Daniel Jeremiah 2022 NFL Draft Big Board: Hutchinson, Gardner Top Final Rankings

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVApril 26, 2022

Michigan defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson runs during a drill at the NFL football scouting combine, Saturday, March 5, 2022, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

It's looking increasingly like the Jacksonville Jaguars will select Travon Walker with the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL draft.

That doesn't mean he's the top player according to draft evaluators.

NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah released his final rankings Tuesday, with Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson remaining in the top spot. Hutchinson is followed by Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner and North Carolina State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu.

Walker does not show up until No. 6 on Jeremiah's board. 

Hutchinson has been the consensus top player on most evaluator boards for several months, with the Jaguars seemingly being one of the few outliers. The Heisman finalist swept essentially every individual defensive honor in college football last season, racking up 62 tackles and 14 sacks to help lead Michigan to a Big Ten championship.

While Hutchinson's measurables aren't quite on par with Walker, he says his instincts are what elevate him from the pack. 

"I think that’s what separates me," Hutchinson told Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated. "I can see what's coming before the play goes; I can just feel it. That makes you look so much better as a player. You look faster; you look quicker."

Walker, by contrast, is a projection pick. He has wowed throughout the draft process with his physical prowess, highlighted by running a 4.51-second time in the 40-yard dash at 272 pounds at the combine. His combination of size and explosiveness allows him the versatility to play on the edge or move inside when needed. 

That said, his collegiate production pales in comparison to Hutchinson. In 32 career games at Georgia, Walker had fewer sacks (13) than Hutchinson did in 2021 alone (14). 

Gardner has emerged as the top lockdown corner in this class after spending his career at Cincinnati making the lives of opposing quarterbacks miserable. He has led all of college football each of the past two seasons in quarterback rating when targeted, including a jaw-dropping 26.1 in 2021.