There are two schools of thought surrounding the Jacksonville Jaguars’ strategy in the 2022 NFL Draft. On one hand, you have those that think that investing five of their seven picks on defense was the right thing to do. On the other side of the coin, there are those that believe the Jags could have upgraded Trevor Lawrence’s supporting cast but instead let him down.
Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report recently talked about NFL teams that failed to help their young quarterbacks in the draft and the Jaguars were one of those clubs. Moton thinks Jacksonville made only one mistake albeit a costly one and that was not fortifying the offensive line. He notes that right tackle Jawan Taylor struggled in 2021 and argues that giving left tackle Cam Robinson a three-year contract worth $54 million might have been a questionable move. For that reason, he thinks the Jags “should have made a premium investment” at No. 1 in the draft.
"With Robinson’s past inconsistencies, Taylor’s shaky performances and Little’s rocky start, general manager Trent Baalke should’ve made a premium investment in pass protection instead of taking a big swing for Travon Walker, a high-upside defender but a one-year rotational starting lineman out of Georgia. Alabama’s Evan Neal has less bust potential than Walker. With his experience on both sides of the line, he could’ve started at right tackle over Taylor in 2022 and moved to left tackle if Robinson trended in the wrong direction again. Baalke possibly blew the No. 1 overall pick and a chance to provide high-quality protection for his biggest investment."
Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal was a realistic choice to go first overall up until the Jaguars applied the franchise tag on left tackle Cam Robinson. And the chances of taking him or North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu became even slimmer when the front office gave Robinson a multi-year contract.
The Jaguars are putting together a balanced team in 2022.
It’s true that Taylor hasn’t lived up to his draft billing and Robinson struggled early in his career but he played well in 2021, so it’s hard to fault the Jaguars for wanting to reward him. It’s possible that Jacksonville’s brain trust saw Walker as a better fit and a player with more upside than either Ekwonu or Neal. Maybe that’s why they secured Robinson so early in the process.
The Jaguars’ decision-makers weren’t reportedly on the same wavelength ahead of the draft, with owner Shad Khan wanting to take Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and head coach Doug Pederson setting his sights on Ekwonu. Ultimately, they bet on Walker and his immense upside. At this point, it’s too early to tell whether it was the right decision but the team’s brass thinks it was better than drafting an offensive lineman or pursuing Terron Armstead in free agency.
Keep in mind that Robinson has improved significantly and if Taylor falters, Little could take his spot in the lineup. The latter gave up two sacks in three starts but none in his last two in 2021. Looking at all the options available, it looks like Jacksonville felt good about the offensive tackles they already had on the roster.
Trevor Lawrence is the Jaguars’ most important player and the organization needs to make sure he’s in a position to succeed in 2021 but just because they passed on taking an offensive tackle with the top pick in the draft doesn’t mean he isn’t their biggest priority. Rather, they want to build a balanced team in order to take some pressure off his shoulders, and Travon Walker could help them accomplish that.