The Jaguars started the 2022 NFL Draft with a surprise that's been mere weeks in the making.
Jacksonville selected Georgia edge rusher Travon Walker with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft Thursday night.
The Jaguars weren't done in the first round, as they traded back in at the No. 27 pick, sending picks No. 33 (first pick of second round), 106 (first pick of fourth round), 180 (first pick of sixth round) to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With the 27th selection of the draft, the Jags selected Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd.
Walker entered the conversation for the top pick only recently and proved to be the winning candidate, beating out the likes of Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal and North Carolina State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu for the honor of being the first player taken in the draft.
The expectation for Jacksonville changed as the pre-draft process progressed, with predictions of the Jaguars spending the top pick on a tackle (either Neal or Ekwonu, depending on a prognosticator's preference) shifting toward Hutchinson following Jacksonville's decision to franchise tag Cam Robinson for a second straight year. Hutchinson remained as the most likely choice until early April, with rumblings regarding Jacksonville's preference for Walker growing louder with each week.
General manager Trent Baalke told reporters last week that Jacksonville's choice -- which was at No. 1 for a second straight year after taking Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence with the 2021 top pick -- was down to four players, and most presumed that quartet was comprised of Hutchinson, Ekwonu, Neal and Walker.
Walker's choice isn't entirely a reach. He's stood as a consensus top-10 talent since turning in an impressive workout at the NFL Scouting Combine, and the only knock on him was his lack of experience as a true edge defender.
Georgia's defense was littered with star talent in 2021, and Walker has become the first of the Bulldogs to learn where he'll play his NFL football. With this pick, Jacksonville is hoping time at the next level and playing opposite Pro Bowler Josh Allen will help speed his development and allow him to produce at an elite level.
Lloyd fills another need for the Jags and further beefs up the defense.
An All-American as a senior at Utah and a Butkus Award finalist in each of his last two seasons, Lloyd's versatility was as much of a calling card as his production.
An asset against the run, in coverage or rushing the quarterback, Lloyd filled up the box score. In 2021, he posted a career-best 110 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, eight sacks, four interceptions, two interception returns for touchdowns and six pass breakups.