f star edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux falls to the New York Giants at Pick No. 5 (or Pick No. 7) in this year’s NFL Draft, they have to take him — right?
A year ago, the answer to this question would have been a resounding “YES.” But now, less than two weeks away from Day 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft, the question is not as easy to answer. Once considered a foregone conclusion to be drafted No. 1 overall, Thibodeaux’s draft stock has been slowly sinking for months.
With two picks in the top 10 this year, the Giants have done extensive homework on Thibodeaux and have reportedly discovered some red flags during the evaluation process. According to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, the Giants are concerned that Thibodeaux is “more interested in creating his own brand than becoming a great player.” The report sites Thibodeaux’s decision to switch agencies to Klutch Sports Group, founded by LeBron James, as something the Giants factored into their evaluation.
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The Giants have shown interest in Thibodeaux throughout the draft process, but until this report it wasn’t certain whether their primary concern was on or off the field. Thibodeaux was a five-star recruit coming out of college and had a somewhat underwhelming collegiate career at Oregon. In 30 games with the Ducks, he registered 19.0 sacks (7.0 in 2021).
Back in March, Thibodeaux said the Giants grilled him during a Combine interview.
“They were kinda on me, they were giving me a hard time,” Thibodeaux said, via the New York Post, “but I felt like it was like that big brother moment where they give you a hard time because they’re interested in you and they like you. For me, just showing them that I’m really a guy, I grew up in a big city so a big city is nothing new to me, right?”
Thibodeaux, who is from Los Angeles, then provided further context on what he meant by “a hard time.”
“Like, what’s gonna happen if I’m not the star coming in?” Thibodeaux explained. “Five games in, if I don’t have a sack, this is what they’re gonna be talking about. The media’s gonna be down on me…I’m gonna be in the doghouse. How am I gonna handle that?”
Thibodeaux says he’s used to that type of scrutiny, but do the Giants believe him? Schwartz’s latest report for the New York Post claims the team needs to be “completely comfortable” with Thibodeaux in order to select him with one of their two top-10 picks, and at the moment it does not sound like they are.
But, maybe that’s by design…
Giants Could Be Creating a Thibodeaux Smokescreen
The NFL Draft is a complicated dance. Evaluating the prospects and making the right selections are only part of the challenge. The buildup to the draft takes months, and during that time a lot of games are played in the media. Often times, teams will set up smokescreens to disguise their interest in a prospect or plant seeds of doubt to help the board fall in their favor.
Think about it. A year ago, Thibodeaux was a lock to go No. 1 overall. Now, because of the concerns that have circulated during the draft process, he is within striking distance for the Giants at Pick No. 5 or 7. Without the red flags, this wouldn’t be possible.
If you’re the Houston Texans, are you less likely to spend the No. 3 overall pick on Thibodeaux after you see reports that the Giants are concerned to spend the 5th pick on him? And if you’re picking behind he Giants, are you now ruling out the possibility of making an aggressive move to trade up and go get the talented pass rusher?
A well-executed smokescreen can help ensure that the prospect you wanted all along falls into your lap on draft day. It’s certainly possible that’s what the Giants are doing.
New York Needs Another High-Profile Pass Rusher
A lot of Giants fans want to see the offensive line solidified first, but pass rusher is also a pressing need. Last year, the Giants drafted Azeez Ojulari in the second round and saw him collect 8.0 sacks as a rookie. This year, they may want to lock in that complementary piece on the opposite edge.
And Thibodeaux has the potential to be so much more than that. He has the physical traits to be a franchise cornerstone. Whether it’s Lawrence Taylor, Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck or Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants have never won a Super Bowl without at least one high-profile pass rusher leading the way.
Will Thibodeaux be the next in line? In less than two weeks, the Giants will likely let us know with their actions in the draft.