A two-time All-American voted USA Today’s High School Defensive Player of the Year in 2018, Thibodeaux was considered the top prospect in his recruiting class, receiving scholarship offers from 27 Division I programs including Alabama, Florida, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas, Oklahoma, USC and of course, the school he would ultimately attend, Oregon. The Los Angeles native arrived in Eugene with monster expectations and mostly met them, earning Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year honors in 2019 on the strength of nine sacks. Thibodeaux battled injuries throughout his final season at Oregon—he was never quite the same after spraining his ankle in the Ducks’ season opener—but was still recognized as a unanimous All-American while also earning all-conference honors for the second year in a row. Thibodeaux pulled an audible at the Combine this winter, opting out of drills after cruising to a 4.58 (94th percentile) and putting up an impressive 27 reps on the bench press.
2021 stats: 49 tackles (35 solo), 12 tackles for loss, seven sacks, two forced fumbles
Accolades: Unanimous All-American (2021), First-team All-Pac-12 (2020-21), Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year (2019), Morris Trophy (2020), Pac-12 Championship Game MVP (2020), Chuck Bednarik Award finalist (2021), Bronko Nagurski Trophy finalist (2021), Ted Hendricks Award finalist (2021), High School Football Defensive Player of the Year (2018)
Strengths: Teleporting off the line of scrimmage, Thibodeaux is an unparalleled athlete with ideal measurements and an endless well of talent, overwhelming opponents with his length and explosion. A dominant run defender strong enough to impose his will in the trenches, Thibodeaux presents as much physical upside as any pass-rusher in recent memory, relying on a blinding first step and an uncommon mean streak, torpedoing everything in his path like a Category-5 storm. Offers room to grow both in terms of play recognition and overall technique.
Weaknesses: A bit of an eager beaver, Thibodeaux was whistled for four false starts last season. Concerns exist about Thibodeaux’s drive, citing frequent lapses and a frustrating tendency to “take plays off.” Many were put off by the stunt he pulled in Indy last month, blowing off drills while ambitiously comparing himself to Jadeveon Clowney, who faced similar questions about his work ethic coming out of South Carolina. Plagued by inconsistent hand placement, Thibodeaux can be neutralized if he’s not precise. Thibodeaux arguably underachieved at Oregon, never quite living up to his billing as a highly-decorated five-star recruit.
NFL comp: Thibodeaux may see himself as Clowney 2.0, but his skill set might be more in line with former Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, a turbo-charged edge menace with a knack for getting to the quarterback (76.5 career sacks).
What experts are saying
“Thibodeaux is already an incredible player and he hasn't yet developed an arsenal of hand moves. He's winning on pure athleticism and feel.”– Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com
“It may not be in Year One or Year Two, but Thibodeaux has perennial All-Pro physical ability.” – Pro Football Focus