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Top DE prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux declares for NFL draft, will skip Oregon's bowl game

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Playing in the Alamo Bowl under an interim head coach apparently wasn't enough to entice Kayvon Thibodeaux into finishing Oregon's season.

Thibodeaux, a defensive end considered by many to be among the top prospects of the 2022 NFL draft, declared for the draft in an announcement via Instagram on Monday.

Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Thibodeaux will skip Oregon's bowl game and has already signed with an agent.

Thibodeaux entered this season atop many an NFL mock draft and did little to change his perceived value, racking up 35 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 10 games, though he missed time with an ankle injury early in the season.

With Thibodeaux spearheading their defense, the Ducks carried a top 10 ranking for much of the season, but ultimately fell short of the College Football Playoff due to two losses to Utah, the second in the Pac-12 title game. After days of speculation, Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal left the program earlier Monday for his alma mater Miami.

Oregon is now set to go into the Alamo Bowl against Oklahoma, another program that lost its head coach after a disappointing season, with pass game coordinator and wide receivers coach Brian McClendon working as interim head coach. Oklahoma currently sits as a three-point favorite at BetMGM.

Where will Kayvon Thibodeaux go in the 2022 NFL draft?

Thibodeaux has almost been the default pick for the No. 1 spot in most mock drafts this season. Here's how Yahoo Sports Eric Edholm described him earlier Monday:

Thibodeaux is a special talent with great athletic traits and ideal physical measurements. He also has refined some of his pass-rush techniques over the past two years and has become a plus run defender. Thibodeaux should be a Day 1 starter and instant-impact player, wherever he lands.

Thibodeaux's grip on the top spot has loosened a bit lately, but that's because Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson has just been that good. After back-to-back monstrous performances against Ohio State and Iowa, the latter in the Big Ten championship, Hutchinson has joined rare company as a defensive Heisman finalist.

Unlike Thibodeaux, Hutchinson's season also isn't over with the No. 2 Wolverines in the College Football Playoff. His performance against No. 3 Georgia and beyond, as well as in the pre-draft process, could put him ahead of Thibodeaux, if he isn't already.

Beyond the two elite pass-rushers, the draft seems fairly open thanks to a lack of a slam-dunk quarterback prospect.

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