Giants got steal of NFL draft in Kayvon Thibodeaux

You heard it here first: Kayvon Thibodeaux will be the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year.

You heard it here first: Kayvon Thibodeaux will be the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Image: Getty Images

The New York Giants have just found their next Michael Strahan. As lofty as the former Oregon Ducks’ All-American is in the threshold of the stratosphere, Kayvon Thibodeaux may have found a player better than the gap-toothed Hall of Famer. And perhaps Thibodeaux will end up hosting Good Morning America His playing days are once done for good measure in two decades.

There are No guarantees in the NFL Draft. Last year’s No. 1 overall pick (Trevor Lawrence) has lived up to his “best quarterback in a decade” billing after a season with Jacksonville. Heck, the Giants know a thing or two about draft potential not panning out. How’s the post-Eli Manning quarterback situation looking at East Rutherford? Show me a Giants fan that wants to ride with Daniel Jones over the next several years and I’ll show you a bald-faced liar.

Anyway, back to the reason for this story, Thibodeaux will be a smash hit.

We’re more than a week removed from the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, and with each passing day, I’ve become more convinced of the first four teams drafting, especially the first two in the Jaguars and Lions, will live to regret. Passing on Thibodeaux in favor of fellow defensive ends Travon Walker and Aidan Hutchinson. The three were heavily tied to each other because of collegiate success and playing the same position ahead of the draft. Whether it’s choosing someone from the reigning national champions or a local fit (Hutcinson attended Michigan in Ann Arbor, not too far from Detroit), seeing those three as comparable is comical.

At full health, Thibodeaux’s ability to beat pass blockers is far better than Hutchinson’s and Walker’s. If he draws a double-team? No problem. He wore the green most of the time in Eugene and his Bruce Banner impersonation, Hulking is the way through the offensive line to take down quarterbacks. If teams commit too many players to stopping Thibodeaux, someone else feasted for Oregon. Thibodeaux’s ability was a big reason why the Ducks were one of the few Pac-12 teams to get a sniff of the College Football Playoff in recent years.

And his first step off the line of scrimmage is faster than the two defensive linemen drafted in front of him. He’s more physical, too, sometimes overpowering at 6-foot-6, 300-pound offensive tackles, instead of just using finesse. Hutchinson might’ve doubled Thibodeaux’s sack total from 2021, but it’s a one-season jump. Hutchinson has not sustained that success over time. Thibodeaux is the only one of the three who has.

Had Thibodeaux not sprained his ankle in Oregon’s first game of the 2021 season and sat out the next two contests, this is not a conversation. Thibodeaux with at least eight more quarters of game play against Fresno State, Ohio State and FCS-level Stony Brook would’ve put him well over the top and be the clear top player in this draft. To me, he was that anyway. And seven days after heading to the NFC East, I’m puzzled as to why those in Jacksonville and Detroit didn’t see things the same.

Maybe Thibodeaux needed a huge hit that put millions of hits on social media to put him over the top? Jadeveon Clowney had one for South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. The “Hit heard around the world” Where a Wolverine running back’s helmet went flying feet away from the ferocity. Clowney was the No. 1 overall draft pick a year later and Walker was only the second defensive lineman to take on Myles Garrett in 2017.

When comparing Walker, Thibodeaux and Hutchinson, statistics only go so far. Five Georgia defensive players went into the first round and 10 were selected overall. How do we know how any of them will perform at the next level without the influence of others? That ‘s one tackler short of leaving the entire defense to the SEC on professional endeavors. Hutchinson was a fellow Wolverine defender in the first round, too. Thibodeaux didn’t.

Thibodeaux has been open about his legacy more than on the gridiron. He has plans to open a charter school later this year and start his own cryptocurrency. He mentioned in pre-draft interviews a desire to be a role model in whatever community he was drafted into, and there is no bigger market than New York City. That brought doubts as to whether Thibodeaux’s mindset is solely focused on football.

Those questions are there for LeBron James, who won a championship with the Lakers going after More Than an athlete TV series in 2019 or when He opened a school in his hometown of Akron? No. Thibodeaux should be applauded, not downgraded.

The Texans and Jets went to address bigger needs and let the Ducks ‘juggernaut fall into the Giants’ lap. And he’ll be a monster in the easiest division to win in football. New York may still finish fourth in the NFC East this season. How will they scorel? Great question. How will the Giants stop the teams running up the score on them? It’s a tough task. Thibodeaux is someone tangible to the point as a difference-maker. Those prospects don’t come along every day. Cheers to the 2022 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

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