We’re three days away from the NFL Draft and nothing is for certain, however the tea leaves are settling to disclose the Jaguars taking an enormous threat with the No. 1 total choose. There’s no want for subterfuge and smokescreen while you’re deciding on first total, and at this level it’s actually feeling like they’re going to take Travon Walker. His odds to go No. 1 total within the 2022 NFL Draft at the moment are tops at DraftKings Sportsbook.
It’s an advanced, bizarre draft. The 2022 class is exceptionally deep, with few really standout gamers. There’s a really actual likelihood a staff deciding on at No. 9 or No. 10 may get a participant with expertise equal to anybody within the Prime 5. That may be the inner justification for taking Walker, as a result of his athletic upside is so pronounced, so uncommon, that he actually may grow to be a power like we haven’t seen within the NFL.
Or he’s dealt for peanuts in 4 years, and out of the league in six.
Should you’re searching for a stable, Professional Bowl participant who will begin for a decade, 2022 is your yr. Should you’re wanting a league-defining All-Professional, that’s when this all will get tougher. The Jaguars appear intent on looking for that prime upside man, overlooking potential points and playing on promise. It’s one thing we’ve seen earlier than within the draft, however by no means with the No. 1 total choose, and naturally it might be GM Trent Baalke and the Jaguars to take this threat.
Baalke loves taking dangers on draft picks. It’s his favourite pastime, and he’s actively horrible at making choices. Truthfully, it’s unclear who must shoulder the blame in the case of Baalke’s choices, however whether or not it’s the scouting departments below him, or if he likes to go rogue and choose along with his intestine, there may be a longtime historical past of him lacking in virtually each spherical. In 2018 when Niners Nation looked at Baalke’s selections it was astonishing how unhealthy the staff’s drafts had been below his watch. We’re not speaking about gamers simply not residing as much as their potential, it’s them being so unhealthy they had been both traded, or out of the league. An unreal 41 p.c of his choices didn’t final seven years on the staff, and he was the largest catalyst for the downfall, and rebuild of the dominant Jim Harbaugh Niners.
The shift in considering from Aidan Hutchinson to Walker started a few weeks in the past, when “chatter” began that the Jags could be looking at the Georgia pass rusher. It’s solely picked up steam since then. As not too long ago as final week Baalke seemed to already be justifying picking Walker to the media, attempting to advocate that Walker and Hutchinson had been equally productive gamers in school.
“[They’re] used in another way, completely totally different schemes, used in another way inside these schemes,” stated Baalke. “Once more, you’re them, you’re how they made their performs, how they had been used, after which you could have a imaginative and prescient for a way you should use them. All of that performs a component, however traits are essential, manufacturing is essential. You weigh all of it.”
To be clear: They completely weren’t equally productive gamers in school. There’s actually no proof of that being the case, and any argument on the contrary is simply an effort to assuage concern. Hutchinson had 14.0 sacks final yr, 16.5 tackles for a loss — he pressured two fumbles, and batted down three passes on the line of scrimmage. Walker had 9.5 sacks … in his profession, 13.0 tackles for a loss … in his profession, three passes defended … in his profession, and compelled one fumble, you guessed it … in his profession.
That’s not the purpose although. There are justifications for speaking Walker over Hutchinson that don’t contain mendacity about their school careers. You don’t take Walker for what he did at Georgia, you’re taking him for what you suppose he may grow to be — and that’s the place there isn’t any comparability between the 2 prime go rushers on this draft.
Hutchinson hasn’t reached his ceiling, however he’s near it. He’s a participant innately much like Joey Bosa, who had a 16.0 sack season his closing yr ay Ohio State, and has gone on to be a dependable defensive finish who will get 8-12 sacks a yr and is a staple of the Professional Bowl.
In Walker, you’re hoping he’s J.J. Watt — however taken even additional. Watt was a decently productive go rusher at Wisconsin, who completed his junior yr with 7.0 sacks, however definitely didn’t blow anybody away to the purpose he was a must-pick. Taken eleventh in 2011, two go rushers had been chosen earlier than Watt (Von Miller and Aldon Smith). Watt was an upside choose, who had large athletic potential, and ended up realizing all of it, turning right into a monster who recorded 20+ sacks … twice. And once I say Walker could possibly be much more than Watt, that’s ludicrous hype, but it surely’s deserved.
You’re seeing virtually equivalent agility rankings between the 2, they’re kind of equal dimension, however Walker demolishes Watt in uncooked pace. We’re seeing completely unprecedented upside at defensive finish, rivaled only by Myles Garrett in recent years — although it needs to be famous Garrett elected to not run the shuttle or cone on the mix, so the true comparability is skewed just a little.
Now, it’s simple to get caught up in all this. If you use the phrase “he could possibly be a greater J.J. Watt,” it’s easy to think about any staff sprinting to the rostrum with the No. 1 choose card and being thrilled. What that doesn’t account for is the draw back, the danger. What if the celebrities don’t align? What if the NFL doesn’t click on for Walker the best way it did Watt? What if teaching can’t make him understand that potential?
It’s right here we get to the crux of the difficulty, and why I really feel Walker at No. 1 can be a mammoth mistake for Jacksonville. This can be a staff who has whiffed time, and time, and time once more with their first spherical picks, particularly on the line of defense. Whether or not it’s Dante Fowler, Derrick Harvey or Tyson Alualu, the Jags have missed on first spherical defensive linemen so many instances it defies perception. The shared DNA between these gamers: Upside over manufacturing.
One thing is baked into the Jaguars that tells this entrance workplace that they must try to make a splash, it doesn’t matter what. It’s as if Jacksonville is allergic to the concept of hitting a double, and can as an alternative swing for the fences each likelihood they get. Regardless of what number of instances they strike out, they’re going to return again and preserve attempting to hit it out of the park. If you wish to understand how a staff turns into perennially terrible, it’s due to this considering. There’s worth in taking part in it protected while you’re horrible, as a result of it’s the one method you’ll be able to functionally enhance.
No matter potential and perceived upside Travon Walker has is vastly outweighed by the danger. The Jaguars desperately want so as to add dependable expertise that may anchor them for a decade, even when which means probably trying wistfully at a 15-sack defensive finish while you’ve obtained a 10-sack man. Jacksonville must grow to be okay with simply being okay, as a result of that’s a rattling sight higher than what they’ve been doing. Aidan Hutchinson is the fitting choose, on the proper time, for a staff that should make the fitting selection. I’m afraid they’re going to gamble as soon as extra, and discover themselves again right here in a yr, able to make the identical errors yet again.