The Jacksonville Jaguars surprised a lot of people when they selected Georgia's Travon Walker with the first overall pick. Most draft analysts had him as the third-best defensive end behind Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson and Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux.
With the addition of Walker, the Jaguars have a fearsome pass-rushing duo in Walker and defensive end Josh Allen. They also made two more selections to beef up their front seven later in the 2022 NFL Draft. Now, Jacksonville's potential front seven could consist of Allen, Walker, defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi, and linebackers Foyesade Oluokun, Devin Lloyd, and Chad Muma. That's a much-improved front seven from a year ago.
Here's what draft analysts had to say about Walker:
Dane Brugler, The Athletic
"A one-year starter at Georgia, Walker lined up primarily as the field defensive end in former defensive coordinator Dan Lanning's 3-4 base scheme but logged snaps everywhere up and down the line from nose tackle to a "Leo" role. Although he was part of a heavy rotation his first two years and doesn't have the career production expected of a top pick, he impacts the game in a number of ways and was an important part of Georgia's 2021 national championship. Walker has rare movement skills for a 275-pounder, including an explosive first step to shoot through gaps, cross the face of blockers or chase down plays. He wasn't asked to be a consistent outside rusher in the Bulldogs' scheme, but that helped him develop into a strong run defender, disengaging and leveraging blocks. Overall, Walker is still developing his sequencing plan as a pass rusher, but he has freaky athletic traits for his size and offers the natural power and length to consistently win his match-ups. He projects as a scheme-diverse front-seven player with the potential to be one of the best NFL defenders from this draft class."
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com
"Walker is a big, rugged run-stopper with the playing style and body type to play as an even- or odd-front end. He consistently outreaches blockers to take control at the point of attack and sets firm edges despite playing with limited knee bend. He has quick-shed ability to make plays near his gaps and could see an increase in production if allowed to play in a scheme that asks more of him than Georgia did from a playmaking perspective. He has the strength and length to plow through overmatched pass protectors but will need to improve his skill level to consistently find the quarterback as a pro. Walker's blend of explosiveness and aggression could help push his draft stock beyond his tape grade."
Natalie Miller, Draft Wire
Link to scouting report
"Walker has an elite athletic profile, excellent tape, and all the potential in the world. The NFL always needs more front-line defenders who can provide a bull rush and shut down the run in the ways that Walker does. Expect him to be selected early in the draft as one of the first few edge rushers off the board in a stacked class."
Brentley Weissman, The Draft Network
"Georgia's Travon Walker is an exciting defensive lineman who offers rare athleticism and versatility along the defensive front. Walker, a former 5-star recruit and high school basketball star, has been a mainstay for the Bulldogs in his three-year career but has taken his game to the next level as a junior. Walker has outstanding size and length for the position and pairs those attributes together with rare athleticism.
As a pass rusher, Walker displays rare get-off and explosion off the snap. He can easily win edges and shoot through gaps with his explosive and quick-twitch movements. He flashes very good power at the point of attack and has a terrific long arm, which he utilizes to knock back and shock offensive tackles. Walker primarily wins with quickness and speed-to-power as a pass rusher, failing to show consistent hand counters and secondary rush moves. In the run game, Walker sets a firm edge with a strong lock-out and anchor. He has outstanding lateral pursuit and consistently makes plays across the line of scrimmage or down the field with excellent effort. He struggles to get off blocks at times and can be slow tracking the football.
All in all, Walker has rare athletic upside with position versatility but needs to develop into more of an impact player to warrant as high of a pick as his athletic traits suggest."
Oliver Hodgkinson, Pro Football Network
"Strengths: His long, 6'5″ frame means he can comfortably carry a substantial weight gain without any detriment to his athletic ability. If the NFL wants him as a traditional 300-pound defensive tackle, you better believe that the Georgia man can. He could just as easily succeed as a 275-pound pass rusher off the edge, either as a 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside backer.
From that perspective, Walker offers valuable versatility as an NFL Draft prospect. He's taken snaps across the defensive front. From outside end all the way inside to 1-tech, Walker has seen it all and succeeded. Furthermore, Georgia had him stand up and drop back into coverage at times.
