Travon Walker may very well be the No. 1 draft choose, and it could be an enormous mistake

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 general choose. There’s no want for subterfuge and smokescreen once you’re deciding on first general, and at this level it’s actually feeling like they’re going to take Travon Walker. His odds to go No. 1 general 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 probability a workforce deciding on at No. 9 or No. 10 might get a participant with expertise equal to anybody within the High 5. That will be the interior justification for taking Walker, as a result of his athletic upside is so pronounced, so uncommon, that he actually might 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 in search of a strong, 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 harder. 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 general choose, and naturally it could 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. Actually, it’s unclear who must shoulder the blame relating to Baalke’s choices, however whether or not it’s the scouting departments below him, or if he likes to go rogue and choose together with his intestine, there may be a longtime historical past of him lacking in nearly each spherical. In 2018 when Niners Nation looked at Baalke’s selections it was astonishing how dangerous the workforce’s drafts have been below his watch. We’re not speaking about gamers simply not residing as much as their potential, it’s them being so dangerous they have been both traded, or out of the league. An unreal 41 % of his choices didn’t final seven years on the workforce, and he was the largest catalyst for the downfall, and rebuild of the dominant Jim Harbaugh Niners.

The shift in pondering 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 just lately as final week Baalke seemed to already be justifying picking Walker to the media, making an attempt to advocate that Walker and Hutchinson have been equally productive gamers in faculty.

“[They’re] used in another way, completely completely different schemes, used in another way inside these schemes,” stated Baalke. “Once more, you’re taking a look at them, you’re taking a look at how they made their performs, how they have been used, after which you will have a imaginative and prescient for a way you should utilize them. All of that performs an element, however traits are necessary, manufacturing is necessary. You weigh all of it.”

To be clear: They completely weren’t equally productive gamers in faculty. 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 compelled 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 faculty careers. You don’t take Walker for what he did at Georgia, you are taking him for what you assume he might grow to be — and that’s the place there is no such thing as a 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 just like Joey Bosa, who had a 16.0 sack season his ultimate 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 have been chosen earlier than Watt (Von Miller and Aldon Smith). Watt was an upside choose, who had great athletic potential, and ended up realizing all of it, turning right into a monster who recorded 20+ sacks … twice. And after I say Walker may very well be much more than Watt, that’s ludicrous hype, nevertheless it’s deserved.

You’re seeing nearly equivalent agility scores between the 2, they’re roughly equal measurement, however Walker demolishes Watt in uncooked velocity. We’re seeing completely exceptional upside at defensive finish, rivaled only by Myles Garrett in recent years — although it must be famous Garrett elected to not run the shuttle or cone on the mix, so the true comparability is skewed a bit of.

Now, it’s straightforward to get caught up in all this. If you use the phrase “he may very well be a greater J.J. Watt,” it’s easy to think about any workforce 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 way in which 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 could be a mammoth mistake for Jacksonville. It is a workforce who has whiffed time, and time, and time once more with their first spherical picks, particularly on the defensive position. Whether or not it’s Dante Fowler, Derrick Harvey or Tyson Alualu, the Jags have missed on first spherical defensive linemen so many occasions 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 should attempt to make a splash, it doesn’t matter what. It’s as if Jacksonville is allergic to the thought of hitting a double, and can as an alternative swing for the fences each probability they get. Irrespective of what number of occasions they strike out, they’re going to return again and hold making an attempt to hit it out of the park. If you wish to understand how a workforce turns into perennially terrible, it’s due to this pondering. There’s worth in taking part in it protected once you’re horrible, as a result of it’s the one manner 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 meaning probably trying wistfully at a 15-sack defensive finish once 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 proper choose, on the proper time, for a workforce that should make the proper alternative. 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 once more.