Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon
Every draft cycle there is at least one supremely talented player that becomes a victim to overthinking during the scouting process. This year it feels like that player is Oregon defensive end, Kayvon Thibodeaux. A former top recruit coming out of Oaks Christian High School in California, Thibodeaux spent three seasons with the Oregon Ducks where he would finish his career with 19 sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss.
Coming into the 2021 college football season, Thibodeaux was the favorite to be the top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft but fast forward to today and it seems he’s been overshadowed by fellow edge players, Aidan Hutchinson and Travon Walker. Both Hutchinson and Walker are the betting favorites to go first and second overall, meaning that Thibodeaux could slip right into the New York Jets’ lap with the fourth overall pick.
The Jets are desperate for talent off the edge. The team finished the 2021 season with just 33 sacks, which ranked 26th in the league, and the majority of those came from interior pressure from Quinnen Williams and John Franklin-Myers. While Carl Lawson is set to return after missing his first season in New York with an injury, he alone isn’t enough to drastically improve one of the worst edge units in the NFL.
That is why a player of Kayvon Thibodeaux’s caliber should be so highly coveted by the Jets staff. His combination of length, power and speed would make him a welcomed addition for a Jets defense that is desperate for a spark. He immediately adds another threat opposite Lawson that only makes everybody else’s job around them easier.
The Dark Horse
Evan Neal, OT, Alabama
There are several more popular names outside of Thibodeaux that fans could expect to take with the fourth overall pick. Players like Travon Walker, Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner and Ikem Ekonwu have been mocked quite a bit to the New York Jets during the 2022 NFL Draft process but there is one more name that could be a bit of a dark horse with the team’s first pick.
Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal, not unlike Thibodeaux, has seemingly lost some buzz throughout the draft process over the last few months. Once considered to be in consideration to be the top pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, Evan Neal decided not to participate in the combine and has since lost some luster to the likes of Ikem Ekonwu, who impressed in Indy.
Recency bias aside, Evan Neal has all the tools you could want in a starting tackle at the next level. He’s got long arms, powerful hands, ideal balance and a frame to add even more strength to an already impressive physical profile. The Jets must keep Zach Wilson’s jersey cleaner in year two and adding a guy like Evan Neal to pair with Mekhi Becton could be the key to doing just that.