For a while, it’s been debated whether the Jacksonville Jaguars will take Georgia’s Travon Walker or Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson with the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. However, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk believes the Jags will ultimately choose Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal.
Peter King said in his latest Good Morning Football column that he expects a surprise at No. 1 and thinks that Jacksonville will take Walker. But Florio goes a step further and theorizes that the “surprise” will be Neal and goes on to share clues about his theory. First, he looks at the odds for the offensive tackle to go first overall. He then looks at “objective evidence to support the idea” that Jacksonville is taking Neal.
"Coach Doug Pederson said in late March, “You can never have enough offensive linemen.” And even though the Jaguars franchise-tagged tackle Cam Robinson for a second time, he’s now on track to hit the open market in 2023, given the extreme expensive of tagging anyone three times. More recently, Pederson offered this observation regarding that No. 1 overall selection. “You better be right,” Pederson said. “That person is going to come in and start. That’s why you pick him first overall.”"
Neal is the top offensive tackle in this year’s draft and could be a one Day 1 start, so taking him at No. 1 shouldn’t be completely ruled out. Florio believes Jacksonville could start him at guard in his rookie campaign and move him to left tackle in 2023. This scenario has been discussed plenty of times in the past but there’s something Florio isn’t taking into consideration.
It’s unlikely that the Jaguars will draft Evan Neal first overall.
The problem with Florio’s theory is that he expects the Jaguars to let left tackle Cam Robinson walk away in free agency next offseason but it doesn’t look like that will happen. As a matter of fact, the Jags are reportedly close to striking a long-term deal with the Alabama product, per Demetrius Harvey of Big Cat Country. If that’s the case, taking Neal becomes an unrealistic option.
The Jaguars applied the franchise tag on Robinson for the second consecutive year but Doug Pederson expressed his desire to sign him to a multi-year contract not long after. More recently, general manager Trent Baalke said they’ve had great discussions with him and are “going to continue to move down the road” and see what they can get done.
The truth is that it doesn’t make sense to draft Neal and plug him at guard. It would be one thing if he had to stay inside one year but that won’t probably be the case in Jacksonville, so the Jags are better off taking Hutchinson or Walker at No. 1.
The 2022 draft is just a few days away and the Jaguars’ brass surely has an idea of who will be the first overall pick. Everyone else will have to wait until Thursday to find out but signs point towards Jacksonville taking a pass rusher.