The Jacksonville Jaguars held the first overall selection for the second straight year. But unlike 2021, when Trevor Lawrence was the clearcut option, the Jags took a big swing and selected Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker. The decision earned mixed reviews at the time and it’s currently seen as one that has the potential to look worse in three years.
Alex Kay of Bleacher Report recently put together a list of the worst move each NFL team has made this year and he believes that one of the Jaguars’ earliest missteps under head coach Doug Pederson was taking Walker first overall in the 2022 draft. Kay acknowledges that Walker is “brimming with upside” but thinks that wasn’t as polished as other pass-rusher prospects coming out of college.
"The lack of collegiate production from Walker could be an indication of potential NFL struggles. He only recorded 13 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks over the last three years combined, paltry numbers compared to the 16.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks Hutchinson racked up in 2021 alone. While Walker tested off the charts at the combine, there have been countless instances of prospects dominating workouts but failing to turn that eye-popping athleticism into on-field success.There’s a real chance Walker joins that list of promising athletes who never live up to the hype. Given there was an obvious and safer pick available in Hutchison, this could go down as one of the biggest missteps of not only the 2022 offseason but of the modern era."
The Jaguars had their fair share of choices at No. 1 and they could have taken defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. Nevertheless, they might have opted for Walker’s upside because they believe his ceiling is higher than Hutchinson’s.
The Jaguars are betting on Travon Walker’s untapped potential
Make no mistake, this wasn’t a good year to have the No. 1 pick in the draft. That’s why the Jaguars tried to trade down but ultimately stayed put because other teams might have felt the same way. Thus, the team’s brass decided to take a massive gamble instead of settling for the safest pick.
Kay is right when he says Walker didn’t put up great numbers in college but that was because he wasn’t asked to rush the quarterback and instead play different roles in the Bulldogs’ defense. With the Jags, he will make the switch to outside linebacker, where he will play in a standup position.
Hutchinson has more experience rushing the passer and this writer believes he should have Jacksonville’s pick. On the other hand, the Jags’ decision to pick Walker has the potential to pay off. Keep in mind that even though general manager Trent Baalke doesn’t have a strong track record of identifying talent in the draft, he’s got an eye for defensive linemen and that should decrease the concerns surrounding Walker.
Ultimately, the Jaguars won’t know if drafting Walker was the right call until he takes the football field. And until then, questions about the selection will continue to pop up every now and then.