2022 NFL Draft

Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux tackles misinformation, reading mock drafts, being draft's best dressed

Kayvon Thibodeaux pauses midway through a sip of his smoothie and quickly looks up as if he's being challenged.

The uber-talented edge rusher from the University of Oregon and polarizing potential top-10 2022 NFL Draft pick appears a bit taken off guard by the first question. But his answer is unapologetically confident, like he seemingly is in every stage of his life.

"C'mon man. Who you think is going to be the best dressed on draft night? It's me," Thibodeaux said. "I'm one, not two."

It's the same type of swaggy confidence that led him to tell reporters earlier this month at the Oregon pro day that "the most ridiculous thing I've heard is that I'm not the best player in this draft. ... I really don't listen to anything else, but to me, that's outrageous."

He believes both claims without a doubt and isn't afraid to tell the world. Thibodeaux was the consensus No. 1 prospect coming out of high school and says he models his game after DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. In a draft that many believe lacks the superstar talent or personality of previous years, Thibodeaux gives a taste of both at times.

Right now, he's just focused on the title of the draft's best-dressed prospect -- a mantle players up the ante for every year.

"I can't give the full details yet. I've had it ready for two, three weeks. I don't need a stylist. I do it myself," Thibodeaux said. "I'm rocking black. It'll be Dolce and Gabbana. Thursday night, best dressed is going to be me."

When the conversation switches back to football, Thibodeaux quickly addresses what has been the hot-button topic about him -- his love for football.

There has been a plethora of what Thibodeaux perceives as shots at his character that have come out in recent months. His takeaway after experiencing the last few months of the pre-draft process is that he's more than ready for it to be over.

"It's not what you think it is. There's a lot of curveballs. There's a lot of stuff other than football that go into it. A lot of politics," Thibodeaux said. "Just the media aspect of it -- how things are portrayed and how narratives are written."

Thibodeaux is referring to rumblings that often center on his open desires to be more than just an athlete. He wants to have a big social media following and has ambitions to go into broadcast media after his football career is over. The New York Post recently reported that an anonymous source said there were concerns Thibodeaux had more desire to build his brand than be a great football player. Others have questioned whether Thibodeaux played with full effort on the football field all the time.

"I've been critiqued my whole life, so that's not new. It's just tough when people who aren't in my situation don't know how to handle it, particularly my family, my mom, when they see a story that is challenging my character. Critiquing is one thing. Misinformation is another," Thibodeaux said. "There's been a lot of misinformation."

Thibodeaux is confident his team interviews helped erase any lingering doubts. He's met with nearly every team during the pre-draft process, and had top-30 visits with the Detroit Lions (pick No. 2), Houston Texans (No. 3), New York Jets (Nos. 4 and No. 10), New York Giants (Nos. 5 and No. 7) and Philadelphia Eagles (Nos. 15 and No. 18). The Atlanta Falcons (No. 8) also traveled to visit him in Los Angeles. There's confidence in Thibodeaux's camp that he won't slip out of the top 10 and could go as high as No. 2 overall to Detroit.

He said he articulated who he was to teams, preferring to build a fresh relationship rather than one based on assumptions and assured them that "when you meet me, there are no curveballs. What you see is what you're going to get."

One high-ranking NFL executive told NFL Network that he had Thibodeaux ranked in his top-five prospects and had minimal worry about off-the-field character. That executive noted he believed some Thibodeaux critiques reflect the same overthinking that led Micah Parsons to fall out of the top 10 in last year's draft.

According to Next Gen Stats, Thibodeaux is tied for the third-highest overall draft score among edge prospects in the last five drafts. Thibodeaux, who finished 2021 with 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 10 games, was Oregon's first All-American since DeForest Buckner in 2015.

Despite his disdain with how he's been characterized by some in the draft process, he admits that he enjoys consuming one aspect of pre-draft content: mock drafts.

"Yes, I read mock drafts. All the time. It's just entertainment," he said. "I don't think any of the mock drafts mean anything. I'm just curious what the buzz is."

Many recent mock drafts have Thibodeaux landing in New York -- the Giants and Jets each have two top-10 picks. Thibodeaux is aware of what the New York market can do for his exposure and all the pressure it can present, especially if success isn't immediate. But he welcomes it.

"It'd be dope to go to New York. I'd be happy to play for either team honestly if they pick me," Thibodeaux said. "But I took my chips, preferences out of it a while ago. I'm just ready to see where I end up."

Regardless of where Thibodeaux ends up, he's already at peace. He refuses to let the buzz that Georgia's Travon Walker and Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson are expected to be the top two pass rushers off the board bother him, stating clearly that he wants both of them to be in the best position they can to succeed, and he won't use it as a chip on his shoulder if it happens, because, "I don't have any external motivation."

Thibodeaux also says he's spent this offseason working on "taking my moves to the next level. I'm working on four, five moves. Just making sure I have a diverse skill set for the NFL."

He says he wants to be great and doesn't care if anyone's perception is different.

"Thursday night, I'll be best dressed. When my name is called, I'm going to celebrate with my family. We'll probably cry and I'll hit my dance when I cross the stage," Thibodeaux said. "I'll hit the dance I'm feeling in the moment. It'll be a great night."

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