With Kayvon Thibodeaux’s draft stock slipping, should the N.Y. Jets take the Oregon pass rusher if he’s there at No. 4?

New York Jets

Armed with two of the top 10 picks in the draft, the New York Jets have more options than most.

Need an offensive tackle to help protect Zach Wilson? How about the top safety or center? Or a receiver to pair with Wilson? Or a lockdown cornerback?

And who couldn’t use a top pass rusher?

Well, that depends on who that pass rusher is.

Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux has been listed as a top 3 player throughout most of the season, but with the Combine starting this week and the draft less than two months away, Thibodeaux has seen his stock start to slip.

How far?

The Jets might be faced with drafting or passing on Thibodeaux two times.

As mentioned previously, both of the draft’s top pass rushers, including Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, come with injury concerns. Hutchinson, though, remains firmly entrenched as a top-3 prospect, especially after his historic performance this past season in which he set the school sack record with 14.

But that hasn’t been the case with Thibodeaux in recent weeks, as he’s seen his draft stock fall outside of the top 3.

The news picked up steam last week when respected NFL.com draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah released his updated mock draft. As expected, Hutchinson was the first pass rusher selected, with Jeremiah mocking him to Detroit with the No. 2 overall pick. The next pass rusher off the board? Travon Walker of Georgia. Jeremiah has Walker going to the New York Giants with the fifth-overall pick.

You have to go down to pick No. 8 overall, Atlanta, before Thibodeaux goes off the board.

Jeremiah’s mock might be the one draft pundits are talking about now, but it was his colleague at NFL.com, Lance Zierlein, who was among the first to drop Thibodeaux in his mock draft. He has the Giants taking Thibodeaux with its first of two first-round picks at No. 5 overall.

A third draft analyst at NFL.com, Chad Reuter, has Thibodeaux falling to Houston after a projected trade with Carolina at pick No. 6.

Thibodeaux doesn’t have as much of an injury history as Hutchinson, who missed most of the 2020 season. So why is he falling in so many mock drafts?

According to ESPN’s Todd McShay, it all comes down to motor – or a perceived lack of it. Here’s what McShay said back on Feb. 5: “I heard a lot about Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, including concerns that he just doesn’t play with the same fire as some other top prospects. His ceiling is high, but the floor is lower than what you want for a top-five pick. And based on a handful of conversations, it wouldn’t shock me if Thibodeaux fell out of the top five.”

Adding fuel to the fire is Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, who has Thibodeaux falling to the Jets at pick No. 4. From Breer’s Feb. 9 mailbag: “I started hearing the drumbeat in the middle of the college season that maybe, just maybe, Thibodeaux wasn’t the slam-dunk No. 1 pick people thought. Scouts who went to Eugene saw a prospect who wasn’t as physically big as they thought he’d be. He has a little bit of a different personality. That said, his explosiveness makes him a fit for Robert Saleh’s defense.”

Still, the fall comes as a bit of a surprise for some.

Jeremiah’s mock was one of the main topics of discussion during the most recent Pro Football Focus’ Tailgate podcast with draft analysts Austin Gayle and Mike Renner. You can hear or watch it here (skip to the 3:30 mark to hear the Thibodeaux discussion).

Gayle said none of the feedback or analysis he’s heard on Thibodeaux questions his talent. “He’s still a … fantastic player, but there are times when it appears that he does not have the gas pedal to the floor.”

Hutchinson, on the other hand, doesn’t come with those questions.

“The tape (on Thibodeaux) screams ‘Holy S***’ this guy could be really good,” Gayle said on the podcast. “But teams are questioning whether he can consistently be that good (all the time).”

For what it’s worth, PFF released its latest mock draft the day before the Combine started.

PFF’s pick for the Jets? Thibodeaux.

So who will New York take in the first round? Click here to see Fanspeak’s latest Jets mock draft.

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