The Giants passed on linebacker Micah Parsons in the first round of the NFL draft last year. Privately, they expressed concern about his personality, and they later admitted they did not expect him to emerge as the pass-rush demon he turned out to be for the Cowboys.
Even when Parsons was bludgeoning his way to the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award, there were Giants coaches and executives who warned not to stamp Parsons as a player to build around until he proved himself — on and off the field — for more than one season.
Kayvon Thibodeaux and Parsons are not the same player, but there are similarities for the Giants as they consider their options with overall picks 5 and 7 in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Parsons was there for the taking last year when the Giants were on the clock at No. 11. Instead, they traded down to No. 20, which greatly pleased the Cowboys, who took Parsons at No. 12.
At this time one year ago, Thibodeaux was installed as the No. 1 draft prospect for 2022. He is not expected to live up to that lofty projection. If he is available in the first round this year for the Giants, passing on him comes with the risk of looking dumb if Thibodeaux harnesses his potential and turns into a disruptive force on the field.
The edge rusher from Oregon met with the Giants on Thursday at the team facility. That top-30 visit figured to provide crucial information the Giants will use to make a final evaluation on a player who could be a difference-maker on defense and the next piston in an engine that has stalled since, in succession, Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul fueled the Giants’ machinery.
The Giants need to be completely comfortable with Thibodeaux and might have to be convinced he is right for the program they want to build with new head coach Brian Daboll. A source with knowledge of the Giants’ thinking last month at the owners’ meeting in Palm Beach, Fla., said the team had concerns Thibodeaux was more interested in creating his own brand than becoming a great player. The fact Thibodeaux initially chose Wasserman Media Group as his representation and then switched to Klutch Sports Group, a sports agency founded by Rich Paul, LeBron James’ good friend and agent.
There were murmurs at the scouting combine in Indianapolis that some scouts questioned Thibodeaux’s desire and that there were those in the Oregon program who believed he did not always play as hard as he needed to play. Thibodeaux hurt his ankle in the first game last year and the injury lingered throughout the season.
Giants general manager Joe Schoen attended Oregon’s Pro Day on April 1. Thibodeaux participated in drills and, having caught wind of the accusation that his motor does not always run hot, was ready with a response.
“It is easy to see a snippet of something because that’s what media does,” Thibodeaux said. “They cut stuff up and frame it how they want to. Just watch the whole tape, you will be able to see.”
That was not all Thibodeaux, who is talkative when the mood suits him, had to say.
“The most ridiculous thing I’ve heard is that I’m not the best player in this draft,” he said.
There was much for the Giants to discuss during their visit with Thibodeaux, who was scheduled to remain in New Jersey to meet Friday with the Jets. They have the No. 4-overall pick and certainly might have interest.
Thibodeaux had 126 tackles, 35.5 tackles for loss and 19 sacks in his three seasons at Oregon. That is good, but not inspiring, production that only hints at what he could become at the next level. He can be seen as engaging, cocky and aloof or a mature and self-aware product of South Central Los Angeles. The Giants should have a better feel for him after their time spent together.
It could be that the Giants will never get a shot at Thibodeaux. Perhaps the Lions will take him at No. 2.
“Hey, listen, he’s an explosive athlete,” Lions head coach Dan Campbell told members of the Detroit media. “He’s a playmaker. He’s got a good, quick first step. I mean, he’s something else.… He’s pretty special on tape.”
Thibodeaux said the Giants “were kinda hard on me” when they met with him at the combine, asking him what he would do if he got off to a rough start as a rookie and the New York-New Jersey media was getting on him . Thibodeaux said it took that to mean the Giants had genuine interest in him.
They should. He could change the face of their defense. If he’s right for them.