JACKSONVILLE – Thursday's early theme held through the night.
The Jaguars moved in a major way to improve defensively on Day 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft, doing so in an aggressive fashion – and with an emphasis on versatility.
Devin Lloyd, a linebacker from the University of Utah, became the Jaguars' second Round 1 selection in the '22 draft late Thursday. The Jaguars selected him No. 27 overall after acquiring the selection in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"He does a little bit of everything," Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke said of Lloyd, who many analysts considered the top off-the-ball linebacker in the draft.
The Jaguars earlier Thursday selected Georgia outside linebacker Travon Walker No. 1 overall. Baalke and Head Coach Doug Pederson each praised Walker's versatility, praising Lloyd in the same vein.
"He can cover," Baalke said. "He can rush the passer. He's very good against the run inside the tackle box and outside – a lot of versatility. He's a culture setter. He's a great young man. He fits into what we're trying to build here and we're looking forward to having him here.
"We do a lot of research on these guys and his character is impeccable."
Lloyd (6-feet-2, 237 pounds), who played four seasons at Utah, had 255 career tackles – including 149 solos – with 16.5 sacks and 43 tackles for loss. He had 22 tackles for loss and eight sacks this past season.
Lloyd was a first-team Associated Press All-America selection and the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2021, and a first-team All-Pac-12 selection each of the past two seasons.
"Not only is he a good football player, but he's a high character individual," Pederson said. "That's all part of this process we look at when we dive into these players."
Lloyd called "being able to do everything at a high level that you could ask a linebacker to do – cover tight ends, running backs, play zone coverage, play the run, rush the passer …" – a priority.
"I feel like I'm the most complete when it comes to doing all those things at a high level and I'm only going to continue to get better," Lloyd said. "I feel like my ceiling is really high, and I can't wait to get out with my coaches, my coaches in the NFL and really just perfect my craft really."
The Jaguars traded the Nos. 33, 106 and 180 selections in the '22 draft to Tampa Bay for the twenty-seventh selection.
"This is something that didn't just happen," Baalke said. "We were considering this going into the draft. We were fortunate enough it worked out. It was a fair trade for both sides; we were just fortunate they were willing to work with us.
"Tampa got what they wanted and we got what we wanted."
Baalke said the trade became a real possibility with the Dallas Cowboys set to select at No. 24.
"I think Coach and I looked at each other right around the Dallas pick," Baalke said. "We talked a little before that, but when we got to that and felt like, OK, we have a chance here, we picked up the phone and talked to Tampa."
- One factor in selecting Lloyd and Walker: a desire to be a stouter defense. The Jaguars, who play in an AFC South defined by the powerful running games of the Indianapolis Colts (and running back Jonathan Taylor) and Tennessee Titans (and running back Derrick Henry), ranked 23rd in the NFL against the run last season. "I've always gone with the premise that it's a big man's game, especially in this division," Baalke said. "You have to play physical football. You have to win the line of scrimmage. You have to win the front on both sides of the ball. These two guys will help us do that. We have a lot of other guys on this football team who can help us do that as well." Said Lloyd, "I love playing the run. I just love playing football. But yeah, whenever it comes to physicality, I feel like I'm an expert at that."
- Lloyd: "You have to go in and earn the spot. You have to earn the trust of everyone around you – the players, coaches, ownership. You have to earn everything you have. But for me and my confidence, if you're asking me personally … I see myself as a plug and play. I want to come in and help immediately, handle myself like a pro, earn everything. I mean, really go out and win. Do everything I can to be a winner, champion."