If you watch the Detroit Lions play the Green Bay Packers on Thursday Night Football, you then saw defensive end Aidan Hutchinson wreak havoc all day long. Looking back, maybe the Jacksonville Jaguars shouldn't have passed him in favor of Travon Walker in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Walker isn't a bad player. He's made strides since the end of the 2022 season but he hasn't done enough yet to justify the Jags' decision to draft him first overall last year. It's true that he had never rushed the passer from a standup position full-time in college but he's had more than enough time to get acclimated to his "new position". He's certainly flashed at times, especially against the run, but he should be making plays at a high level.
After all, you draft players in the top 10 to become game-changers, so far, you can't say with a straight face that Walker is one. Maybe he will eventually become one. A player's readiness coming out of college is always variable and maybe the former Georgia Bulldog just needs a bit more of time to put it all together.
Mario Williams, the No. 1 pick in 2006, only logged 4.5 sacks in his rookie campaign but turned out to be fine. Similarly, Jadeveon Clowney, the top selection in 2014, also got off to a slow start but has gone on to become a productive player, even if he's had somewhat of a nomadic career. Conversely, Myles Garret, No. 1 in 2019, had an impact right off the bat.
So far, Hutchinson has proven to be better than Hutchinson however you look at it. The former Michigan Wolverine recorded 9.5 sacks as a rookie and already has 3.5 this year. For comparison, Walker had 3.5 in 2022 and one this season. However you look at the decision, it doesn't currently look great.
The Jaguars haven't done much to put Travon Walker in a position to succeed
The Jaguars drafted Walker because he possessed the athletic traits to develop into a dominant pass rusher. Make no mistake, the talent is there for him to become that player but as long as he doesn't routinely take over games like Aidan Hutchinson does, it's hard to get behind general manager Trent Baalke and the front office.
You could make the case that Jacksonville hasn't put Walker in a position to succeed but the truth is that playmakers thrive even when they don't get much help. Maxx Crosby of the Los Angeles Raiders is one such example. Players such as Chris Jones and Aaron Donald need to be accounted for on every play. Granted, they play defensive tackle but the point is that they dominate the line of scrimmage despite the fact that their respective teams don't do much to help
That said, Jacksonville has insisted on having Walker line up in a two-point stance when he's shown he's a better fit to play with his hand in the ground. While he deserves flak for not making an impact, the coaching staff hasn't been able to maximize his skillset.
While it usually takes time to really assess the impact of a draft pick, it's fair to say that the Jaguars deserve criticism for their decision to draft Travon Walker over Aidan Hutchinson.