The "Eight at No. 8" series is an installment of eight separate stories evaluating eight different prospects the Falcons could take with the No. 8 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft. With holes to fill, there are a number of directions Atlanta could go with its first-round pick. Over the course of the next few weeks, we'll take a look at eight players who could fit in the 2022 Falcons roster and beyond.
It's no secret to anyone that the Falcons have a pass rush problem. Arthur Smith has said it. Terry Fontenot has said it. Dean Pees has said it. The statistics from 2021 have said it. Does it really bear repeating when everyone knows this is a major area of concern for this defense?
When it could be impacted by this year's draft? Yes. Yes it does bear repeating.
The Falcons need help in pass rush and they need help immediately. Could a player like Kayvon Thibodeaux be that necessary help? Through three years at Oregon, Thibodeaux accumulated 126 total tackles (35.5 for a loss) along with 19 sacks and three forced fumbles.
In the first part of this eight-part series, we discuss how Thibodeaux may (or may not) work for the Falcons at No. 8.
We take a look at eight options for Atlanta's first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Why the Falcons should take Thibodeaux
For starters, they need a young edge rusher. Plain and simple. But it goes further than that from an organizational standpoint.
The Falcons haven't hit on an edge rusher in the draft in what's felt like the greater part of the last decade, and one could argue a lack of production in pass rush in the last few years is a byproduct of this. From the outside looking in, there's a certain pressure being put on this new front office and coaching staff to hit in the draft, but particularly at this position. Is Thibodeaux that guy, though? He certainly has a few qualities that make people think he could be.
His disruptive nature on the field makes him worthy of a high pick. A number of scouting reports note Thibodeaux's explosiveness, particularly seen with his first step. That alone gets people talking about how good Thibodeaux could be in the league.
He's also consistently performing well against the run. Though the Falcons need a true pass rusher, this complimentary part of Thibodeaux's game wouldn't hurt a team like the Falcons at all.
Counter punch: Why the Falcons should pass on Thibodeaux
Thibodeaux has slid down a few draft boards in the last month with some wondering about his overall consistency. Though many can agree his get-off is as good as it gets, those same people think he plays in spurts.
On Monday, The Athletic's Bruce Feldman released his 2022 mock draft which included anonymous insight from coaches, scouts and analysts. When asked about Thibodeaux's future in the league, one source told Feldman he doesn't see Thibodeaux being a solid producer in a 3-4 scheme. They believe he is best suited in a 4-3 front. Meanwhile, another unnamed source compared Thibodeaux's drive to that of a player Falcons fans have gotten to know a little bit in the last year.
"I'd worry about his interests off the field. In a weird way, he reminds me of (Josh) Rosen," Feldman reported the source saying. "I think they're both really good football players, and if they really concentrated on football, they'd be really good at it. But you listen to Thibodeaux talk and you wonder about his mindset. I think whatever his perception of being an NFL guy is is going to be totally different to what it actually is."
If this is truly telling about Thibodeaux's demeanor, is he someone the Falcons want to build around in the early stages of a rebuild?
What are the odds he'd be available?
If we're writing this a month ago, the odds look very different than they do now. Outside of Hutchinson, early mock drafts had Thibodeaux consistently coming off the board early, and we're talking top-5 pick early. However, that early narrative has changed as Georgia's Travon Walker has rocketed up the draft boards in the last month, essentially replacing Thibodeaux in many's top-5 slots.
That doesn't mean Thibodeaux will fall out of the top-10, though. Even with a deep class at the edge rusher position, Thibodeaux is still one of the best in the group, and it's looking more and more likely that he could be there at No. 8 for the Falcons to grab. And other teams may feel that way, too.
Seattle - who picks at No. 9 - sent seven members of its staff to Oregon's pro day last week. Meanwhile, the Falcons are schedule to meet with Thibodeaux soon, per a report by Pro Football Network's Aaron Wilson on Tuesday. The edge rusher is in high demand, though, as Wilson also reported Thibodeaux has visits set up with the Lions, Jets, Giants, Texans and Eagles, as well.
Regardless, now more than ever it looks like Thibodeaux will be there at No. 8. It may be up to the Falcons to decide if he's a player they want to take.
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