When the New York Giants drafted Kayvon Thibodeaux 5th overall, they knew they would be getting a charismatic and potentially elite pass-rusher on defense.
Thibodeaux is coming off a campaign where he posted 7.0 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and 49 total tackles. While his numbers don’t necessarily jump off the page, opposing offenses allocated plenty of attention to him, trying to limit his impact.
Thibodeaux brings as quick a first step as you can have off the line of scrimmage to the NFL, reminiscent of one Giants great, who compared himself to Thibodeaux as a young player.
“He wouldn’t be anything like JPP, he doesn’t remind me of Kiwi, doesn’t remind me of Tuck, doesn’t remind me of Strahan, actually,’’ Umenyiora told The Post. “Yeah, you’re right, he’s more like myself.’’
Since his freshman season with Oregon, Thibodeaux has been in the spotlight when he posted 10 sacks. As a tangibly elite player who features plus bend, explosiveness, and speed, he has all of the traits necessary to become a phenomenal player at the next level.
“I like him as a player for sure,’’ Umenyiora said. “Very dynamic football player. He’s strong against the run, which for a college pass rusher of his caliber, you don’t really see that. Strong, quick first step, good bend around the edge, good pass-rush moves, good speed, good motor.
On Day 1, the Giants can depend on Thibs to be a strong presence in the run game, which is essential in Wink Martindale’s aggressive man-coverage scheme.
The Giants didn’t draft Thibodeaux to be a pure run defender, though, they spent the 5th overall pick on him to get after the quarterback and force premature decisions.
“The way he plays, the way he rushes the passer I think you would say he has a very similar game and a very similar skill set to what I did, for sure. I like him as a player, I do.’’
Umenyiora is known for his quick first step and speed to power transition, very similar to Thibodeaux, who ranked above average in the 40-yard dash with a 4.58 and benched 27 reps, landing in the 85th percentile of edge rushers.
With that type of power and speed, Thibodeaux cannot only bench-press tackles off of him but use his incredible bend around the edge. With the right development, there’s no question that Kayvon can become a premium player, but it is also fair to temper our expectations during his rookie season.