JACKSONVILLE – A long, hectic night yielded major defensive additions.
And maybe a new defensive identity.
That was the Day 1 story for the Jaguars in the 2022 NFL Draft, with the team first selecting University of Georgia outside linebacker Travon Walker No. 1 overall then trading up for University of Utah off-the-ball/inside linebacker Devin Lloyd at No. 27 overall.
Just like that: The Jaguars' defense is revamped and redefined.
It is the nature of the NFL Draft that many observers and fans liked the selections. It is the nature of the draft, too, that many observers and fans did not. It is the nature of the O-Zone that we heard from many in the latter group. Either way, we'll address it all best we can.
Let's get to it …
Crash from JAX
Bravo! I'm old school. Defense can still win championships.
It would be disingenuous to say all O-Zone readers loved Day 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft, though I'm hard-pressed to remember a day all O-Zone readers loved everything. But your email correctly notes that the Jaguars boldly moved on Thursday to improve the defense. This went in a different direction than many observers, including this one, expected – with many of those observers, including this one, expecting the Jaguars to address offense early and build around quarterback Trevor Lawrence. By draft day, I expected the Jaguars could select North Carolina State offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu No. 1 overall and I thought they might trade into Round 1 from No. 33 overall for Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum – or a wide receiver. Nope. Instead, the selected versatility and athleticism on defense. In retrospect, the moves made sense. The Jaguars clearly like their offensive line better than most observers do; they believe they can win with the offense essentially as is. As for the defense, the Jaguars are much stouter – and more versatile – than they were Thursday morning. One fer old school, as it turned out. Whoodathunk?
Doug from Jacksonville
_I waited until the draft was over to comment in an effort to put the pick in context and look at it through more objective eyes. The conclusion I came to is obvious to anyone who understands the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft shouldn't be a project. Terrible. Terrible. Ter-rib-bull. _
I received multiple emails along these lines following Walker's selection. It's true he's not a "polished pass rusher" in the sense of Michigan edge defender Aidan Hutchinson, who was selected No. 2 overall by the Detroit Lions. That's a fair assessment and a fair concern. But it's also fair to remember that he performed at a high level on a lot of fronts at Georgia – a high enough level that it's probably exaggerating to call him a project. And it's damned sure inaccurate to call him "ter-rib-bull."
Don from Marshall, NC
I am sure I would never have the courage to make that pick. Pretty, pretty sure! We'll see and go Jaguars and welcome Travon Walker and family!
Good eye. The Walker selection was gutsy. If he's really good, the Jaguars look like geniuses. If General Manager Trent Baalke worried about criticism, he would have gone in a different direction. Multiple different directions would have been easier. Credit him on that front, though I expect a lot of fans decline that offer.
Jakob from Hawthorne
... Interior Offensive Line?
Day 2 or 3, one would think.
Gerald from HILLIARD
Why linebacker and not a wide receiver?
Because they loved Lloyd and considered him a surprisingly good value at No. 27 – and because the first six wide receivers in this draft were selected well before Lloyd.
Josh from Atlanta, GA
How did we land the best inside linebacker in the draft? There was no way we could have gotten defensive line. Wow. That pick has me jazzed.
The Jaguars were jazzed over Lloyd, too,
Clayton from Shawnee, OK
This defense looks legit. On paper...
The Jaguars entering Thursday night had one front-line player on defense – outside linebacker/defensive end Josh Allen – with a lot of capable players in a bunch of spots. They added two blue-chip, front-line talents in Walker and Lloyd, and those are the sorts of additions that could make others better. So yes … this defense has a different, and more legit, feel. On paper.
Mikayl from TAMPA
Do you know when the next general manager opening will be? I'm looking for an easy new job where I can be completely inept and still make millions of dollars with no results.
Alexander from San Francisco, CA
Sigh. Walker is a historically non-productive edge rusher to be drafted No. 1. Why take a HUGE project with the first pick? There is really strong data that players who aren't strong pass rushers in college don't suddenly become effective pass rushers in the NFL. It's almost as there is a reason we have been the worst franchise in sports the last 15 years - thanks for letting me vent O-Man
I was struck – even a bit surprised – at the angst and anger over Walker as the No. 1 overall selection. It seems much of it comes from a predisposition and predetermination that the Jaguars would make a mistake as opposed to any real evidence they have done so. I suppose this predisposition is natural considering the team's record over the last decade or so, but that past doesn't determine the future. I am well aware of the data you cite. And I probably would have selected Hutchinson No. 1. But it's not as if Hutchinson or any other player in this draft was a clearly better choice. This was a draft with good players at the top, but no clear-cut No. 1 prospect. The Jaguars chose a player they believe has a chance to be great. Maybe he will be. Maybe he won't be. But it's not as if he represents that much more of a risk than the other top players in this draft.
Rob from Ventura
He goes "Hold on, hold on let me get one: Duuuuuvaaaaal!!!" when she tried to end his first comments. When can I buy a Devin Lloyd jersey?!?!
You're referencing Lloyd ending his NFL Draft interview with Melissa Stark of the NFL Network by throating out a heartfelt "Duuuuval." And yeah … that was cool. One fer Lloyd …
Sal from AUSTIN
Jags are gonna Jag.
… one perhaps not fer much of anything the Jaguars did Thursday …
Luke from Brisbane, Australia
O, re: the argument that the Jags have opted for potential over production at No. 1. Is it more the case that they consider Travon the more rounded player rather than just getting to the quarterback and defending the run (i.e. potential to drop into coverage, enabling others to make plays, etc.)? I hope we don't judge him on simply sack numbers alone – I'd rather focus on our win/loss ratio! Thanks, and go Jaggies!!
… and one sort of OK with Walker …
Matty from St. Augustine, FL
Not a question. More like thoughts. I am pretty happy and surprised about the trade up. NFL Media/Jaguars Analyst Bucky Brooks had him as sixth in his top athlete book. I thought he would have been gone by 15. I would say we did damn good Thursday. A taller, faster version of Myles Jack at a better price. And should/hopefully be solid for years to come.
… and another fer Lloyd.
Dave from Section 103
So now it's Southeastern Conference 15 Round 1 draft picks; Big Ten only one. As a season-ticket holder who has been at every regular-season home Jag game since the beginning (that's 200 games), does the team have any understanding how this transplant from up north thinks that picks are based on what will sell season tickets versus what is best for the team in the long term?
This is a fair perception – if you've never known an NFL general manager or a head coach. I've known more than a few – and I can tell you that whatever your perception, general managers and head coaches aren't in draft rooms and planning meetings thinking about selling tickets; they're too busy trying to win and hold onto difficult-to-attain and well-paying jobs.
Mr. NFL from Unfortunately Jacksonville
So, you can't comment on other teams' toxic cultures because you don't cover them. Interesting, because it was the national media that broke multiple stories about the very team you do cover. How can a team reporter not see what was going on during Meyer's short tenure? With all the explosive stories, not once did you report on one of them. In fact, it took a national media to do the job. You have said many times that the national media doesn't know what's really going on in Jacksonville so they just throw out whatever. You report on what your company boundaries allow you to report on. You're like any White House Press Secretary … you spin the narrative or ignore it.
I hadn't thought about this in a while, but you're right: I am pretty damned good.