All 32 teams have vastly different boards each April. There are hundreds of prospects in each draft and no two teams view them exactly alike, especially at the top of the draft.
But thanks to some internet sleuths and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, we have an idea of how the Cowboys saw certain first-round picks — including Jaguars No. 1 pick Travon Walker.
In short, Jones had a moment of brief vulnerability following the Cowboys taking Tulsa offensive lineman Tyler Smith at No. 24. Man fans and media members saw Smith as a reach at No. 24, which of course led to the always-prolific Jones to literally bring the Cowboys’ draft board to his draft press conference.
Thanks to some especially determined internet detectives, such as WFAA’s Mike Leslie and a host of Dallas fans, some have actually put together what the Jaguars board may have actually looked like. This is all guesswork, but some of the selections look legitimate based on length of names and schools.
In this understanding of the Cowboys’ potential board, Walker comes in at No. 7 and trailed Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux, Alabama’s Evan Neal, Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson, Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner, and LSU’s Derek Stingley.
Walker was ranked above Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton, North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu, USC’s Drake London, Georgia’s Jordan Davis, Miss. State’s Charles Cross, Georgia’s Lewis Cine, Alabama’s Jameson Williams, Ohio State’s Chris Olave, and Smith, who the Cowboys took at No. 24.
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Walker was drafted No. 1 by the Jaguars last Thursday, making him the first non-quarterback taken at No. 1 since Myles Garrett in 2017 and just the fourth defensive end selected at No. 1 since Mario Williams in 2006. In that span, the only other players who were No. 1 picks were offensive tackles Jake Long (2008) and Eric Fisher (2013).
Walker had a successful first season at Georgia, earning Freshman All-SEC honors in 2019 as he was named a co-winner of Georgia’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year award. In 12 games, Walker finished with 2.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss and one pass deflection while also contributing on kickoff coverage units.
In 2020, Walker played in nine games and recorded 1.0 sack, 2.0 tackles for loss, one interception, and one forced fumble. Walker then had a career season in 2021, starting all 15 games as Georgia finished the year as National Champions. During Georgia’s title run, Walker recorded 6.0 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, two pass deflections, one fumble recovery, and a team-high 36 quarterback hurries.
Walker then had arguably the best combine performance of any defensive player in 2021, measuring at 6-foot-5 and 272 pounds but still running a 4.51 40-yard dash (98th percentile), a 36-inch vertical jump (80th percentile), 123-inch broad jump (87th percentile), 6.89-second three-cone (93rd percentile), and a 4.32 20-yard shuttle (76th percentile).
Walker was seen as a late-riser and as a media creation to some, but most reports have had Walker with a top-10 grade on NFL boards and as one of the top two edge rushers on the majority. The Cowboys had him as the No. 3 pass-rusher, but their overall placement seems to match the rest of the NFL’s.
“Well, the first time that I saw him personally was early October, and from that moment on I felt he added a lot of talent. Obviously you don’t make the decision the middle of October or early October; it’s a process,” Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke said after the Jaguars selected him “But he checked the boxes as we went through the process. We’ve got a great chance to look at him through the season. They played an extended season into the National Championship game, and they obviously won that.
“Then he goes to the combine. He went to his pro day and he did all the drills, both linebacker and defensive line. So we got a great chance to spend a lot of time with him. He was one of the guys we visited with at the combine. He came in for one of the 30 visits and I believe we sent five or six coaches to the pro day in Georgia. We had a lot of front-and-center action with him, a lot of opportunity to get to know him, to spend time with him as an individual, and again, I have checked all the boxes throughout the entire process.”