Long before the Von Miller trade edge rusher looked like it would be a priority for George Paton in his second offseason as the Denver Broncos general manager. Paton showed interest in Leonard Floyd during free agency in 2021 before the edge rusher elected to re-sign with the Los Angeles Rams, and the Broncos were involved in talks to move back into the first round of the ‘21 draft to acquire the Miami Hurricanes Jaelen Phillips. Neither move materialized, which meant the trade deadline deal that sent Miller to the Rams caused the Broncos’ pass rush to crater.
One prospect who could intrigue the Broncos front office is the Georgia Bulldogs’ Travon Walker. The 22nd ranked high school recruit out of the 2019 class by 247 sports, Walker spent three years with the Bulldogs and finished his career with 61 tackles, including 13 tackles for a loss, and 9.5 sacks. The former five star recruit has a tantalizing blend of athletic ability, play strength, and versatility that could make him a chess piece in the right hands at the next level.
Walker's range really surprised me. pic.twitter.com/f4rHhAjuaY— Joe (R-E-L-A-X) Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 29, 2021
At a glance:
A freakish inside/outside rusher who should pose matchup issues for interior blockers from day one.
Measurables (Not verified)
Weight: 275 pounds
No Official Athletic Testing at this time
Alabama 1 (2021)
Alabama 2 (2021)
Long, powerful build with a thick frame throughout. Very good athlete with a very good lateral quickness and agility for a man his size to go with a combination of good balance and explosiveness. Displays very good play strength throughout his tape with a powerful punch and consistently stalemating doubles and holding his ground vs. down blocks. Displays good competitive toughness as he’s both disciplined and consistent on a down to down basis; he will make plays late through second effort. His usage and effectiveness with a variety of responsibilities in the Kirby Smart defense is a testament to his solid mental processing.
Walker’s played all over the line for the Bulldogs, playing the vast majority of his snaps at the seven technique on in. A significant number of his snaps came as an interior rusher and he could do the same in the league in sub packages. He has also been used as a stand up joker rusher mugging the A-gaps.
Has reps out of a two point, three point, and four point stance and displays a good burst out of each when he keys the snap due to his very good get off. He’s a good run defender who will own his area with the anchor and upper body strength to neutralize his blocker and leverage gaps. Also does a good job staying ahead of the opponent’s steps vs. zone runs in his direction and displays the motor to chase plays down in pursuit when the ball goes away. Has powerful hands he can use to shock blockers as well as solid bend for a man his size. His pass rush repertoire contains a bull and long arm, as well as the makings of speed to power, inside rip, and chop moves. Does a good job working through clutter in pursuit and does typically does a good job forcing the ball back to help. He’s a very good on stunts as he displays the lateral quickness to overwhelm interior blockers as a looper and the sheer power to occupy multiple blockers as a penetrator. In limited exposure he looked good on zone drops with shocking fluidity in space for a man his size and stature, he also does a good job playing off the quarterbacks eyes.
Tweener type who is on the small end for an interior lineman and lacks the bend to succeed consistently rushing from the edge. There are a couple of instances of him misreading the mesh point when opponents also use jet in his direction, which could become a more prevalent issue against teams that lean heavily on misdirection and counters in league.
While his overall burst is good he does not display an ability to attack upfield with consistency, he lacks the bend in his ankles and lower half to corner around the arc as a true edge rusher. Is an adequate pass rusher overall who does most of his damage on games or cleaning up when others create havoc. Walker has a powerful punch, but displays an marginal use of hands overall due to the way he’ll telegraph his intentions as a pass rusher as well as his lack of counters if the first move fails, along with how often he fails to disengage from blockers in both the run and pass game. While his overall pursuit is good he has a number of lunging missed tackles on tape.
Since learning under Dan Hatman of the Scouting Academy I’ve followed the 7 point grading scale where a 1 (poor) is a trait that fails to meet NFL standards and a 7 (elite) means the player will be among the best in the NFL at that specific trait. Every prospect is graded on five critical factors that influence all football players, while every prospect is also evaluated for traits that will determine success at their likeliest position in the NFL.
Critical factors (universal traits for all prospects)
Athletic Ability: 6/7
Competitive Toughness: 5/7
Play Strength: 6/7
Mental Processing: 4/7
Play Speed: 5/7
Position-specific traits (DL)
Upfield burst: 5/7
Pass rush: 3/7
Vs. Run: 5/7
Use of Hands: 2/7
* Very limited sample size
Travon Walker is a supremely gifted defensive linemen who finished his career at Georgia with only 9.5 sacks, 13 tackles for a loss, and three passes defensed. A notable amount of his production against the pass comes via schemed up rushes, and his limited production comes despite playing in 29 games since he arrived on campus in 2019 and playing alongside NFL players such as Azeez Ojulari and future pros like Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean, and Devonte Wyatt.
Watching Walker with the Bulldogs is an exercise in projection. His versatility, athleticism, and play strength make him a very exciting option for a team willing to meet him where he’s at in the short term as they help to smooth out the rough edges in his game. Failing that, he’s a risky prospect because he is not yet the sum of his parts after spending three years at one of the true pro factors in college football.
Fit with the Broncos
Travon Walker could make a ton of sense for a Broncos team with sneaky needs along the interior defensive line as well as questions about their edge. He’d probably be a rotational piece early in his career, playing snaps as a defensive end in the Ejiro Evero base 3-4 and sliding inside to a three or one technique on passing downs. He could be a mismatch for interior blockers on stunts from his first training camp. In time he has the potential to become a mismatch weapon along the interior who can create havoc from a seven technique all the way to a 0.