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Raiders Summer Scouting: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon, EDGE

Scouting report and film clips on Oregon defensive end

Pac-12 Championship Game - Oregon v Utah
Kayvon Thibodeaux
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders and about 31 other NFL Teams will be looking into Oregon edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux, so he should be on your radar too as the college season approaches. Below is an in-depth scouting report of what the Duck has shown so far.

EDGE | Oregon | 6’5” 250 lbs | South Central Los Angeles, CA | 12/15/2000 (20.6)

Overview:

Kayvon Thibodeaux came to Oregon as the number two recruit overall and became a starter six games into his true freshman season. In Eugene, he’s racked up 77 total tackles, 23.5 for loss and 12 sacks, primarily playing as an REO/LEO or standup outside linebacker in a system that uses a mixture of even and odd fronts. He has also taken a handful of snaps as an off-ball linebacker and was occasionally asked to drop in coverage. The South Central native has an explosive get-off which combined with his excellent strength, allows him to win as a pass rusher and run defender, but he needs to add a few finesse moves to his pass rush tool belt.

Strengths:

  • Explosive get off to threaten tackles vertically off the snap and play in the offense’s backfield, is extremely quick with his first three steps
  • When penetrating, he recognizes when he’s unblocked and has the start/stop ability to avoid getting too far upfield
  • Quick to sniff out screens and draws
  • As a pass rusher, he excels at turning speed to power with great hand placement and leg drive when bull rushing or using a long arm to put offensive linemen on skates
  • Can win with speed around the edge and has a solid rip move to help overcome some of his bend deficiencies
  • Towards the end of last season, he started to develop an inside stick move by stemming to set it up and using his quickness to beat offensive tackles
  • Gets his hands up if he can’t hit home with his pass rush to get deflections at the line of scrimmage
  • Against the run, he’s very physical at the point of attack, has good timing with his hands to make contact with the offensive lineman first, and has the strength to get extension and/or close the gap with the man
  • Able to displace offensive tackles at the point of attack and won’t be blocked by tight ends
  • Very disciplined as a run defender, not leaving his gap responsibility until the running back commits, and he works to stay tight to the LOS and get under pullers as the spill player
  • Can put tight ends and fullbacks on their backs when taking on kick-out blocks
  • Very effective at getting off blocks, using his athletic ability and/or strength and extension to break free
  • Has the speed to chase down and make plays on the backside of zone runs when unblocked
  • Displays good effort and takes deep angles in pursuit to make tackles down the field
  • Oregon trusted him to occasionally drop in coverage and cover the flats, and he showed the smooth drops, nice change of direction skills and overall athletic ability when doing so
NCAA Football: Oregon at Southern California
Kayvon Thibodeaux
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Areas for improvement:

  • Doesn’t show much of a pass rush plan, if his initial move doesn’t work, he doesn’t throw a lot of counters
  • Very reliant on turning speed to power as a rusher, could afford to add a couple of finesse moves, one of which could be the inside stick move mentioned above
  • Needs to be more active with his hands when starting pass rush moves, leading to some issues getting offensive linemen’s hands off him
  • Lacks the bend and ankle flexion and is a little stiff in the hips to turn tight corners as a rusher
  • Has a habit of leaving his feet against pump fakes when rushing the passer with a clear path to the QB
  • He turns his shoulders perpendicular to the LOS when taking on base blocks as the force defender, leading to some issues holding down the edge against outside runs
  • Struggles to make tackles with offensive linemen hanging on him against the run
  • Does miss tackles because he stops feet and likes to lunge at ballcarriers

Injuries:

None

Projection:

All things considered, Thibodeaux is very close to being a complete prospect and can very easily get there with an impressive Junior season. He has a good chance of being the first non-quarterback off the board and is in contention for the first pick overall. As far as a scheme fit, the Duck is extremely versatile and can play as a six-technique or wider for a team that uses a lot of even fronts, or as a standup outside linebacker in an odd front system.

NCAA Football: Nevada at Oregon
Kayvon Thibodeaux
Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

What to watch for in 2021:

Can he add some finesse moves to his pass rush arsenal? There is a long list of edge defenders who were very reliant on using power to win as a rusher in college and struggled to transition to the NFL. Thibodeaux might be strong and explosive enough to break that mold but regardless, adding a few more tools to his pass rush tool belt will help him develop into that complete prospect.

Fit with the Raiders:

While edge defender isn’t a pressing need for Las Vegas now, it is one that they need to consider. It’s very realistic that Yannick Ngakoue, Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell will enter contract years in 2022, and it will be nearly impossible to keep all three of them, and holding onto two might even be a stretch. So, the organization needs to think about the future of the position and that could mean taking a long look at the Oregon Duck.

The problem is, Thibodeaux seems destined to be a top-five pick, maybe even top-three, and if the Raiders are selecting that high, that probably means they’ll be in the market for a quarterback. But, in a scenario where Derek Carr remains under center and the team is drafting high, the young edge rusher should be on the team’s radar. He’d be a great fit in just about any scheme and might be the best all-around defensive end for the Silver and Black on Day One.

Clips:

Thibodeaux’s get-off here is impressive and a big reason why he’s able to make this play and prevent the touchdown from the backside, but what’s most impressive to me is his awareness. Post-snap, he quickly recognizes that he’s unblocked and instead of running up the field and out of control, he plants his outside foot and b-lines for the ball carrier. That’s some impressive mental processing and athletic ability to prevent a score.

On this play, we’re going to see another great example of how Thibodeaux’s awareness and athletic ability can make a difference against the run. Oregon has a slant called and Cal’s offensive tackle is just looking to ride the defensive end’s momentum down into the wash.

Since the slant puts the defensive line in a bad position, No. 71 has an advantage over Thibodaux. However, the Duck feels the pressure from the tackle and spins back outside to limit this to a one- or two-yard gain. If you take a closer look at the clip, this could have been a long run as the running back had a path up the left hash if Thibodeaux isn’t there.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a much more effective long-arm move in college football than Thibodeaux’s. Here he gets his hand right to the offensive lineman’s armpit and just over-powers him all the way to the quarterback. What I especially like is the pass rusher constantly works to stay on the inside and uses his hands when finishing to get the tackle off him.

This last clip is another great example of Thibodeaux’s strength, athletic ability and technique coming together. He’s responsible for the B-gap in the run fit, but Oregon is playing with a five-man box and is out-numbered against the run. That means someone is going to have to step up and make a play.

No. 5 does a great job of holding his gap and has good hand placement on the front of the tackle’s shoulders. Once the defensive end recognizes that the running back is going outside, his hand placement and strength allow him to shed the blocker and be in a perfect position to make the play near the line of scrimmage. Otherwise, it would have been a two-on-one situation for No. 41 and that could have gotten ugly.