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Jacksonville Jaguars draft Travon Walker with 1st pick in 2022 NFL Draft, examining impact

Jacksonville Jaguars, Travon Walker
Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Travon Walker with the first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft on April 28 in Las Vegas. It’s a selection that comes a year after the organization drafted quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Walker, a Georgia native, was a 247 Sports’ five-star recruit in 2019 and rated as the 22nd-best player in the country. Labeled as a future first-round pick coming out of high school, Walker served as a rotational pass rusher in all three seasons with the Bulldogs’ defense.

Playing for the reigning college football national champions, Walker served an important for a historically dominant defense. he saw more playing time as the season unfolded, becoming an integral part of Kirby Smart’s scheme. In the 2021 CFP National Championship Game, Pro Football Focus credited Walker with a career-high seven pressures against the Alabama Crimson Tide.

A 6-foot-5 defensive end, Walker entered the pre-draft process viewed as a potential top-15 pick. He arrived at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine with a golden opportunity to put his athleticism on full display. That’s precisely what he did, vaulting his NFL Draft stock in the process.

Travon Walker draft profile

  • Travon Walker stats (2021): 12% pass-rush win rate (PFF), 7.5 tackles for loss, six sacks
  • Travon Walker 40 time: 4.51 seconds
  • Jacksonville Jaguars pre-draft visit: YES
  • Sportsnaut NFL Draft board: 10th

Let’s dive into Travon Walker’s fit with the Jacksonville Jaguars defense and why the Georgia edge defender was the first pick in the NFL Draft 2022.

Related: Top 25 College Football Rankings – Alabama, Ohio State on top before 2022 season

Why the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Travon Walker

NFL: Scouting Combine
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On a loaded Georgia defense, Walker needed to earn every snap and the coaching staff rotated players to keep everyone fresh. It significantly impacted the 272 lb. edge defender’s ability to rack up stats, putting him far behind his peers. While the lack of production is a knock, athleticism won out for NFL evaluators.

Walker displayed elite athleticism at the NFL Combine, posting numbers rarely seen from a player of his size. With an electrifying 10-yard split (1.54 seconds), a phenomenal broad jump (10’03) and a great time in the 3-cone drill (6.89 seconds, he walked out of Indianapolis as a winner.

In Kent Platte’s Relative Athletic Score, Walker finished with a 9.99 out of 10. Putting that number in perspective, Walker/s RAS is the third-highest ever among 1,428 defensive ends since 1987.

“Walker is a big, rugged run-stopper with the playing style and body type to play 3-4 end. He consistently outreaches blockers and takes control at the point of attack, and sets firm edges despite playing with limited knee-bend. He plays with violent hands, sluggish feet and all-day aggressiveness. He has quick-shed ability to make plays near his gaps but lacks lateral quickness to play with desired range. He won’t be considered a skilled or threatening rusher from any alignment but can plow his way forward to find occasional success.”

Travon Walker scouting overview by Lance Zierlein of NFL.com

Walker could morph into a perennial Pro Bowl selection and is capable of reaching a ceiling much higher than Aidan Hutchinson. With that acknowledged, there is a lot of time and coaching required for the best-case scenario to become reality.

One thing Walker lacks is the flexibility to consistently bend around offensive tackles and he’s far from being a refined pass rusher. The Jaguars’ coaching staff must work with him on his pad level, he needs to develop moves to get past blockers. On top of all that, there’s a lot of room for improvement with play recognition and reacting properly to what’s happening in the moment.

That’s what makes him a risky pick. A scenario can be visualized where it all doesn’t come together and Walker becomes the next in a long line of athletes on the defensive line who couldn’t translate it into being a good football player.

  • 2022 stat projections: 5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks

The Jaguars are fully aware of the risks, but this is a swing for the fences. Jacksonville is confident in its new coaching staff and it believes Walker will turn athletic traits into refined skills. If they are right, he could be the best player from the 2022 NFL Draft.

Lined up opposite edge rusher Josh Allen, both players will benefit from playing together. With an improved pass rush, the Jaguars will create more consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks and that bodes well for a secondary with Darious Williams and Shaquill Griffin. Walker’s bigger impact as a rookie will come as a run defender, improving a unit that ranked 23rd against the run last season.

Barring a trade back into Round 1, the Jaguars will make the first pick in Round 2 on Friday, April 29.

Grade: C

As of now, this is a reach by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Walker’s upside is certainly high, but his lack of production is historically low for a No. 1 pick. If the Jaguars wanted upside, Kayvon Thibodeaux offered it and Hutchinson would have provided a more immediate impact in the next few years.

Jacksonville Jaguars 2022 draft picks

  • 1st round, 1st overall: Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia
  • 2nd round, 33rd overall
  • 3rd round, 65th overall (via CAR)
  • 3rd round, 70th overall
  • 4th round, 106th overall
  • 5th round, 157th overall (via MIN)
  • 6th round, 180th overall
  • 6th round, 188th overall (via SEA)
  • 6th round, 197th overall (via PHI)
  • 6th round, 198th overall (via PIT)
  • 7th round, 222nd overall
  • 7th round, 235th overall (via BAL)
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