Jaguars cannot stash Travon Walker on the bench in rookie year

Jacksonville Jaguars first round draft pick Travon Walker at TIAA Bank Field. (Imagn Images photo pool)
Jacksonville Jaguars first round draft pick Travon Walker at TIAA Bank Field. (Imagn Images photo pool) /

The Jacksonville Jaguars knew that defensive lineman Travon Walker was a raw prospect when they selected him with the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft. While it may take a while for the former Georgia Bulldog to hit his stride, the Jag can’t afford to stash him on the bench during his rookie season and must start him from Day 1.

Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports recently drew up a list of NFL rookies who should get a redshirt year and Walker made the cut. Right off the bat, Trapasso acknowledges the idea of redshirting the No. 1 pick in the draft might be preposterous. However, he believes the Georgia native would benefit from sitting his first NFL season, as he might not grows accustomed to his new role and responsibilities.

"Walker wasn’t asked to frequently flu upfield, he spent much of his college career two-gapping and reacting to what he saw instead of attacking in the backfield. That was part of why he wasn’t anywhere remotely close to as productive as most No. 1 overall selections. In Jacksonville, they’re going to want Walker to create havoc as a pass-rusher: Even if the Jaguars want him to occupy blockers more, the greatest impact edge rushers make on the NFL game today is, of course, when they’re winning one-one battles on the perimeter of the line and pressuring the quarterback."

Walker finished his collegiate career at Georgia with 6.5 sacks but that was mainly because he was asked to fulfill other roles across the defensive line and didn’t get many opportunities to rush the passer. As Austin Gayle of Pro Football Focus noted, Walker only played 529 total collegiate snaps outside the tackles while fellow edge rushers Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux logged 1,514 and 1,353, respectively. It’s fair to assume that with more experience and usage, Walker is only going to get better.

Jaguars DL Travon Walker must get lots of playing time early on.

While sitting and learning sounds like a good idea in theory, it might not make much sense for the Jaguars to keep Walker on the sidelines, and not because he was the top pick in the 2022 draft but rather because live reps will help him even more.

There’s no doubt that watching teammates Dawuane Smoot or Josh Allen will help Walker have a concise idea of what to do but doing it himself and then going over the tape and fixing his technique with help of his coaches is probably a better approach.

The Jaguars’ brass knew that Walker is an unfinished product and while Hutchinson was a more polished prospect, the former has a higher ceiling and outstanding athletic traits. Sure, Walker won’t showcase his talent right away and his number won’t jump out of the stat sheet in his rookie year but as long as he improves, that will be alright.

Walker must at some point live up to his draft billing but the Jaguars are aware it doesn’t have to be right away. He’s got the tools to develop into a dominant pass rusher but for that to happen, he needs to get plenty of reps in training camp and lots of playing time in the 2022 season.

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