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NFL - US Sports: What to expect from Draft 1st pick Travon Walker

The Jacksonville Jaguars were seduced by Travon Walker's athleticism when they took the Georgia Bulldogs defensive end first overall in the 2022 NFL draft.

The 21-year-old headed a draft class packed full of defensive talent, particularly in the trenches where three of the first five picks were pass rushers.

A mere 9.5 sacks through three years of college football left a few scratching their heads about Walker's No.1 status, as versatility and coverage skills aren't usually enough to lift prospects above proven sack machines.

So what can the Jaguars expect to see from their latest number one pick - and how does he compare to some of the others of recent years? 

Rookie struggles not unusual

It's the second year in a row the Jaguars have selected first and there was never any doubt that they were taking former Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence - a generational talent - in 2021.

Like, Walker, he possessed all the physical traits and put enough 'wow moments' on film to look like he couldn't fail to make it big in the pro game, but he did struggle in his rookie season.

Even the man regarded as possibly the best-ever number one selection - Peyton Manning - had more interceptions than passing touchdowns in his first season with the Indianapolis Colts.

Walker, 1/1 to register over 6.5 regular season sacks, will be compared to the last two defensive ends to be No.1 choices - Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.

It took until year three for Clowney to really establish himself as a dominant force for the Texans, before his production exploded in year four. Garrett almost doubled his sack tally from year one to two and was a very similar age to Walker when drafted, which also suggests the Jaguars won't see the best of their top pick until 2023. 

Coaching change can benefit Jags' players

The former Bulldogs star certainly isn't going into a 'win now' situation in Jacksonville, but top picks rarely do of course. Only eight teams in the history of the NFL have ever made the playoffs in the same season in which they made the first overall selection in the draft.

The Jaguars do have a Super Bowl winner coaching them this year in Doug Pederson and he's seen as a massive upgrade on former college football guru Urban Mayer, who never won over his players and was sacked 13 games into last season.

Pederson is an offensive guru. but he made a shrewd appointment in handing over the reins of the defense to Mike Caldwell, who helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a No. 3 ranking against the run in 2021 as the inside linebackers coach.

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QB pressures were there, despite lack of sacks

Caldwell has already spoken about Walker lining up as an outside linebacker next season rather than his main college position of defensive end, which shows he has done his homework on how versatile the ex-Georgia Bulldog can be.

After lining up in multiple positions and formations at Georgia that shouldn't be a problem for him and, although his remarkable 4.51sec 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine was what really got the Walker draft bandwagon going back in March, the 6-foot-5, 272-pound prospect was already topping a lot of scouts lists for his all-round game.

He tied for team lead with 34 QB pressures, per Pro Football Focus, and that stat can often be more revealing and useful than a player's sack total, which can rely on luck and how much pressure is created elsewhere.

Allen has his back

Josh Allen, who was the Jags' top selection in the 2019 NFL draft, should be the ideal mentor for Walker as he transitions from college star to rookie pro. Allen is already on record as saying Walker has the potential to be a double-digit sack player once he gets acclimatised to the NFL and masters the outside linebacker role.

Now entering his fourth year, the former Kentucky star is perfectly placed to help Walker challenge his rookie record of 10.5 sacks for the franchise that earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl in that first season.

Raiders star a realistic comparison

If Walker, 7/1 to be Defensive Rookie of the Year, pans out the way Allen has done then there won't be any regrets about taking him ahead of Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux. But a more realistic career path to follow might be that of Las Vegas Raiders star Chandler Jones. He recorded just ten sacks in college and was drafted 21st overall, but has been to four Pro Bowls and won one Super Bowl ring. 

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