Michigan EDGE Aidan Hutchinson was widely viewed as the top prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft class. The Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer had him as the No. 1 talent in the class, and mock drafts had him going first overall to the Jaguars.
But when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced the top pick on April 28, it was not the Michigan defender, but Georgia EDGE Travon Walker.
From a pure stats standpoint, the pick was a puzzling one. Hutchinson had 14 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss in the 2021 season and was a rare Heisman Trophy finalist as a defender. Walker had 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss — in three years at Georgia.
But there were reasons why the Jaguars opted to select Walker instead of Hutchinson, who went second overall to the Lions.
Why the Jaguars drafted Travon Walker over Aidan Hutchinson
Hutchinson's resume at the college level was certainly impressive. But the Jaguars took Walker over the Michigan prospect because of the upside Jacksonville sees in Walker at the NFL level.
Speaking on the "Rich Eisen Show," Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said that while he believes Hutchinson is going to have a standout NFL career and that he would have been a good fit for the team, the team saw Walker as a better fit.
"For us, it was just the potential, the upside," Pederson said. "As coaches, we're privy to a lot of film and a lot of conversations that a lot of people don't get, and a lot of information and part of our job is to gain that information and we just felt at the time and even sitting here today that the best for our organization was Travon Walker."
Pederson went on to praise the versatility of Walker, who rotated around the field for the Bulldogs in his career.
"There's a lot of unique things that he can do along the defensive front, and for us, we feel like he's going to be a good outside edge rusher with Josh Allen and KC, K'Lavon Chaisson, and these guys that we have, Jordan Smith," Pederson said. "And he just adds to that room and it's a position that we addressed in the draft and we're happy and we're excited and we can't wait to get him in here."
There had also been speculation that the Jaguars might select an offensive tackle, either Alabama's Evan Neal or NC State's Ickey Ekwonu, with the first overall selection. But Pederson said that left tackle Cam Robinson, who signed a three-year, $54 million extension this offseason, cleared up the future at the position.
"Cam Robinson, our left tackle, we were able to get his contract done prior to the draft and keep him here. I think the sky's the limit with him," Pederson said. "So solidifying the offensive line that way, really kinda helped too in some of the decisions we made in the draft."