The collective consensus surrounding Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux is that he is the top talent coming out in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Many draft boards have him going No. 1 overall, but is that really where he should be taken?
The statistics certainly do not suggest so.
While so many are in awe of Thibodeaux’s raw physical abilities and his highlight reels, his football resume does not match.
Over three seasons at Oregon, Thibodeaux is only averaging 41 tackles and 6.3 sacks per season. These are hardly “home-wrecking” numbers.
Currently, when you stack Thibodeaux up against all of his peers in college football, he is tied for 575th in tackles.
Thibodeaux is known as a pass rush specialist, but again, his sack statistics do not add up. Thibodeaux currently is ranked tied for 46th in college football with 7.0 sacks. To put that in perspective, Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson who is also a projected top draft pick has 14.0 sacks this season
The word “potential” is the most dangerous word in scouting. Outside of the combine and pro days, there is probably nothing that has caused teams to overvalue prospects more.
There is probably nothing either that has gotten more front office personnel fired.
To put this in context historically, 53% of first-round picks turn out to be busts.
I am not suggesting Thibodeaux will be a bust. In fact, I like him. However, I think it is important to understand what he is and where he should be properly placed on draft boards. A lack of talent at a certain position overall does not mean a player deserves to be over-graded because “he is the best of the bunch.”
Thibodeaux is a disruptive player who excels at creating pressure and being disruptive in passing situations. This is his value. I am not saying he is a sack artist because he is not. Currently, Thibodeaux is 2nd in the country with a 19.5% pressure rate.
#5 Kayvon Thibodeaux 6-foot-5, 258 pounds
2021 film review: CAL, UCLA, Washington State, and Washington
Grade: First Round
Make sure: His ankle checks out. Injured in the season opener vs. Fresno and missed two games. Seen wearing a walking boot.
Disruptive power rusher who lacks pass-rushing moves and is marginal against the run. Able to play OLB in 3-4 or with his hand down in the dirt in 4-3. Possesses pure power and is mean enough to put offensive linemen on skates and drive them into the pocket. Will draw double teams. While he has enough playing speed to win through the back door, his best pass-rushing move is when he can slip into the inside gap and power up the pocket. Does show short-area burst. Uses his hands well at the point of attack, but he only has average hip flexibility that keeps him from making quick changes of direction. Did not show rip, swim, or spin moves. Raw as a pass rusher, which gets him hung out to dry on the perimeter too often. Solid wrapping tackler versus the run, but marginal against the run game. Is not a real force whatsoever against the run. More of an outside contain who occasionally crashes inside to make lateral run stops (3 career forced fumbles in 3 seasons). He is absolutely not a blow-up run defender. Can cover ground in chase. Can get sideline to sideline. Also able to drop into coverage and use his athleticism to do a solid-looking job (0 career interceptions). Plays hard on about 70-80% of snaps. If a coach can polish him as a pass rusher and instill a full arsenal of moves, he would be far more dangerous. He has far more brute power than Micah Parsons, but nowhere near his explosive speed and raw athletic ability.
The big concern for me always about college prospects is the level of competition they are currently facing and how that projects to the NFL level, where the competition level will undoubtedly be higher than anything they have ever faced week in and week out.
Even in an apples-to-apples comparison…
If Thibodeaux were in the pros right now, his 7.0 sacks at this point of the season would tie him for 22nd and his 41 tackles on the season would tie him for 196th currently in the NFL.
Thibodeaux is a big name, big hype, big reputation player who’s lack of stats create some real serious questions surrounding him headed into the 2022 NFL Draft.
Daniel Kelly is a former NFL scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated Detroit Lions, Sports Illustrated New York Jets and he is a contributing evaluator for Draft Diamonds. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @danielkellybook and his Facebook page is WHATEVER IT TAKES NFL TALK.