JACKSONVILLE – The Jaguars got defensive on Day 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Jaguars not only selected the University of Georgia outside linebacker Travon Walker as No. 1 overall Thursday, but they followed that hours later by trading for the No. 27 overall selection and using it to select Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd.
Five members of Jaguars Media – analyst Bucky Brooks, senior writer John Oehser, senior correspondent Brian Sexton, senior reporter/editor J.P. Shadrick and team reporter Ashlyn Sullivan – will share an observation following each day of the draft. Day 1 observations:
- Brooks: The Jaguars have committed to acquiring defensive players with versatility and disruptive potential, so their Day 1 selections should earn rave reviews from people in the building – particularly the coaching staff. With Walker and Lloyd displaying Swiss Army knife-like traits as hybrids with the capacity to play multiple positions and a variety of roles, the Jaguars should be able to employ the aggressive, multi-faceted defense that defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell prefers after spending years honing his craft under defensive wizard Todd Bowles. Despite concerns regarding Walker's sack production, he is a disruptive defender with the size, length and athleticism to blow things up at the point of attack. Although he has not developed a signature pass rush maneuver, Walker's athleticism and explosiveness create problems at the line of scrimmage. Lloyd is an ultra-productive linebacker with pass-rush ability and instinctive cover skills. He displays freakish pass rush skills on blitzes and opponents must account for his whereabouts on every down. In coverage, Lloyd displays a knack for the ball that makes him a dangerous defender as a lurker in zone coverage. Considering how each defender can enhance the disruptive potential of the Jaguars' defense, the team should be excited about their chances of fielding a more competitive unit in 2022.
- Oehser: This was a surprising night for the Jaguars – and a bold one, too. While Walker at No. 1 became expected in recent days, few observers expected the Jaguars to move as strongly on defense as they did. Instead of bolstering the offensive line or trading up for a receiver, the Jaguars spent enormous draft capital on defense – not only for Walker but trading Selections Nos. 33, 106 and 180 for Lloyd. The Jaguars added major athleticism, versatility and run-defense ability up front. The pressing question will be if they added enough front-line pass rush to make Walker worthy of the No. 1 overall selection. We won't know that answer for months – and perhaps years. If the Jaguars hit on Walker and Lloyd, Thursday will be remembered as the night that the Jaguars changed their defensive identity for the better. If the Jaguars missed those selections …
- Sexton (Walker): I don't love this pick, but I get it. The AFC is loaded with great young quarterbacks and you must have guys who can run and chase. Walker is big, strong, long and can run – and Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean and defensive tackle Jordan Davis told me on Wednesday in Las Vegas that Walker was the best player on the best defense in college football last season. Walker has all the numbers and measurables and could be a brilliant pick even if all he does in his rookie season is take some of the heat off Jaguars outside linebacker/defensive end Josh Allen. It's a crystal ball business and the Jaguars are betting on rare physical traits. Time will tell if they picked the right guy.
- Sexton (Lloyd): I absolutely love the Lloyd selection; kudos to the front office for giving up a fourth and sixth-round pick to move up six spots to pick the All-American linebacker from Utah. Standing next to Lloyd after he came off the Draft Stage, it's clear why he's a strong pass rusher off the edge. He's tall, has broad shoulders and long arms and intensity bled through his handshake and comments. A broadcaster from the Pac-12 Network told me Lloyd was his favorite player in all his years covering the conference, and shared a story about Lloyd calling his teammates at 10 p.m. as he was leaving the film room to tell them what they had to do on the practice field the next day. Sounds like the kind of culture-building player that Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson craves. Lloyd had eight sacks and four interceptions last season and it's easy to see why Caldwell would want this kind of versatile athlete to move around the formation. The Jaguars added two accomplished football players to their defense on Day One. It's hard not to see them taking a big step forward in 2022.
- Shadrick: All defense all day, and Caldwell must be smiling wide today. Walker played the most snaps of any Georgia defensive lineman last season for a reason: he's versatile and could be relied upon to make an impact. Jaguars leadership last night said they plan to put him at one position and then move forward; usually the right plan as the world is spinning for most rookies when they come into the NFL environment for the first time. I'm looking forward to seeing how defensive line coach Brentson Buckner connects with him and molds him. Lloyd helped lead Utah to its first ever Pac-12 Championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl Game, and helped keep the team together following the deaths of two teammates over a two-year span. He was an incredibly productive player the last three seasons (2020 was COVID-shortened by the Pac-12), but last season was easily his best with over 100 tackles, seven sacks and four interceptions. The Pac-12 is known as a passing conference, but Lloyd said he's looking forward to the challenge of defending the run against the likes of Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry and Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor.
- Sullivan: The Jaguars added two franchise-defining caliber players Thursday night. I am not surprised by the No. 1 overall pick, Walker. The feeling the last couple of days was Walker's athletic ability was too good to pass up; General Manager Trent Baalke used the term "versatility" numerous times when describing him. Pederson now must find the role on defense that Walker will fill; the good news, he has a lot of options. I was very surprised by the trade up to get Lloyd. I thought leading to the draft the Jaguars would only trade up into the first round to get a wide receiver. It goes to show how much Baalke and the coaching staff fell in love with Lloyd in their pre-draft process; this was a guy they had to go get. What I love most is the texts we are getting telling us what great people both Walker and Lloyd are; they are locker-room builders and that is the state of the Jaguars right now to turn this thing around.