If there’s been one big winner to the process leading up to the 2022 NFL Draft, it has to be Georgia EDGE Travon Walker.
Walker was regarded as an interesting player when the season ended – A great athlete with intriguing upside. But as reports of just how athletic Walker is came out of his pre-draft workouts, the hype began to build. Then he put on one of the greatest displays the NFL has ever seen at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine and his draft stock promptly rocketed to the top of boards.
But that begs the question: Why didn’t Walker play up to his athletic potential at Georgia. He is clearly a dominant athlete, but why didn’t he dominate his competition? Scouts and position coaches will definitely be drooling over Walker’s potential, but can they get him to play up to it?
That will, of course, be a question for teams to answer while setting up their draft boards.
Walker’s draft stock as surged so much in the wake of the Combine that the New York Giants might not even be able to think about drafting him. But should they consider Walker if he is there at the top of the draft, or will his potential always outpace his production?
Prospect: Travon Walker (44)
Games Watched: vs. South Carolina (2021),. Auburn (2021), vs. Kentucky (2021), vs. Alabama (2021 – SEC Championship Game)
Games Played: 29
Tackles For a loss: 13.5
Forced Fumbles: 1
Passes Defensed: 3
Games Played: 13
Tackles For a loss: 7.5
Forced Fumbles: 0
Passes Defensed: 2
Best: Size, length, play strength, explosiveness, athleticism, versatility
Worst: Technique, production
Projection: A starting EDGE with versatility scheme
(Walker is Georgia EDGE number 44)
Georgia EDGE Travon Walker possesses a rare blend of size, strength, explosiveness, flexibility, and all-around athleticism for the position.
Walker typically lined up as an EDGE in Georgia’s defense but took snaps all over their defensive front. He defended the edge as a stand-up rusher, a down defensive end (out of 3 and 4-point stances), and took snaps inside as a defensive tackle at both the 3-technique and 0-technique alignments.
Walker has a prototypical frame for an NFL defensive end at 6-foot-5, 272 pounds, with 35 ½ inch arms. His frame, combined with his rare athleticism, allows for his impressive versatility.
Walker is an explosive athlete who flashes a lightning-quick first step, with the ability to fire into blockers with good leverage and great power. His length, leverage, and power allow him to get under blockers pads and walk them into the backfield. Walker also has the play strength to hold offensive line blocks, keeping his teammates clean to make plays.
He also flashes impressive bend for a player his size when rushing with speed around the edge. Walker has good flexibility throughout his lower body and is able to maintain good contact with the ground while carrying speed around the edge. Despite its size, Walker is able to bend surprisingly tight corners.
He is also surprisingly good at dropping into coverage for a bigger defender. Walker quickly gets good depth in zone coverage, and he is a very fluid mover in space. His size, length, speed, and fluidity suggest an ability to effectively cover in space, and Walker’s ability to drop into coverage might be useful for more than just creating confusion on the offense.
Walker generally processes the offense quickly and well, and wastes little time transitioning from his rush to pursuit. His speed and agility give him great range in pursuit, and he is able to navigate crowds around the line of scrimmage well. Walker consistently gives good effort in pursuit and plays with good competitive toughness when fighting through blockers.
While Walker is an incredible athlete, he isn’t a consistent technician yet. Walker’s explosive first step can be compromised by inconsistent snap recognition and he can be one of the last players moving.
Walker also doesn’t have consistent hand usage yet. He has a tendency to struggle to disengage from offensive linemen and can just stay blocked. Despite all his athletic traits, Walker doesn’t consistently initiate contact with linemen, nor does he consistently win inside leverage. That can make it difficult for him to shed blockers and he can disappear from games.
Overall Grade: 8.0
Travon Walker projects as a starting EDGE at the NFL level, with the versatility to be an every-down player in any defense an NFL team will run.
Walker has the size and experience to be a traditional defensive end in a 4-3 defense or a 5-technique in a 3-4 front. He also has the athleticism and movement skills to be a modern “EDGE” defender in a 1-gap 3-4 or “multiple” defense – including the versatility to effectively drop into coverage to disguise blitz packages.
Walker is a truly rare athlete with the potential to see multiple Pro Bowl or All-Pro honors over the course of his career. However, he also comes with the caveat that the team who drafts him will need a concrete plan for his development.
Walker is not yet a finished product and there is a definite disconnect between the potential his tape and athletic testing show and the results on the field. That disconnect is likely due to Walker not keying the snap of the ball well – he was visibly late moving on multiple occasions – and not having a good handle on how to use his tools yet. Walker flashes a variety of pass rush moves, including a bullrush, a long-arm move, a rip move, and an arm-over (or swim) move. However, his moves are often mechanical and he can struggle to shed blocks quickly.
Walker’s inconsistent snap timing prevents him from using his rare explosiveness as a weapon to set off the rest of his arsenal. Blockers are often able to get in position by the time he meets them, making his job that much harder.
Travon Walker has the kind of athletic upside that gets scouts and coaches salivating. But teams might have to do their homework and come prepared with a plan for his development if they want to unlock that upside and fully unleash Walker’s potential.