Better Edge Prospect: Anderson or Thibodeaux?
The 2022 NFL Draft and 2023 NFL Draft classes have one thing in common already in November 2021: both classes are topped by incredible pass rushers. In 2022, it's Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux. In 2023, it's Alabama's Will Anderson.
While the conversation of which player is better will be a topic for conversation once both players are drafted and actively playing in the NFL, the fact that Will Anderson isn't eligible for the 2022 NFL Draft is the only thing keeping him from being a top-5 pick in this year's selection meeting.
But if Anderson is a bonafide top-5 pick already if he were eligible, which player edge rusher would be rated higher?
The Athletic draft analyst Dane Brugler was asked this question and his answer was a bold one.
Brugler says it's not even close. Think about that: Thibodeaux is tops nearly every draft board for the 2022 NFL Draft. He's number one on Mel Kiper's board. He's number one on Todd McShay's board. On the Draft Network, he's number one on Joe Marino's board, Brently Weissman's board and number two on Kyle Crabbs's board. He's number one on Matt Miller's board too.
He's number one on Brugler's own board too.
Is Thibodeaux on the same level of prospect as Myles Garrett, Chase Young and the Bosa brothers? Not quite, in my opinion," Brugler said in his analysis. "But the fact that it is even a debate is a compliment to the vast talents of the Oregon pass rusher."
Of course, that's just Brugler's opinion, as he reiterates under the initial spicy-take tweet. So how do the two stack up?
Thibodeaux is legit, by every definition. He's got the size at 6-foot-5, 260lbs. He makes plays in the run game just as dominantly as he does against the pass. In 27 career games through his career, Thibodeaux has 111 tackles, 33.5 for loss and 18 sacks.
One of his biggest hurdles has been his availability. He's dealt with a handful of injuries, including a pesky ankle early this year. Still, when he's on the field, it's hard to find a player with more explosion and pursuit speed.
That is unless you look further southeast to Tuscaloosa. Will Anderson has an imposing frame at 6-foot-4, 240lbs. Anderson plays with more strength and power than Thibodeaux but is every bit as explosive. It wouldn't be too far-fetched to say Anderson is a more violent player too.
Statistically, Anderson matches Thibodeaux in just 20 games: 110 tackles, 29.5 for loss and 18 sacks.
You won't find many reputable reports on Anderson at this point, but analysts and fans can't stop fawning over him for the obvious reasons.
Hopefully, both players go on to have elite, healthy careers in the NFL when their respective time comes and fans can argue over their favorite edge rushers with both players as key factors in the arguments to come.
In the meantime, college football fans can look forward to a potential matchup between both prospects' programs. Currently, Alabama ranks No. 2 in the College Football Playoff Rankings while Oregon comes in at No. 3, though a new ranking will drop Tuesday night. Given the right scenarios, those teams could face off in the playoffs, giving pass-rushing fans a true showcase of college football's best the position has to offer.