The 2022 NFL Draft is less than two weeks away and it seems like the Jacksonville Jaguars are leaning toward taking Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker. While Aidan Hutchinson had the most productive collegiate career of the two, it’s easy to see why the Jags like Walker. His size, athleticism, and power make him an enticing prospect worth developing. Having said that, they could be taking him one round too early.
Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports recently drew up a list of eight unconventional takeaways from studying this draft class and one of them is that Walker is a second-round talent. Trapasso says he gets why Walker is rising up draft boards, noting the Georgia defense “doesn’t ask its edge rushers to fly upfield on every snap“. However, he believes the former Bulldog is not a complete prospect.
"Walker has two key elements missing from his game right now; one is technical and one is natural. He doesn’t use his hands effectively to dispatch blocks as a pass rusher, and he’s not bendy around the corner. His size — 6-5, 272 pounds — and measured athleticism indicate he has what it takes physically to has a sustained career in the NFL. But there should be a “project” footnote on his draft profile, something I wouldn’t want on a prospect bound to go inside the top 5 who could be the first overall pick."
This is a fair assessment of Walker but observers around the league Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke will take him anyways. Peter King of NBC Sports recently surveyed NFL executives and coaches and the consensus is that Jacksonville will take Walker at No. 1.
The Jaguars need to get it right, whether it’s Hutchinson or Walker.
One of the general managers King interviews points out that when Baalke was the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers, he took Aldon Smith over edge rushers such as J.J. Watt, Robert Quinn, and Cam Jordan because Smith had the tools and traits to succeed in the pros. This unnamed general manager goes on to say that Walker has all the traits but lacks consistent production.
Would Baalke pull off a similar move in 2022? Just because it worked once doesn’t mean it will again. It’s true that Walker has all the production and when you take into consideration that he didn’t have as many opportunities as Hutchinson and Thibodeaux in college, he might be far from a finished product. Here’s where Baalke will need to trust his gut and if he thinks that Walker’s ceiling is worth the first overall pick, he shouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
Taking Walker at No. 1 is an enticing gamble but a gamble nonetheless. If it works, he will give the Jaguars’ front seven an immense boost and Baalke will be held in a more positive light. But if it doesn’t, the Jags will have wasted yet another premium pick and Baalke should be shown the door.