JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Travon Walker performed his finest when the stakes had been the largest and adopted that up with a formidable efficiency on the NFL scouting mix — and now he’s the highest choose within the NFL draft.
The Jacksonville Jaguars used the No. 1 choose on Walker on Thursday night time, and they’re relying on the previous Georgia defensive finish to be a key a part of turning round one of many NFL’s worst franchises.
“I’m positively ready for it, [being] the No. 1 choose,” Walker stated by way of Zoom. “I’ve to say there’s a number of expectations behind that, however it’s simply the sport of soccer to me. I’m simply going to proceed to do what I’ve been doing, giving my all to the sport of soccer as a result of that’s one thing that I like to do, and I’m not making it extra strain on myself than it ought to be.”
The Jaguars have misplaced 10 or extra video games in 10 of the previous 11 seasons and have made only one playoff look since 2007. It’s the second 12 months in a row they’ve had the No. 1 general choice — they picked quarterback Trevor Lawrence first general in 2021 — they usually’re nonetheless reeling from former head coach City Meyer’s dysfunctional 11-month tenure.
Walker performed his finest soccer of the 2021 season throughout the School Soccer Playoff. He had 10 of his 29 pressures within the two video games, together with a season-high seven in Georgia’s title-game victory over Alabama. He had sacks in every sport, giving him a career-high six in 2021, after having solely 3.5 sacks in his two earlier seasons mixed.
“We really feel very strongly about him as a participant that we’re going to find yourself with a very good soccer participant,” Jaguars normal supervisor Trent Baalke stated. “But it surely’s not going to be with out a number of work on his half.
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“So the ceiling is as much as him. We’re going to do our greatest to place him in place to succeed in that ceiling, however on the finish of the day it’s actually on these guys, these younger males to come back in, put within the time each mentally and bodily, to succeed in the ceiling that they’re all able to reaching.”
Walker performed the vast majority of his snaps at defensive finish final season and was a key a part of the Bulldogs’ rush protection, which ranked second in FBS in 2.6 yards allowed per rush. He additionally performed defensive deal with and out of doors linebacker, and the Jaguars plan to make use of him in the identical means underneath defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell, although Baalke stated the Jaguars will begin him off at one spot first till he will get comfy.
“There’s quite a bit to love when it comes to his talent set,” Baalke stated. “He performed all the way in which up and down the road of scrimmage, anyplace from a 0-technique all the way in which to a 7-technique. Performed within the two-point off the sting, which he’s going for use quite a bit in our scheme. That versatility, skill to cease the run, rush the passer, there’s a number of work to do, however there’s a number of expertise to work with.
“… He’s confirmed he can do all of the issues that we’re going to ask him to do in our system and have the flexibility to do it and do it at a excessive degree.”
The 6-foot-5, 272-pound Walker turned heads on the scouting mix with a 4.51-second 40-yard sprint, which was the quickest amongst all front-seven gamers. He additionally posted a 35½-inch vertical leap and a 10-foot, 3-inch broad soar — numbers that helped him shoot up groups’ draft boards.
“You’re at all times searching for guys that rise to the largest moments,” Baalke stated. “He’s performed some very constant soccer all 12 months lengthy. This isn’t a man that simply jumped on the display as a result of he ran 4.51 within the 40-yard sprint on the mix. He performed some superb soccer all through the course of the 12 months.
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“I believe he received on the scene somewhat late as a result of folks weren’t anticipating him to be within the draft this 12 months. As he received higher and as he grew to become extra evident he was going to most likely enter the draft I believe that’s when folks began taking a lot more durable appears to be like at him.”
Per ESPN Stats & Data analysis, Walker is the one participant chosen first general within the widespread draft period who by no means made an all-conference or All-America group in school. Walker’s 9.5 profession sacks are additionally the fewest by a defensive finish/outdoors linebacker who went on to turn out to be a top-three choose for the reason that NCAA started protecting sacks as an official stat in 2000. The second fewest belong to Dante Fowler (14.5), whom the Jaguars drafted third general in 2015.
The hope is Walker will instantly assist a Jaguars move rush that was among the many NFL’s worst over the previous two seasons. It totaled 50 sacks — together with simply 18 in 2020 — throughout that stretch, which was fewer than each NFL group besides the Atlanta Falcons (47).
Shortly after the choose was introduced, NFL Community reported that Walker was concerned in a automotive accident in Athens, Georgia, two weeks in the past through which he hit a pair of parked vehicles. Walker confirmed the accident however known as it a “fender-bender” and stated that nobody was damage.
“Issues occur,” Walker stated. “It was nothing to be upset over. Simply issues occur. I’m a daily human being similar to everyone else.”
The Jaguars are the fifth NFL franchise to have back-to-back No. 1 general picks. The Cleveland Browns (2017-18 and 1999-2000) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1976-77 and 1986-87) are the one franchises to do it twice. The Cincinnati Bengals (1994-95) and the Chicago Cardinals (1939-40) are the others with back-to-back high picks.
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That is the 14th time up to now 15 years the Jaguars have picked within the high 10 and the eighth time up to now 11 years they’ve picked within the high 5. Of the 12 gamers the Jaguars drafted within the high 10 from 2008 to 2020, solely defensive lineman Tyson Alualu and quarterback Blake Bortles earned second contracts with the membership. Offensive deal with Eugene Monroe, quarterback Blaine Gabbert, defensive finish Dante Fowler Jr. and cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and CJ Henderson had been traded. Defensive finish Derrick Harvey and working again Leonard Fournette had been minimize, and wideout Justin Blackmon was suspended indefinitely, earlier than the tip of their rookie contracts. Offensive deal with Luke Joeckel and defensive deal with Taven Bryan completed their rookie contracts however weren’t re-signed.
The Jaguars exercised the fifth-year choice on defensive finish/linebacker Josh Allen, whom they drafted seventh general in 2019, earlier Thursday.
The Jaguars went 1-15 in 2020 — shedding their final 15 video games — to earn the highest choose within the 2021 draft, which they used on Lawrence. He had a tough rookie season, throwing solely 12 landing passes to associate with 17 interceptions — although he did set a franchise rookie file with 3,641 passing yards — whereas coping with a mountain of off-field distractions, together with a number of movies of Meyer behaving inappropriately in a bar with a lady who was not his spouse. Meyer was fired on Dec. 16.
The Jaguars upset the 14-point favourite Indianapolis Colts within the season finale underneath interim head coach Darrell Bevell to complete 3-14, enhancing their file up to now two seasons to 4-29.