JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Travon Walker played all over the field in college.
In the NFL, the Jaguars expect him to focus on just one.
The Jaguars thought enough of Walker’s upside and the flashes of potential he showed as an edge rusher at Georgia that they took him with the first pick in Thursday night’s draft. While more experienced and polished options existed for Jacksonville, Walker’s traits were far more appealing for the Jaguars.
The 6-foot-5, 272-pound edge is ready to learn the craft of rushing the passer and bring a physical presence to a rapidly remade defense.
“It’s very exciting because I’ve always moved around ever since I was in high school. I played middle linebacker in high school. I’ve never just played one position,” Walker said Friday afternoon. “So, when people say I don’t have a lot, a lot of production, I feel like once I do get to just train for one position and play that one position only, I feel like that’ll just come on its own.”
The Jaguars took quarterback Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall last year and picked Walker at that spot this time around. Those are the only two times that Jacksonville has held the top overall draft pick. Lawrence is expected to develop into the franchise quarterback that has been missing since Mark Brunell left town. Walker could develop into the cornerstone on defense, alongside fellow edge rusher Josh Allen and No. 27 overall pick, linebacker Devin Lloyd. Walker said there’s no pressure in living up to expectations because he’s been doing it for years.
“I just have to say for me, like it’s not about living up to the expectations, because it’s something that I’ve been doing ever since I was a little kid,” Walker said. “So, I just feel that once I get the opportunity, just maximize my opportunity that I have and do my best. Do my best at it. Can’t worry about what everybody else, what they have to say.”
The knocks on Walker as the No. 1 pick have to do with his production, or lack thereof, at Georgia. He started just one season and never made an All-SEC team. For many, Walker’s performance at the NFL scouting combine was the first time they’d heard his name. That’s created a natural skepticism about Walker’s selection, but Baalke said that’s not the right way to view the team’s top pick.
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“You take a deep dive into what they can do. And the thing that was mentioned yesterday was production. Production’s a lot of things. It’s not just one metric,” Baalke said. “So, you look at what they do and the positions they were placed in, and how that factors into the scheme that we play. And, you know, he’s just a really good fit for our scheme.”
Walker said that he told his coaches at Georgia that he’d play anywhere that would help the team. As a freshman and sophomore, that was mainly on the interior defensive line. As a junior, Walker dropped some weight and was effective as an edge rusher, the position he’ll likely play in the NFL.
While his stats don’t jump off the page when they’re put alongside Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson (9.5 sacks in three years against Hutchinson’s 14 sacks in 2021), the comparison isn’t exactly apples to apples. In addition to his work at defensive end, Walker logged snaps at linebacker, tackle, nose guard and cornerback last season for Georgia.
“To all the people that say that I can’t pass rush or do whatever, I wasn’t as productive at Georgia, I’ve never really just played one position consistently,” Walker said. “So, I feel like I’ll be able to grow as a player once I just focus on one main position.”
Georgia’s defense was historically good last season. Its five draft picks Friday night set the NFL draft record for most defensive players taken in the first round. It was one pick short of the record for most first-round picks by a school. Alabama (2021) and Miami (2004) both had six first-rounders that year.
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Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who was rumored to have liked Michigan’s Hutchinson in the process, said that the franchise’s decision-makers were in agreement about Walker at the top spot.
“I think we were all, you know, unanimous that this is absolutely the right thing for our team, for us,” Khan said. “And you know, Trayvon was going to be our number one pick.”