The Jacksonville Jaguars believe they can be "something special" after Trevor Lawrence ended his wait for a first NFL road win in impressive fashion against the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Chargers are among the favourites in the AFC this season but were beaten 38-10 with Justin Herbert playing through injury at SoFi Stadium.

Lawrence outshone Herbert, throwing for 262 yards and three touchdowns on 28-of-39 passing.

After nine straight defeats on the road to start his career, Lawrence finally guided the Jaguars to victory; the last NFL quarterback to start his career with nine away road losses and then a win was Peyton Manning.

And this was a commanding win, too – the Jaguars' biggest on the road since the 2001 season (33-3 at the Minnesota Vikings in Week 15).

Jacksonville have not enjoyed a winning season since 2017 and had only four victories over the previous two campaigns combined.

But they are halfway to that number already in 2022 at 2-1, boosted by the ability to select consecutive first overall draft picks in Lawrence and Travon Walker.

Team-mate Dawuane Smoot said after the win: "It's been all worth it, going through a rebuild each year. Now, I feel like we're finally starting to get it.

"We just started. It's only three [games]. We still have a long season to go. But I feel like we're turning the corner to being something special."

Having crushed the Indianapolis Colts 24-0 at home in Week 2, Lawrence added: "It's awesome, two weeks in a row.

"I think the coolest thing is [after] a big win last week to see that same focus and intensity and preparation this week. That's a sign we're heading in the right direction. We've got to keep doing that week in, week out.

"Obviously, every week is going to present new challenges; you've just got to come ready to play. We did that, and it was awesome."

Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley insists that protecting star quarterback Justin Herbert was on his mind despite letting him play out Sunday's 38-10 blowout loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Herbert returned for the first time after a fracture to his rib cartilage, throwing 25 of 45 passes for 297 yards with one touchdown, one lost sack fumble and one interception, while Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence starred with three TD passes.

The Chargers' decision to keep their franchise quarterback on the field with 4:54 remaining for a final series, despite the scoreline and his recent injury, led to many questions from reporters after the game.

"He wanted to be out there with his teammates," Staley told reporters. "He felt good and he wanted to finish the game.

"Throughout the entire game, that's the first thought throughout the game and at the end of the game, so trust me, there's no one that's thinking about it more than I am."

Herbert, who was the sixth pick overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, sustained the rib injury 10 days ago in the 27-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs when he played on admirably in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.

"I understand your entire line of questioning, I understand it," Staley said.

"Justin is going to be feeling like this when he is out there playing. This injury is going to be there for awhile. If you guys know the injury, it's not like it's going to feel better next week or the week after that.

"This thing is going to be present for awhile. He felt good today and we're going to continue to manage it the best we can."

The 24-year-old quarterback also defended the decision, insisting it was him putting the team first.

"I just didn't want to quit on the team," Herbert said. "It's what the team needs. Sometimes, you have to put your own goals and everything ahead, or behind the team and I think that's what's most important and I felt like I was safe out there and I didn't want to quit on my team.

"I trust the medical staff. I trust the training staff. They are not going to put me in harm's way. I felt like it was safe, they felt like it was safe, so I was going to go out there and play."

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers emerged 14-12 victors against Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Sunday's battle between the legendary quarterbacks.

Despite the presence of arguably the two greatest quarterbacks of this generation, it was the defenses who reigned supreme as the Bucs were only able to score three points in the first half, before holding the Packers scoreless in the second half.

Both teams were missing a number of receiving weapons, and taking advantage of his expanded role was Packers wide receiver Romeo Doubs, catching three passes including a touchdown on Green Bay's very first drive.

The Packers' second drive ended in a touchdown as well, with Rodgers finding Allen Lazard for a 12-yard score with eight minutes remaining in the second quarter, and it would be their last points of the night as their next nine drives resulted in seven punts, one fumble and one interception.

Rodgers finished 27 of 35 for 255 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Brady struggled to find any connection with his makeshift receiving core, except with Russell Gage, who caught 12 of his 13 targets for 87 yards and the Bucs' only touchdown to cut the margin to 14-12 with 14 seconds remaining.

But Brady was not able to complete the two-point conversion, and the Buccaneers could not recover the onside kick, ending the game. Brady finished 31 of 42 for 271 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.

Trevor Lawrence announces his arrival with emphatic blowout

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence was called a generational prospect when he was selected first overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, and he began to fulfill that promise as he pounded the Los Angeles Chargers 38-10.

Lawrence completed 28 of 39 passes for 262 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers – completing touchdown passes to Zay Jones, Christian Kirk and Marvin Jones Jr.

As well as getting arguably Lawrence's best showing as a professional, the Jaguars continued to get production from running back James Robinson, posting 100 rushing yards and a touchdown from 17 carries, while also catching three passes for 16 yards.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert came into the game nursing fractured rib cartilage and he struggled throughout, although some late garbage-time action padded his stats to a respectable 25 of 45 for 297 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Frank Reich acknowledged the Indianapolis Colts were "pathetic" in defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he still believes they are "not that far" from "where we need to be".

The Colts required a 17-point fourth-quarter comeback in Week 1 to tie with the Houston Texans, yet they made another woeful start on Sunday.

This time, there was no recovery, as Indianapolis lost 24-0 in an alarming start to the season.

"That s*** was embarrassing," said defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. "We got our a** whooped."

Buckner added the Colts must "grow from this", and head coach Reich still sees a positive path forward.

"As pathetic as that was today, where this is and where we need to be, the distance is not that far," he said. "We have the players and coaches to do it.

