Travon Walker from Georgia is an interesting NFL Draft prospect as he has the size and athleticism combination to play multiple spots on the defensive line. The Las Vegas Raiders have an immediate need at defensive tackle so it wouldn’t hurt to take a long look at a guy like Walker.
DL | Georgia | 6’5” and 275 pounds | Thomaston, GA | December 18th, 2000 (21.2)
Travon Walker came to Georgia as a five-star recruit and the No. 3 defensive tackle in the country for the 2019 class, per 247 Sports. As a true freshman and sophomore, he mixed in the defensive line rotation and became a full-time starter this past season as a junior. The Thomaston native aligned primarily as an edge but would also slide inside to a three-technique in the Bulldogs defense that used multiple fronts. In three college seasons, he racked up 61 total tackles, 13 for loss, 9.5 sacks and 60 pressures.
- Explosive off the ball especially on passing downs and he’s able to time up the snap as the game goes on
- Takes short, choppy steps with his first three steps allowing him to keep his feet underneath him to never get overextended and maintain his base
- Has a good rip move and solid hand swipe that can beat offensive linemen with as a pass rusher
- When working a stab/long-arm move, he has great hand placement and the strength to put offensive tackles on their heels, he can collapse the pocket as an edge
- Shows the violence and strength to add a push-pull move to his tool belt
- Effective as the penetrator in line games. For example, from a defensive tackle position, he uses a rip move to reduce the surface area for the guard to block, then attacks the tackle to knock their hands down, and he has solid bend and ankle flexion to turn a tight corner
- Doesn’t bite when unblocked versus play-action bootlegs and has the speed to close on the quarterback quickly
- He’s a high-motor rusher who will get coverage sacks
- Has shown the ability to occasionally drop in coverage at 275 pounds
- Against the run, he recognizes when he’s unblocked and doesn't get too far up the field
- He’s pretty quick to diagnose reach blocks which, combined with his get-off, agility and hand placement, allow him to avoid getting reached and set the edge versus tackles
- When slating, his agility and initial quickness allow him to gain ground vertically and horizontally with his L-step, dips his shoulder to reduce the surface area to block and brings his back foot through to put pressure on the offensive linemen and help cut the field in half
- Quick to get his hands up, gets them right to the chest and can get extension when taking on base blocks from offensive tackles, and he keeps his feet buzzing on contact, has the strength and low pad level to hold ground when two-gapping against them
- Physical at the point of attack and won’t get blocked one-on-one by tight ends
- He has strong and violent hands to shed blocks
- Tackles with some force when he does bring his feet with him
- Good effort and angles in pursuit to help make tackles down the field if someone makes the ball carrier cutback
Areas of improvement:
- Needs to push up the field more and improve his change of direction to be more effective with stick moves and at turning speed to power as a rusher
- Could afford to add some strength and power to collapse the pocket with a bull rush against NFL guards
- Adding some violence and a thumb to trap finish will allow him to be even more effective with that rip move and get offensive linemen off of him
- Still learning how to use his hands as a finesse pass rusher, he’s often inaccurate with his initial chops and will get caught with his hands by his waist
- Struggles as the looper on line games, often having to lose ground to move laterally
- Doesn't seem to pass rush with much of a plan, counter moves were rare
- When unblocked against the run, he needs to squeeze more and get his eyes inside to see pullers coming and wrong arm them as the spill player
- Not squeezing enough also becomes an issue when defending the read-option, he’ll get caught in no man's land
- Lacks some quickness beat offensive linemen across their face when slating and out-leveraged pre-snap
- Has a habit of not bringing his feet with him when tackling, resulting in him sliding off bigger running backs
- Overpursues and doesn’t have the athletic ability to recover when one-on-one tackling wide receivers in space
- 2019: Wrist surgery (missed 2 games)
NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board rank: 20th, 1st round
Walker’s draft stock has been steadily on the rise since December when he was ranked 66th on NMDD’s consensus big board. He’s now firmly in the first-round discussion and deservedly so. While his best position is likely as a defensive end in even fronts, he’s shown the ability to play inside as well and has even flashed as both a one- or two-gapper.
A couple of well-respected draft analysts, Dane Brugler and Daniel Jeremiah, even have Walker as a top-10 player. Personally, I’d like to see him add another pass-rush move or two to his arsenal before putting him in that category, but that goes to show how much potential the former Bulldog has.
What do we need to know?
Where do you play him? As mentioned above, Walker would probably be best as a defensive end, but he does lack some of the pass rush skills you’d like to see from an edge rusher in today’s NFL. At the same time, he’s a little light to be an every-down defensive tackle and might struggle against the bigger bodies on the inside. Being a bit of a tweener shouldn’t impact the Georgia product’s draft stock too much, but there could be some discrepancies as to where he stands on teams’ boards based on what position they see him playing.
Fit with the Raiders:
It’s been the theme of these last few sections but Walker’s fit in Las Vegas is an interesting one with the potential ambiguity about his optimal position. The Raiders have an immediate need for a defensive tackle and a pressing need at that with only two currently under contract. Taking Walker in the first round could fill that void but there might be a better and/or safer option, like one of his teammates, that would be a more natural fit.
However, new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham would likely be more than happy to add a talent like Walker and then use his creative scheme to find a way to put the rookie in a position to succeed. Plus, Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue are scheduled to be free agents next offseason so having a contingency plan already in place wouldn’t be a bad idea. It’s just a matter of how forward-thinking Dave Ziegler wants to be and if Walker will even be there with his recent projections.
Travon Walker honors the run initially and then works the hands to beat the OT and get a pressure pic.twitter.com/HyqjPwyy5s— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 4, 2022
Travon Walker (RE) wins at the POA to get extension & help close the B-gap with his man & gets off the block to make this a 3 yard gain— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 4, 2022
Georgia runs a T/E stunt & Travon Walker (DRT) uses a rip move & attacks the OT to get a sack— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 4, 2022
Travon Walker’s (LE) get-off & ability to gain ground with his L-step allow him to get penetration & blow up this play w/o making the tackle pic.twitter.com/24ynAdUHNe— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 4, 2022
Travon Walker’s (LE) physicality as a penetrator can make him an asset on line game pic.twitter.com/CtXaqeJ4cg— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 4, 2022
I’d like to see him finish a little more violently with this rip move to get the OL off him, but the power is already there to add the move to his pass rush arsenal pic.twitter.com/mNWuCJ6n7L— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 4, 2022
An example of Travon Walker’s (RE) ability to shed versus Evan Neal pic.twitter.com/D2tvmE2TtG— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 4, 2022
This is how you take on a puller and make the play lol pic.twitter.com/ATvrLdiuLW— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) March 4, 2022