The Jacksonville Jaguars will have a tough choice to make with the top overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. While Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson seems to be in the driver’s seat to go No. 1, Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal is still in play. Another player that shouldn’t be ruled out is Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Thibodeaux made the most out of Oregon’s Pro Day, testing well in all drills. While he didn’t run the 40-yard dash, he posted a 4.34 shuttle and a 9-foot-1 broad jump. All NFL teams sent representatives and both the New York Giants and the Detriot Lions sent big contingents.
While Hutchinson is currently seen as the consensus No.1 pick, Thibodeaux had that place throughout most of 2021. The fact that he got injured last year hurt his draft stock. Also, his interests outside of football and his passing for the game have been seen as potential red flags. After his Pro Day performance, the former Oregon standout weighed in on the criticism he’s faced ahead of the draft, via Zachary Neal of Duck Wire:
"You know, I love it. You know, I don’t think I love it in a sense of, you know… I just think it’s to the point where it’s something to talk about, and as long as people are talking about me, and I consistently stay who I am and I know that I’m doing everything in my power to do things the right way, and then I talk to the coaches and I’m creating a relationship and doing things with coaches, I let the media run wild. You know, you guys can make it you want. It just gives me more followers.”"
The Jaguars need to perform due diligence with Kayvon Thibodeaux.
While some of the criticism Thibodeaux has earned may be valid, there are a few talking points that sound archaic, mainly that he isn’t totally committed to playing football because he’s invested in NFTs. Old school evaluators want players to eat, breathe and sleep football 24/7. To them, having outside interests could hinder their on-field performance but the truth is that school of thought it’s outdated. Coincidentally, Trevor Lawrence also raised eyebrows ahead of last year’s draft when he said his life didn’t revolve around football. In the end, it turned out to be a non-issue.
Certain players need more guidance than others but that doesn’t mean they can’t do more than one thing at the same time. Is it really a bad thing that Thibodeaux is trying to maximize his brand? Maybe if he’s texting in the middle of film breakdown or if he skips practice to attend a meeting, that would be a cause for concern but it wouldn’t get to that point. Instead, he can perfectly take care of his business ventures in his time off. Is it really that different from going out or playing video games? What is he supposed to do when he’s not playing football? Stare at a wall?
Now, Thibodeaux isn’t a perfect prospect. He has work to do as an edge rusher and he needs to develop an arsenal of pass-rush moves. The Jaguars’ brass should take that into account when evaluating him but the concerns about his interest in NFTs are likely overblown and should be thrown out of the window.
The Jaguars will probably take Aidan Hutchinson with the top pick in the draft but nobody should bat an eye if they end up taking Kayvon Thibodeaux. The chances of it happening are slim but don’t bet against it.