Can the Jacksonville Jaguars afford to roll the dice on Travon Walker at No. 1?
The safe double against the potential home run. The safe bet against the risky roll of the dice.
These are the principles the Jacksonville Jaguars will have to debate before kicking off the 2022 NFL Draft with the No. 1 overall pick on April 28.
With less than two weeks until the Jaguars make one of the big picks in franchise history, the consensus view in the media is that the Jaguars are likely down to two prospects at No. 1.
Will they go with Michigan high-ground Heisman Trophy contender Aidan Hutchinson, who seems destined to be at least a solid pro at the next level?
Or will they go with Georgia’s Travon Walker, one of the best pure athletes to enter the draft in recent memory, but with just 9.5 career sacks and limited exposure to his name?
The Jaguars have other options, of course, like Alabama’s Evan Neal and North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu, but it certainly looks like they’re on a course to decide between Hutchinson and Walker.
At this point in the pre-draft process where even the most comprehensive perspectives are tweaked, it’s easy to defend both Hutchinson and Walker. It’s equally easy to argue against both, with critics examining Walker’s production and overall rawness, as well as Hutchinson’s prototypical lack of length and potential ceiling issues.
Still, even with the number of fair questions against the two, most believe Hutchinson represents a safe choice, while Walker represents a risky bet on potential.
Related: Anonymous Coach: ‘Worst Kept Secret’ Doug Pederson Wants Offensive Player at No. 1
If those assessments are accurate — and that’s a big “if” given the uncertainty of the NFL Draft — can the Jaguars themselves afford to take Walker? Can a franchise that’s best known for a long record of lost seasons and first-round busts afford to take a long projected hit on a player who few believe will fail?
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“This take from an AFC college scouting director sums up where Jags general manager Trent Baalke is right now: ‘Everyone knows he wants to trade him, and that tells me that ‘he’s not in love with any of them,'” SI.com’s Albert Breer wrote. earlier this week.
“Several rival executives have pointed out to me that Baalke is also susceptible to a perception issue that he and his team have at the moment, and that he and the team will be grilled if they do anything other than take Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson. or get a royal ransom for the pickaxe.”
It’s hard to say if the Jaguars and Baalke really have a problem with how the franchise and its moves are perceived. It’s hard to imagine the Jaguars operating on such motives, especially after Baalke oversaw some generally unpopular moves in the NFL over the past two years (hiring Chris Doyle, signing Tim Tebow, selection of Travis Etienne, contract of Christian Kirk, and tagging Cam Robinson twice).
If the Jaguars and Baalke were worried about what others in the league, the media or the fan base thought of them and certain moves, it’s hard to imagine they would have done more than a few of the aforementioned movements.
Still, the project can often be seen as a way for teams and executives to do more than build for the future of their respective franchises. This can be seen as a way to enhance job security in the future.
“If it’s an edge rusher, and it’s between Hutchinson and Georgia’s weird draft lifter Travon Walker, that’s also interesting,” Breer wrote.
“It’s the home run against the double,” another executive said. “No one is missing on Hutch. With Walker, is he an outside linebacker? Is it a five-technique? His ceiling is high, if you look at his movement, his start, his speed of play. He’s not as refined as Hutch. There may be more there, but you haven’t seen it, so it’s random. ‘”
If the Jaguars took Walker and he ended up falling short of expectations as the No. 1 pick, there would definitely be a huge backlash on Baalke and the Jaguars. If they took Hutchinson and he too failed to meet that standard, there would be fewer critics waiting to say “I told you so”. He would be considered missing with everyone.
Does that mean the Jaguars can afford to take Walker on given the situation after four wins in the past two seasons and two tumultuous years?
If the Jaguars think Walker is the best player, they should take him. It doesn’t matter who sees a scope in it.
But they better be right, because all eyes are on them.