The general consensus among experts is that the 2022 NFL Draft is more unpredictable than most, with the first round in particular tough to project thanks to depth at certain spots and a perceived lack of premium talent at others. Many mock drafts, however, have penciled in Michigan pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson as the favorite to go No. 1 overall to the Jaguars. But NFL executives aren't necessarily in agreement behind the scenes. Coaching staffs and front offices around the league believe Jacksonville general manager Trent Baalke could very well prefer Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker, according to NFL Media.
"What I keep hearing over and over and over again is that Trent Baalke has a history of taking the athletic specimen over maybe the sure-thing prospect," Peter Schrager reported on "Good Morning Football" this week, citing some of Baalke's most notable top picks as the former 49ers GM as evidence: tackle Anthony Davis (2010), pass rusher Aldon Smith (2011) and defensive linemen Arik Armstead (2015) and DeForest Buckner (2016) were all drafted earlier than widely expected.
NFL Media's Mike Garafolo echoed Schrager's report Monday, saying he's "heard the chatter (that) Trent Baalke sees a lot of Aldon Smith in Walker," who has seemingly risen up draft boards since his performance at the 2022 scouting combine.
Hutchinson, who won the 2021 Ted Hendricks Award as college football's top defensive end, is ranked by CBS Sports as the No. 2 overall prospect in the 2022 class. Walker, who started at defensive tackle to end his Bulldogs career, is ranked No. 13.