NFL Draft 2022 Rumors: Jaguars Prefer Travon Walker over Aidan Hutchinson at No. 1

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 25, 2022

Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker (44) and defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt (95) set up for a play during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Florida, Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Travon Walker's draft stock has soared in recent weeks, and the Georgia defensive standout has emerged as the consensus favorite to be the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft.

ESPN's Todd McShay reported Monday that Walker appears to be the preferred target over Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson for the Jacksonville Jaguars:

"The belief around the league is Jacksonville prefers the upside and traits of Walker over the proven production, motor and leadership that Hutchinson brings to the table. And it is nearly a lock that one of them will come off the board first. ...
"But Walker's versatility, length, speed, explosion and strength could be the difference for the Jaguars. Execs around the NFL tell me Jacksonville just loves his upside, even though Walker (six sacks and 29 pressures) didn't fill the stat sheet like Hutchinson did in 2021.

The Draft Network's Jamie Eisner noted Walker is the betting favorite to go No. 1 as well:

Jaime Eisner @JaimeEisner

Happy Monday! As expected, Travon Walker is now the odds-on favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NFLDraft?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NFLDraft</a> at PointsBet, FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars &amp; BetMGM <a href="https://t.co/9CjLi3Kfi5">https://t.co/9CjLi3Kfi5</a>

Walker's rise is emblematic of how the 2022 draft class lacks a star who has put himself head and shoulders above the pack.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence was basically a lock for the No. 1 spot in the 2021 NFL draft before the 2020 season even started. Likewise, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow cemented his top-dog status in the 2020 NFL draft with his historic 2019 season. Edge-rushers Nick Bosa and Chase Young, the No. 2 picks in 2019 and 2020, respectively, distanced themselves as the best non-quarterbacks available.

Picking toward the latter stages of the first round might be more advantageous this year.

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

Within the past week, as the draft has drawn closer, multiple teams in the top half of the draft have inquired with others to try to trade back in the first round, per sources. So far, the interest in moving back in Thursday’s draft has greatly exceeded the interest in moving up.

Every team bets on upside to some degree in the draft. No player is a finished product coming out of college.

Walker's potential is his clear selling point following a somewhat nondescript tenure at Georgia. He had 33 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in 2021, and much of the spotlight fell on teammates Nakobe Dean and Jordan Davis.

Hutchinson has the far better individual resume. He collected 16.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks en route to winning the Lombardi Award and finishing second in Heisman Trophy voting.

The MMQB's Albert Breer spoke with an executive from an NFC team who said Hutchinson should be "a consistent player, a 10-sack-a-year guy." However, he added that "you’d imagine getting someone better" with the No. 1 pick. The executive then described Walker as "a freak" who "looks like Myles Garrett."

Whatever happens, it will likely be a defining moment for Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke.

Baalke survived the disastrous Urban Meyer experiment, but that likely left him on shaky ground. If whomever the Jaguars select doesn't pan out, it could be the final nail in his coffin.

Should Jacksonville hit a home run, though, Baalke will earn a lot of equity within the organization.