Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon, 6-4.5, 260, 4.55, JR … Third-year junior was a superstar recruit out of L.A. who chose the Ducks over all of college football’s big-time programs. Generally considered to be the top edge rush prospect for the 2022 draft with the tools to be THE best overall prospect period, although he isn’t currently rated in quite the same class as recent early-pick DEs like Chase Young or Myles Garrett. Has prototype length, an explosive get-off and elite closing speed, along with excellent bend and flexibility, although his technique is still somewhat of a work in progress and needs to refine his technique and learn how to set up blockers. Still somewhat lean at 260-pounds, but has decent strength and is a solid enough run defender who is strong in pursuit with the lateral agility to close down lanes. although he could do a better job anchoring at the point of attack. Had a breakout year in 2019 when he had 9.5 sacks as a true freshman, but only three in the Ducks’ truncated 7 game season last fall when he started to see a lot of double teams, although he did dominate Oregon’s Pac-12 championship game win over USC.
Thibodeaux, though, will have to answer some questions about his motor which has been known to run hot and cold at times, as well as his dedication to the game before the upcoming draft. On the one hand, he is a confident, almost brash young guy which you have to be if you have ‘the chosen one’ tattooed on your arm and you think of yourself as a ‘brand.’ At the same time, he is something of a ‘rennaisance man’ who had a 3.8 GPA in high school, plays chess, and has talked about becoming a lawyer with a focus on social issues down the road.
Drake Jackson, Southern California, 6-3, 270, 4.65, JR … Third-year junior is already one of the most polished edge rushers in college football who is generating plenty of top 5-10 buzz for 2022, although his production hasn’t yet caught up with his physical potential. He’s a natural pass rusher with a unique blend of power and burst along with good instincts and a varied assortment of pass-rush moves. Also has strong hands and a dominating punch and does a great job getting off blocks; also strong at the point of attack. Plays hard with a relentless motor, but doesn’t really have that extra gear in pursuit. Versatile player lined up as 3-4 DE as true freshman in 2019 and then shifted to a hybrid OLB role last fall. In fact, was the first true freshman to start a season opener on the Trojans’ defensive line in over a decade and finished his rookie year with 46 tackles, including a a team-high 5.5 sacks, while adding another couple of sacks in six games last fall. Not bad numbers for a young player, but scouts will be looking for more this fall.
Zach Harrison, Ohio State, 6-5, 270, 4.50, JR … Freakish athlete with prototype size and length is just starting to scratch the surface of his natural physical tools. Generational testing numbers at his size. Athletic versatility to play wide receiver. Uses hands effectively to read and shed in the run game. Eats up space in zone read game. Possesses twitch and suddenness and can bend the edge as a pass rusher. Speed in pursuit is elite. Very raw as a pass rusher. Still learning to use his hands and developing pass rush instincts. Doesn’t yet dominate the way his physical traits dictate he should.Now the numbers have to match the talent. He’s got the experience, the 6-6, 268-pound size is prototype, and the leadership and main man personality are unquestioned. The 38 tackles with 5.5 sacks and ten tackles for loss in 17 games, though, are light. However, if the stat sheet can be filled out a bit he has the upside to potentially be a top ten pick
George Karlaftis, 6-3, 275, 4.60, JR, Purdue … He’s coming off a rough year after getting hit with COVID and suffering a leg injury, but when he’s right, he’s an NFL pass rusher who’s always working to get behind the line. He has to get back his groove, but at 6-4 and 275 pounds, he’s got the size, and he’s got the talent – he made 7.5 sacks with 17 tackles for loss as a freshman. Raw athlete with limited football experience. Diverse athletic background generates unique set of traits and a rapid developmental curve. Has suddenness off the snap, uses length instinctively and plays with great effort. Combine testing numbers are elite. Explosive athlete but still learning how to operate mechanically. Has tendency to play high and can get away with it. Hand usage needs polish.