Jaguars will set reasonable expectations for Travon Walker in Year 1

Jaguars first round draft pick (44) OLB Travon Walker at TIAA Bank Field. [Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]Jki 051322 Jagsrookieminic 3
Jaguars first round draft pick (44) OLB Travon Walker at TIAA Bank Field. [Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]Jki 051322 Jagsrookieminic 3 /

The first overall pick in the NFL Draft should in theory be a difference-maker. Although that often ends up being the case, there are several instances in which the top selection turns out to be a bust. The Jacksonville Jaguars chose edge rusher Travon Walker expecting him to fall into the former category but Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report thinks the former Georgia Bulldog might fail to live up to expectations in Year 1.

Knox recently wrote about eight NFL players that may not meet expectations in 2022 and Walker’s name appeared on his list. Knox acknowledges that Walker has “loads of athletic upside” but cites his inexperience rushing the passer as a reason why could struggle in his rookie year.

"Walker has loads of athletic upside — he ran a 4.51 – second 40-yard dash at 6’5″ and 272 pounds — but struggled to be an elite difference-maker in college. He’s unpolished as a pass-rusher and is going to need time to develop to be a successful edge-defender in the NFL. He logged just 9.5 sacks in three seasons, and his inexperience is unprecedented for a first overall pick."

Knox isn’t closing the doors on Walker becoming an elite pass rusher but doesn’t think it will happen in Year 1, “which may leave fans initially frustrated” with the Jaguars’ decision to draft him first overall.

The Jaguars will tender expectations for Travon Walker in 2022

The Jaguars’ brass is fully aware Travon Walker came into the NFL needing to hone his pass-rush skills. Back at Georgia, he filled several roles and wasn’t asked to pressure the quarterback as often as Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson or Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. Head coach Doug Pederson told the media after the draft that Walker will settle at one position, so he will have a chance to get better.

Knowing Walker is a work in progress, the Jaguars won’t expect him to become Reggie White 2.0, at least not in his rookie campaign. The team’s decision-makers surely expect a learning curve as a rookie and as his growth at the position might not always pop up on the stat sheet. But as long as he takes more steps forward than backward, Jacksonville will be pleased.

This isn’t to say the Jags will have low expectations for Walker. They will want him in the lineup from Day 1 and to make some kind of impact right off the bat. However, 10 sacks might not be realistic, even if fellow outside linebacker Josh Allen believes it’s feasible. Something along six or seven sacks would be nice, and if he reaches that milestone, the team can then rise the bar in his sophomore campaign.

The Jags had the chance to take Hutchinson at No. 1 but opted for Walker because they’re betting on his raw talent and his long-term potential. They might not see a return on their investment early on but if the former Georgia standout turns out to be the player they think he is, the gamble will have paid off.

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