For the second consecutive year, the Jacksonville Jaguars hold the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. However, the 2022 draft, which begins on April 28, is a lot more uncertain when it comes to who the Jaguars will select with the first pick compared to 2021 when everybody knew for months the pick would eventually be Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Throughout much of the pre-draft process this year, the consensus has mostly been centered around Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson being the best prospect available, and Jacksonville’s likely No. 1 overall pick.
However, another name that has also come up for the Jaguars at times, and seems to be gaining more momentum as the draft gets closer, is a different defensive end/edge rusher — Georgia’s Travon Walker.
Speaking on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” on Monday morning, Peter Schrager spoke to sources around league circles and mentioned Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke’s history of drafting “the physical specimen with big upside” over players who might be considered “sure things.”
While he was with the San Francisco 49ers, Baalke drafted defensive linemen such as Aldon Smith (No. 7 overall in 2011), Arik Armstead (No. 17 overall in 2015) and DeForest Buckner (No. 7 overall in 2016) — all players who maybe weren’t considered consensus top-10 or top-20 overall picks, but players who had good physical traits and potential.
Adding more fuel to the fire, NFL Network’s Mike Garfaolo reported that he has “heard chatter Trent Baalke sees a lot of Aldon Smith in Walker.” Obviously, Baalke was very high on Smith back then, who the 49ers selected seventh overall in 2011. Smith recorded 41.5 sacks in his first three seasons in San Francisco, including 14 as a rookie and 19.5 in his second year, before legal troubles ended his time with the 49ers.
More Travon Walker to #Jags at No. 1 chatter, this time from @PSchrags. I’ve heard the chatter Trent Baalke sees a lot of Aldon Smith in Walker. We’re 17 days away from Baalke and the Jags making their decision… https://t.co/yUOY24iYL2— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) April 11, 2022
Additionally, Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network has confirmed through his sources that the Jaguars are considering Walker with the No. 1 overall pick and that Walker will be visiting with the Jaguars soon. Hutchinson, along with North Carolina State offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu (another potential target for the Jaguars), visited Jacksonville in early April.
“Sources have confirmed that the Jaguars have targeted Walker as a player they could take with the first pick,” Pauline wrote on Pro Football Network. “Sources have also confirmed that Walker will be sitting down with the front office and top brass of the organization in the coming weeks. The team will do its due diligence on Georgia’s defensive lineman.”
Who will go first overall when the #NFLDraft rolls around?— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) April 11, 2022
Could Travon Walker be the pick when the #Jaguars are on the clock?
Trey @wingoz and @TonyPauline discussed the possibility on Draft Insiders.
➡️: https://t.co/1pagW1F7Iv pic.twitter.com/ZX8CjGCsvN
Walker has had a meteoric rise since his incredible performance at the NFL Combine. The 6-foot-5, 272 pound defensive end ran a blazing 4.51-second 40-yard dash, while also recording a a 6.89-second three-cone drill and a 4.32-second 20-yard shuttle drill. Additionally, he recorded a 35.5-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-three-inch broad jump.
In 2021, Walker started 15 games for Georgia, helping the Bulldogs win a national championship. Walker amassed 37 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, two passes deflected and one fumble recovery.
Most scouts and analysts still consider Walker to be “raw” as a pass-rusher, but his incredible combination of size, speed and potential are the exact kind of traits Baalke looks for in an edge rusher. Drafting Walker with the first overall pick would be risky, but with the right coaching, it isn’t a stretch to believe Walker could become one of the NFL’s elite young pass rushers.
At this point, with the draft coming in just a couple of weeks, rumors are running rampant and it’s hard to separate truth from fiction. However, there seems to be a lot of smoke surrounding Waker and the Jaguars, and this isn’t the first time we here at Big Cat Country have heard about this possibility. What the Jaguars will actually do with the first overall pick remains a mystery, but it will not be too long until that question is answered.