That should tell you everything you need to know about his athletic ability but indulge me. Walker is explosive off the snap. He has excellent lateral agility, allowing him to cut from outside to the interior in the blink of an eye.
Watching him effortlessly jump from the B-gap to the A-gap in one seamless movement is a joy to behold. Furthermore, his lateral agility allows him to scrape across the line easily, making him dangerous against the run.
Against the run, Walker showcases tremendous speed in pursuit. He also puts his long levers to use tackling from behind. It's almost impossible for a ball carrier to escape his clutches when he latches his long arms around them.
Walker's arm length is evident at the point of attack. Amongst multiple pass-rush moves, he routinely displays a long arm that helps him manipulate offensive linemen. His strength is evident at the point of attack, too. He drives even the sturdiest offensive linemen backward with a potent initial punch and routinely walks his blocker back into the quarterback.
Areas for improvement: Walker offers some frankly mind-blowing athletic upside as a 2022 NFL Draft prospect. Combined with his versatility, power, and leadership, he makes for an exciting and exceptional prospect. However, not all that glitters is gold. There are some areas for improvement from his scouting report that force us to pump the brakes a little.
While Walker has some pass-rush tools in his bag, he can seek to add further weaponry to his arsenal. Equally important is the ability to combine moves with a solid pass-rush plan. At present, if Walker fails with his first move, he doesn't come preloaded with a counter.
Additionally, there are some improvements to be made with hand usage at the point of attack. The timing and placement of his initial punch can be off, decreasing his chances of success.
Furthermore, as a pass rusher, Walker needs to ensure he lands cleanly when tackling. Although it wasn't an ongoing issue, there were examples of him failing to secure a sack as the QB evaded his grasp. For someone with his length, you'd expect him to consistently wrap up in this situation.
Walker's Player Profile: Although he might be considered a late riser in the 2022 NFL Draft class, Walker is no stranger to being at the top of the tree at any level of football. In fact, his athletic prowess has penetrated into other arenas as well. At Upson-Lee High School, he helped lead the basketball team to 71 consecutive wins and back-to-back Class 4A titles.
However, it was his performances on the gridiron that garnered the most attention. Impressive as a sophomore, Walker earned first-team All-State honors after a junior campaign where he tallied 37 solo tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. A disruptive defensive force from multiple spots across the front seven, Walker showcased his unique athletic ability by also lining up at tight end and running back.
As a result of his junior performances, Walker earned preseason first-team All-USA recognition ahead of his senior season. More importantly, however, the versatile superstar was a high-profile recruit. A five-star prospect, Walker was the second-best player in Georgia and third-best defensive tackle in the 2019 recruiting class per 247 Sports."
Travon Walker provides some of the best versatility in the class.
At 6'5″ and 275 pounds, Walker played with his hand in the dirt as a 3-technique, 5-technique and 6-technique, as well as from a stand-up outside linebacker position. He'll likely play 5- and 6-technique in the NFL, but his flexibility at other alignments could make for some devastating situational packages.
Walker thrives in run defense. His initial punch is as violent as it gets and he rarely misses. He tends to do a great job controlling blocks following his initial punch, allowing him to keep eyes in the backfield and leverage his gap correctly.
Walker also has impressive lower-body power, which is showcased both by his first step and his anchor once engaged with blockers. Though he can be a hair slow in deciding to come off blocks at times, he generally executes his gap assignment without issue and can force the play to other defenders.
On passing downs, Walker lacks consistency, but the tools are there. He flies off the ball at times (usually better when standing up) and displays better flexibility than expected for a player his size, which is a devastating combo when paired with his length and overwhelming punch.
Walker needs to hone his sequencing as a pass-rusher, as well as be more consistent in how he drives his legs through contact, but he can still be disruptive as he is right now. Though rare, Walker also dropped into coverage at Georgia on occasion and did not look out of place.
Walker's easiest projection is as a strong-side defensive end in an even front, but he could just as easily add a few pounds to be a 3-4 defensive end or drop a few to be a full-blown edge player. His run-defense skills and athletic profile will allow him to be a functional player early on as he works on becoming a more consistent pass-rusher."