For being a potentially elite NFL pass-rusher, Kayvon Thibodeaux has sure received his fair share of criticism.
This is despite the fact that he checks in at 6-foot-5, 258-pounds and has notched 19 sacks over the past three seasons for the Oregon Ducks.
Like any elite prospect, Thibodeaux believes in himself. In fact, he believes he’s the best prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft, and he wasn’t afraid to talk about it at Oregon’s pro day.
Is his confidence all bluster, though?
We’ll find out soon enough, because where he ends up going in the draft will tell the real story.
Kayvon Thibodeaux has seen his NFL Draft stock take a hit
To be fair to Thibodeaux’s critics, it’s not as if they’re dropping him into the second round of the upcoming draft. Heck, it’s hard to find many (credible) mock drafts that don’t have him going within the first five picks.
They are out there, thogh, and when there’s smoke there’s fire. Thibodeaux is also far from the only legitimate option at the top of the draft.
Most seem to be projecting the Jacksonville Jaguars to take Michigan defensive end and Heisman Trophy finalist Aidan Hutchinson No. 1 overall. From there, it’s anyone’s best guess.
Players like Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Sauce Gardner, Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal, and Georgia edge-rusher Travon Walker (a recent riser in many mocks) are all in play for picks two-through-five. There are a few other notable names in play as well, depending on the draft “expert” you believe in.
Thibodeaux is, of course, an option to go right after Hutchinson to the Detroit Lions at No. 2, but there are also mock drafts that have him falling, and some have him falling significantly.
CBS Sports has him falling to No. 7 to the New York Giants. Notably, USA Today recently projected that the Oregon Duck will slide all the way to No. 10 to the New York Jets. That would be a steal Gang Green but undoubtedly a major disappointment for Thibodeaux.
Thibodeaux thinks he’s the best prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft
If Thibodeaux could predict his fate and do his own mock draft, he’d have himself going No. 1 overall to the Jaguars. It wouldn’t even be a question in his mind, either. He feels he’s the top talent in the draft, and he didn’t mince his words while discussing that belief when speaking to the media at his Pro Day.
“The most ridiculous thing I’ve heard is that I’m not the best player in this draft,” Thibodeaux said, via USA Today. “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.”
Thibodeaux is right; he does have the incredible ability.
There’s a reason he’s been considered a top NFL prospect for as long as he’s been at Oregon. It’s not often you find a defender with his size, strength, agility, pass-rushing ability, and comfort in space, but Thibodeaux is the real deal in that regard.
So why isn’t he the consensus No. 1 pick?
First of all, Hutchinson projects to be special. He’s 6-foot-6, 265-pounds, and notched 14 sacks and two forced fumbles for Michigan last season. He has a real “it” factor about him and could be an impact player from day one in Jackonville.
As far as Thibodeaux is conerned, there have been some red flags raised. Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network called Thibodeaux’s effort “spotty“. Todd McShay said in February he wouldn’t be shocked if the Oregon prospect fell out to the top five because “he just doesn’t play with the same fire as some other top prospects.” (h/t Bleacher Report).
Now with the rise of players like Walker from Georgia or the possibility that a team like Detroit can take a wild swing at a quarterback at the top of the draft (perhaps Malik Willis), there is a chance that Thibodeaux could fall out of the top 10 altogether. That would have seemed impossible at the start of the draft process for this class, but here we are nonetheless.
Even so, Thibodeaux doesn’t believe the hype…or the recent lack thereof. In fact, he was more than happy to blame the media for the apparent downtick in his draft stock.
“It is easy to see a snippet of something because that’s what media does,” Thibodeaux said. “They cut stuff up and frame it how they want to.
“Just watch the whole tape, you will be able to see.”
That’s a great soundbite and good on Thibodeaux for sticking up for himself, but if the eye of the elite in the NFL Draft media (who do watch plenty of actual film) has noticed effort issues with the Oregon pass-rusher, one would think the hyper-critical eye of NFL scouts and general managers will see it as well.
If it’s not true, Thibodeaux’s tape will speak for itself, and he’ll likely be a top two-to-five pick in a few weeks. If he falls out of the top ten, though, we’ll know exactly why.