Why Kayvon Thibodeaux was worth a top five pick

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 13: Kayvon Thibodeaux #5 of the New York Giants gets set against the Houston Texans at MetLife Stadium on November 13, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 13: Kayvon Thibodeaux #5 of the New York Giants gets set against the Houston Texans at MetLife Stadium on November 13, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

When the 2022 NFL Draft process began, there was talk that Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux was a problem. The conversation often revolved around his ego, his fame, and his potential to be often distracted with the bright lights of a professional career. The comments were unwarranted, yet they ran rampant. Despite such rumors, Thibodeaux was drafted fifth overall by the New York Giants, who defended the young player’s focus and intention.

Since then, Thibodeaux has impressed, kept his head down, answering questions of the press with professionalism and selflessness. His play on the field has reinforced this as well. Fast forward to now, the winter of the 2022 NFL season, and Kayvon Thibodeaux has, so far, proven otherwise. He has proven to be a valuable weapon for the Giants’ defense. Was Thibodeaux worth the fifth overall selection? It’s always a valid question for any high draft pick. But the truth is Thibodeaux has been more than just a young player. He has honestly been a force to be reckoned with and a mature presence on and off the field.

Kayvon Thibodeaux’s overall performance on field

Moving into September, Kayvon Thibodeaux was a question mark. He was injured and his ability to get on the field was in question, much like another phenomenal first round talent the Giants drafted before him in Odell Beckham Jr. And while Thibodeaux was able to get on the field earlier than Beckham did, he has not exactly filled the stat sheet like his New York Giants’ predecessor.

However, Thibodeaux has been an impact player every single week, becoming a disruptive force unlike any pass rusher before him in the last five years for the New York Giants. As defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has said, the defense wishes “to open up a can of whoop ass” and Thiboedeaux is “the can opener”. Marindale went on to describe how Thibodeaux plays selfless ball, being the occupier of attention to create a free rusher to the quarterback in Martindale’s exotic blitz packages.

His performance on the field has been solid considering his being a rookie and missing teammate Azeez Ojulari. Ojulari is out due to injury and would normally start across from Thibodeaux as the other edge defender. To this point, Thibodeaux only has 14 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 1 sack. According to PFF, Kayvon Thibodeaux has a 68.6 overall grade and features 28 total pressures on 250 pass snaps. These may not seem like good numbers, but the tale is in the tape, and Thibodeaux is beginning to wreak havoc off the snap.

Thibodeaux demonstrated solid play against the most recent Giants’ opponent, the Dallas Cowboys. Featuring an offensive line that boasts solid chemistry, with four players playing 95% or more total snaps according to the game telecast, the Dallas challenge was a big one to handle. This is especially true when playing a division rival. However, Thibodeaux was able to generate massive disruption, notching a 33.3% pass rush win rate that included 5 QB hits.

Thibodeaux’s pressures can be seen in the following tweet, which also demonstrates his exceptional pass rush toolkit to attack opposing offenses.

This isn’t a recent development

To date, Thibodeaux has become a disruption to opposing offenses, and while his stat sheet is not packed with numbers, just look at how often the pocket collapses in any game this year for the New York Giants. Oftentimes, Thibodeaux is arcing with speed, bull-rushing, or countering inside to attack opposing quarterbacks and it assists his teammates in their success. Leonard Williams, starting defensive lineman, is a talented player in his own right, along with Dexter Lawrence, the starting nose guard currently playing at an All-Pro level. While both are accomplished, much of their success can be attributed to the success of Thibodeaux, who commands double teams at times and is CONSTANTLY held without calls from referees to speak for it.

Unenforced penalties aside, the play of Thibodeaux is clearly ascending, even when missing teammates like Ojulari are missing. It is especially remarkable considering the Giants, against Dallas, were missing three players of their starting secondary, including solid safety Xavier McKinney. Normally, this would encourage teams to throw more given how week the secondary is, and Dallas certainly showed that. But Thibodeaux is still playing well and finding his footing in the NFL despite all of the Giants’ injuries.

It will be very interesting to see Kayvon Thibodeaux grow. But what will be more interesting is how much he will end up meaning to the team. His performance is one thing, but shutting up naysayers with his maturity and leadership is the best part of drafting him. Giants fans have a lot to look forward to given the new Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll regime, but that hype is invigorated by their young fifth overall pick from the 2022 NFL Draft. He could easily become yet another Giants great and another legendary New York pass rusher.