For the second straight year, the Jacksonville Jaguars had the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. With it, they selected outside linebacker Travon Walker. The former Georgia Bulldog had a productive preseason but he isn’t the only rookie that stood out. In fact, the Jags’ rookie class earned a superb grade ahead of the 2022 NFL regular season.
Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report graded every NFL team’s rookie class following the conclusion of the 2022 preseason and he gave Jacksonville an A. Moton says that taking Walker with the No. 1 selection seems like the right choice for now but thinks that he won’t be the only Jaguars first-year player that will make an impact on defense.
"In his preseason debut, Walker wreaked havoc on the Las Vegas Raiders offensive line and beat Brandon Parker multiple times on the edge. Through three preseason outings, he recorded four tackles and a sack, but those numbers don’t reflect how good the Georgia product has looked in game action.Loyd missed time because of a hamstring injury, but he returned to action last week and had a solid outing against the Atlanta Falcons, registering five tackles. The Utah product should be ready to suit up for Week 1."
Moton notes that linebacker Chad Muma and cornerback Montaric Brown will contribute as rookies, the former as a solid No. 3 option behind Foyesade Olluokun and the latter on special teams.
The Jaguars entered the draft with 12 picks but after a series of trades, they only selected seven players, five of them on defense. The two offensive prospects they chose were center Luke Fortner, who is slated to start in Week 1, and Snoop Conner, who will be part of the Jags’ running back rotation.
The Jaguars could prioritize talent after their free agency spree
Coming off a 3-14 season, the Jaguars had several roster holes but they filled most of them in free agency. You might not agree with the amount of money they spent but addressing a good chunk of their needs in free agency gave them the flexibility to choose the best player available.
Instead of going after Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu, the top two offensive linemen in the draft, they could gamble on Travon Walker because they re-signed left tackle Cam Robinson. Also, Jacksonville could afford to double dip at linebacker because they had inked Christian Kirk and Zay Jones.
The Jaguars’ roster is far from perfect but they did a good job of filling most needs in the offseason and they have the foundation to possibly compete in the AFC South as soon as this year, which is noteworthy because head coach Doug Pederson saw this as a multi-year project.
Maybe Pederson didn’t want to create unrealistic expectations but analysts around the league are starting to see the potential the Jaguars have in 2022. And if their rookie class has an immediate impact and Trevor Lawrence makes a leap as expected, their chances of competing for the division crown will increase considerably.