NFL Draft Checkmate: Kayvon Thibodeaux moves to silence critics; Houston Texans’ No. 1 pick?

Study the movie. Apply it to the field. That’s how Oregon go rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux approaches with each snap.

Thibodeaux says he spends hours honing his craft watching the tape of the NFL’s top pass-rushers. It’s worked for the past three years in Oregon, so why stop the trend now?

“I kind of rob everybody,” Thibodeaux told the NFL Scouting Combine Friday. “I’m a student of the game, so I don’t really have a favorite, but I just like to steal…a bit of everyone and implement that into my game and start to keep growing.”

Kayvon Thibodeaux

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Kayvon Thibodeaux

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Kayvon Thibodeaux

Thibodeaux hopes to silence his few critics on Saturday afternoon by training in front of the 32 teams at Lucas Oil Stadium. Entering the year as a consensus top-five pick in the NFL Draft in April, some say his stock has fallen in recent months.

No one is questioning the talent of the Ducks’ star defensive end, but rather his work ethic. Some believe his heart isn’t fully invested in the game like the other top passers in the draft.

Thibodeaux wants the record to be set directly on his passion for football. He calls it a “media narrative” and doesn’t care what reporters think. The only people he hopes to impress are future employers.

“The biggest thing I want to articulate with the teams is that I’m really a student of the game,” Thibodeaux said. “I really like this game and it’s something that has brought me a lot. Football has taught me a lot.”

the Houston Texans are keeping tabs on Thibodeaux entering Saturday’s field practice and for good reason. Currently owning the No. 3 pick, he could be in play for general manager Nick Caserio if the Texans choose to stay put instead of trading the selection for more picks.

Thibodeaux said he met the Texans and would like to be part of the defensive front, citing new head coach Lovie Smith’s plan.

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“I would love to be in Houston,” Thibodeaux said. “I would love to play in that Lovie Smith system. It’s close to my house. It’s not too far. I like the sun there.”

Houston needs help down the line. The Texans finished 31st in defending the run and were top-five in sacks with just 32. Third-year defensive end Jonathan Greenard is a building block, but lacks a running mate on the opposite side.

Thibodeaux fits the bill in terms of upside and potential. Last season at Oregon, he recorded seven sacks and 12 tackles for losses en route to winning All-American honors.

He says Los Angeles Rams passing thrower Von Miller is one of his idols and he repeatedly watches highlights on YouTube.

“He’s got his clip of his 100 bags, and I’m flying,” Thibodeaux said. “Not only do I see it, but then I try to put it into practice.”

One thing Thibodeaux understands is stroke calculation. As an avid chess player, he looks ahead on the board, trying to see what his opponent is thinking to counter the next trick.

Thibodeaux tries to do the same on the field against offensive linemen when he wins as a pass thrower.

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Kayvon Thibodeaux

Kayvon Thibodeaux

Kayvon Thibodeaux

Kayvon Thibodeaux

Kayvon Thibodeaux

Chess is life and chess is football,” Thibodeaux said. “You’re talking about doing your first move, and your first move is going to set up your second move, right? Then you have to think about your third move coming up, so when you talk about pass rush, I’m going to hit you with speed first, I always hit you with speed, speed, speed.

The Texans and Thibodeaux have already crossed paths this week in Indianapolis. Come Saturday night, maybe Houston will have their answer if the two join forces in April.

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