Being the first overall selection in the NFL Draft has its perks but it also comes with high expectations and pressure. The Jacksonville Jaguars knew this when they chose Travon Walker with the top pick in this year’s draft, and while they expect him to develop into a dominant pass rusher, there’s also a chance the decision will backfire.
Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report recently drew up a list of players, one for each NFL team, who could disappoint in 2022 and Walker was the pick for the Jaguars. Moton believes Jacksonville “took a big swing” when they took the former Georgia Bulldog over fellow pass rusher Aidan Hutchison, who went to the Detroit Lions at No. 2.
"At the collegiate level, Walker lined up at different positions across the defensive line, but the Jacksonville Jaguars have employed him exclusively as an edge-rusher since he joined the team for rookie minicamp. Last year, Walker logged 37 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and six quarterback hurries for Georgia. Perhaps a move to the outside will suit his quick-twitch athleticism and unlock his pass-rushing potential. He recorded a 9.98 relative athletic score on a 10-point sliding scale, per Kent Lee Platte of Pro Football Network."
Moton goes on to say that the Jags won’t put public pressure on Walker but if he “struggles to record a handful of sacks”, general manager Trent Baalke will come under fire. Moreover, he thinks Walker will need time to develop into a full-time pass rusher.
The Jaguars will need to be patient with Travon Walker
Moton is far from the only that wonders if Walker will be able to make the transition to edge defender after lining up everywhere across the defensive line at Georgia. In fact, that was the biggest question mark surrounding him during the draft process and one he won’t clear until he takes the football field. Several talking heads thought that Jacksonville was better off going with Hutchinson, who not only is a physical specimen but he’s a more refined pass rusher as well.
Keep in mind that this wasn’t a particularly stacked draft class at the top and the Jaguars’ brass even tried to trade down. Once they found no suitors for the top selection, the choice was going to come down to Walker or Hutchinson. After all, offensive tackles Ikem Ekwonu and Evan Neal were not plausible picks with Jacksonville giving left tackle Cam Robinson a three-year deal. And ultimately, the organization chose Walker’s upside over Hutchinson’s readiness.
The decision certainly has the potential to fire back if Walker doesn’t become the pass rusher the Jaguars expect but it could also pay off down the road. The Jaguars didn’t indeed take a massive gamble with the Georgia native, which would have been fine if it were a mid-round pick, not the first overall. Then again, if he becomes a top rusher, everybody will forget how risky the selection was and will praise the Jags for being bold.
Walker has been grinding from Day 1 and while he might need time to adjust to his ‘new’ position, he has the right tool and the work ethic to successfully make the transition. Time will tell if he will and everybody, especially the Jaguars will be watching closely.