard to believe this is a guy who lacks heart. He has goals beyond Football, but you can’t knock a guy for wanting to set up a life beyond the game.
It feels more like the lack of heart rumors, or the selfishness rumors, are more the usual leaks from NFL Front Offices to try and get a guy to fall, rather than genuine concerns.
What the Draft Experts Say
“Thibodeaux is hardly a finished product, but has pro-ready attributes that should help him acclimate quickly. He’s a plus run defender who punches above his weight at the point of attack with heavy hands and a sturdy base. He has some suddenness in tight quarters and above-average pursuit speed, which should keep the tackles for loss rolling in throughout his career. Thibodeaux rushes with effort, upfield burst and play-through power that should bring reasonable sack/pressure production. However, he needs to add some go-to moves and more skilled hands to his bag if he is to affect the quarterback more frequently and reach his lofty potential as a standout, two-way edge defender.”
“Thibodeaux has ideal size (6-5, 258), length and explosiveness. He moved up and down the line of scrimmage in the Ducks’ scheme, but primarily stood up on the edge. Shows a tremendous burst off the snap and excels using his inside arm to stab, create space, close and finish. He also has an effective shake/bull move to rock and displace offensive tackles. Thibodeaux does have some ankle tightness at the top of his rush; he isn’t an elite bender. Against the run, he easily stacks blocks vs. tackles and tight ends while locating the football. He has speed to close from the back side but his effort is spotty. Overall, Thibodeaux doesn’t have ideal flexibility, but his blend of speed and power should translate successfully at next level.”
If Kayvon Thibodeaux is available to the Eagles, it should be an easy choice to take him. At one point this guy was the consensus number one pick. Why is he reportedly falling? I don’t know. I can see taking a few guys ahead of him. But the concept that he could fall out of the Top 10 is baffling. Kayvon Thibodeaux is the type of guy who can change an organization.