When the Jacksonville Jaguars bolstered their offensive line in free agency, many assumed it meant edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson would be the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Just a few weeks shy of the decision being official, the Jaguars might have something else in mind.
Opinions on the talent in the upcoming NFL Draft class are mixed. Many viewed Hutchinson as the best prospect, but he isn’t viewed as a high-ceiling player. Meanwhile, other draft analysts believe Jacksonville would be better served to draft offensive lineman Evan Neal or offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu.
Instead, based on the buzz around the league, it seems general manager Trent Baalke could go in a very different direction with the No. 1 pick.
Related: 2022 NFL Draft rumors
According to The Athletic’s NFL Draft analyst Dane Brugler, there is a ‘realistic possibility’ that Jacksonville drafts edge rusher Travon Walker with the top pick. Speaking to executives around the league, Brugler wrote that many believe the Georgia edge rusher checks off the boxes that Baalke likes.
Shortly after Georgia won the national championship, many viewed Walker as a likely first-round talent. Thanks to a phenomenal pre-draft process, there now seems to be a real chance he is the first player selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Why the Jaguars might draft Travon Walker
Elite physical traits always jump out during the final months of the NFL Draft evaluation process. Teams knew before the NFL Combine that Walker was an elite athlete with limited production in college. When the 6-foot-5 edge rusher stepped on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, he blew past expectations.
Related: Jacksonville Jaguars mock draft
- Travon Walker stats (2021): 7.5 tackles for loss, six sacks in 13 games
Walker ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at 272 lbs. It was the third-fastest time among edge rushers and he did it with more muscle mass and flashed even more athleticism throughout drills.
According to Kent Lee Platte, a data analyst who tracks each prospect’s athleticism, Walker is one of the most gifted physical athletes in his position in recorded history. Walker’s 9.99 Relative Athletic Score is the second-highest ever by a defensive end since 1987.
The athletic comparisons for Walker range from Myles Garrett and Jevon Kears to Shawn Merriman and Preston Smith. In short, NFL coaching will be crucial for turning Walker’s rare athletic traits into production and developed talent.
There’s an absolute risk for the Jaguars in taking Walker with the No. 1 pick. If Baalke is confident the Jaguars’ coaching staff can help Walker develop pass-rush moves and refine his skills, no one should be surprised if he is the first player standing next to Roger Goodell.