As the NFL offseason progresses, mock draft season is well underway. The 2022 NFL Draft is a highlight for a NY Jets team that has struggled mightily with their on-field play in recent seasons.
For faithful fans of Gang Green, the opportunity to add top colligate talents to the franchise represents their greatest reason for hope. This is particularly true considering the fact that New York currently holds two top-10 picks and two second-round selections.
Many popular mock drafts have the Jets taking Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux with their first pick in the draft. After the Jets finished near the bottom of the league in many 2021 defensive categories, the notion of bolstering the defense is wise.
I fully support building a defense around current head coach and former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. If the long-time defensive specialist will ever truly thrive in New York, it is imperative that he has the talent to pair with his scheme.
However, I am skeptical that Thibodeaux is the right pick to initiate this game plan. I recently put together a seven-round mock draft in which New York passes on the Oregon star in favor of Georgia pass rusher Tavon Walker.
Should he be available, Michigan pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson would also be a worthy selection. If his stock continues to rise, Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis could even enter this conversation (though he would likely be better suited for the Jet's' 10th overall pick).
Kayvon Thibodeaux might not be the complete package for the NY Jets
On paper, Thibodeaux has all the tools to deserve being selected in the top five. He fits the mold physically. He has the strength to bull-rush successfully at the next level and he has shown tremendous speed as an edge rusher. He seems to be the complete package.
Yet, the colligate star never achieved the level of dominance one would expect for his profile, averaging just 6.3 sacks per season in his three years in Oregon. While he will likely be a plus-starter in the NFL, his lack of pass-rushing dominance raises questions about his ceiling.
One NFC team's Director of Personnel told NFL.com that Thibodeaux's cap is likely 10-11 sacks per season, and went on to state that "I don't see him as a 'dude' in that area." His overall package gives him a low floor, but is his potential ceiling worth the fourth overall pick?
Perhaps a good comparison for Thibodeaux is former No. 1 overall pick, Jadeveon Clowney. The former South Carolina superstar has carved out a great professional career as a run-blocking specialist and a multi-time Pro-Bowler.
However, much like Thibodeaux's college career, Clowney has failed to live up to the pass-rushing hype, averaging just 5.1 sacks over eight seasons.
I believe Thibodeaux can match, and possibly even surpass this type of production. I also believe that a Clowney-type player has tremendous value in the modern NFL. However, I am not convinced that a player in this tier is worth a top-five selection.
For the Jets to capitalize on their best draft asset, they must land the type of defensive lineman that is capable of taking over a game. Talents like Myles Garrett, Micah Parsons, Nick and Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, T.J. Watt, and Chase Young all come to mind as examples.
There is good evidence that the Jets would be wise to consider a higher-upside prospect as they seek to find a pass rusher who can elevate Saleh's defense to dominate levels. Perhaps he will prove this line of reasoning foolish (and I certainly hope that he does should New York add Thibodeaux to the fold this offseason).
In any case, Saleh and Jets' general manager Joe Douglas may be wise to pass on the Oregon edge rusher in favor of another top prospect.
How to do feel about Kayvon Thibodeaux potentially being drafted by the Jets at No. 4 overall?