Instead of taking the safe route, the Jacksonville Jaguars took a massive gamble and chose defensive lineman Travon Walker with the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Their decision got mixed reviews around the league and while some talking heads are high on the former Georgia Bulldog, Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports isn’t one of them. In fact, the analyst sees other players have a better shot at earning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2022.
Trapasso recently ranked the 2022 NFL DROY candidates and Walker landed at the bottom, with Kayvon Thibodeaux earning the top spot and Aidan Hutchinson popping up at No. 2. Trapasso points out that it isn’t common for No. 1 picks to change positions in their first NFL season, which is precisely what Walker will do in 2022.
"The No. 1 pick begins my rankings, which probably feels strange to the common NFL fan. Not only was Walker my “buyer beware” prospect in this class — far before anyone knew he was going to be the No. 1overall selection — he’s now switching from a classic defensive end at Georgia’s to an outside linebacker in Mike Caldwell’s system. The brilliant Sigmund Bloom of Football Guys recently posed the question on Twitter: “How many times has a player gone No. 1overall and immediately changed positions."
In spite of the criticism, Trapasso believes Walker has superb athleticism and the size to thrive. Moreover, he doesn’t think the Jaguars’ coaching staff will put too much on his plate in Year 1 due to the presence of outside linebacker Josh Allen. Nevertheless, he doesn’t foresee the former Bulldog having a big impact right off the bat. On the bright side, Trapasso ranked fellow Jaguar Devin Lloyd ninth on the list, arguing that he’s “far more “ready” to be impactful out of the gate“.
Jaguars fans most temper expectations with Travon Walker in Year 1.
Trapasso has been one of Walker’s biggest critics for a while, and that isn’t a bad thing. He’s right that the Georgia product doesn’t have much experience rushing the passer, finishing his collegiate career with just 9.5 sacks. Furthermore, switching positions at the NFL level is no walk in the park, so he got it right when he ranked him 10th in his DROY candidates.
The Jaguars’ brass is aware Walker is raw as an edge rusher but believed his talent and upside were worth passing on more polished prospects such as Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson. Sure, you want the No. 1 pick in the draft to have an impact from Day 1 but Jacksonville thinks that Walker is going to be a better player than Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux in the long run.
Moreover, the Jags made upgrades to most position groups on defense, meaning that they don’t need Walker to be some sort of franchise savior but rather a piece (a big one) of the puzzle. When you take into account that they aren’t solely banking on Walker to produce, their approach seems reasonable and even sound. Having said that, general manager Trent Baalke’s seat will get considerably hot if Walker doesn’t show tangible improvement as the 2022 season progresses.
This wasn’t a particularly great year to hold the first overall selection in the draft but the Jags made the best possible choice. If Walker develops into a dominant edge rusher, it won’t matter if he doesn’t win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.