"I know that doesn't play in the outside world, and I'm fine with that. We'll take our medicine and I'll take my medicine, and we'll just keep doing what we do."

This is the first time the Colts have failed to win their first two meetings with fellow AFC South opponents since the 2017 season.

That was the last season before Reich was hired as head coach, with Indianapolis finishing with a 4-12 record.

Three turnovers in the fourth quarter propelled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 20-10 victory against the New Orleans Saints in a frustrating game for Tom Brady.

The seven-time Super Bowl champion angrily tossed a tablet on the sidelines as both offences struggled to get going, with just a field goal apiece at the end of the third quarter.

A Jamel Dean interception proved to be the turning point though, setting up Brady for an 11-play drive, which was capped off by a 28-yard pass to Breshad Perriman.

Dean struck again in the following drive for the Saints, intercepting Jameis Winston in back-to-back possessions for the Saints and putting the Buccaneers in a solid position on the opposition 29-yard line.

Brady was unable to capitalise, the Buccaneers instead settling on a field goal to extend their lead. The visitors would hold firm despite Michael Thomas giving the Saints hope with a seven-yard touchdown reception.

Having suffered four consecutive regular season losses to the Saints since joining the Buccaneers, Brady's run came to an end, but it was not a vintage performance for the veteran, who completed 18 of 34 attempts for a total of 190 yards.

Tagovailoa shines in comeback victory

Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens had a fine start against the Miami Dolphins, Devin Duvernay taking the opening kick-off for a 103-yard return and Jackson having three touchdown passes in the first half, as well as a 79-yard rushing touchdown.

When Jackson completed a 75-yard touchdown pass to Rashod Bateman, he became the first quarterback in NFL history to have 75-yard passing and rushing touchdowns in the same game.

Trailing by 21 points heading into the fourth quarter, Tua Tagovailoa threw four touchdown passes to secure a remarkable 42-38 comeback victory – finishing the game with six touchdown passes and 469 yards, completing 36 of 50 attempts.

Jets stun Browns with huge comeback

Victory for the Cleveland Browns at home against the New Yorks Jets would have secured a 2-0 record to start a season for the first time since 1993, and Kevin Stefanski's side looked to be set for a historic win, leading by two scores heading into the final stages.

Nick Chubb had starred with three touchdowns, totalling 87 yards from 17 carries, putting the Browns on the brink, but the Jets responded valiantly to score two touchdowns inside the two-minute warning.

Joe Flacco combined with Corey Davis for a 66-yard touchdown, before the Jets then recovered an onside kick and pulled ahead through a Garrett Wilson touchdown catch to win 31-30.

Matt Ryan will have to make do without one of the top pass-catchers in the NFL in Week 2 after the Indianapolis Colts ruled Michael Pittman Jr. out for Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Pittman, who had previously been listed as questionable, is out with a quadriceps injury.

The Colts will also be without rookie wide receiver Alec Pierce, who is recovering from a concussion.  

Pittman emerged as the Colts' clear top receiver last season with 1,082 yards on 88 catches and six touchdowns.  

In last weekend's season opener, he totalled nine catches for 121 yards and a score. No other Colt had over 50 receiving yards.  

With Pittman out, Indianapolis my lean even more heavily on last year's rushing champion, Jonathan Taylor. Parris Campbell and Nyheim Hines could see extra targets in the passing game.  

The Colts racked up 517 yards of total offense in Week 1 but left Houston with a tie against the Texans.  

Carson Wentz was as inconsistent as ever in his Washington Commanders debut, but he has the support of head coach Ron Rivera.

Wentz, who was traded to Washington from the Indianapolis Colts this offseason, made his first Commanders start in Sunday's 28-22 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The quarterback was typically unpredictable in his play as he threw four touchdown passes and two interceptions.

However, the second of two TD passes for rookie Jahan Dotson put Wentz's new team in a position to win and showed why he has the trust of Rivera.

"I'll take antacids," Rivera said. "We're going to ride with him, we'll go with the good, we'll go with the bad.

"We did a lot of research on him, and we felt comfortable and confident that this is a guy we need around here, a guy that has some courage."

Wentz added: "I've played a lot of football, I've seen the ups and the downs.

"I know from the past trying to do too much in those situations can come back to haunt you. I believed in them and guys made plays when it mattered."

The idea of "any given Sunday" is what makes the NFL so compelling.

Any one team can beat another, and that means at this stage of the season, with the first snap still to be taken, every team can have Super Bowl aspirations.

Sort of.

The Cincinnati Bengals, for example, may have been slightly surprising contenders in 2021, but there remain some teams whose title hopes are so remote as to be non-existent.

For some, this is because they have missed their shot at glory in recent years; for others, the plan is to challenge in seasons to come.

So, this leads us to draw up a preseason tier system, ranking all 32 teams by their Super Bowl windows with the help of Stats Perform AI predictions...

Nowhere near

This is unlikely to be a season to remember for the teams grouped in this category, for a variety of reasons.

The Houston Texans won the AFC South in 2018 and 2019, but the Deshaun Watson saga and two down years have them looking at a rebuild, with the data forecasting just 4.8 wins this year. That at least ranks them ahead of the Atlanta Falcons (3.6 projected wins) and the New York Giants (4.2), while the Texans did gain draft assets in the Watson trade.

The Chicago Bears are the fourth and final team projected to earn fewer than six wins (4.9), with second-year quarterback Justin Fields receiving little help on offense and playing behind an offensive line ranked 31st in pass protection.

Meanwhile, the Washington Commanders rank 31st in terms of skill players – better only than the Falcons – with faith in Carson Wentz long since having diminished. In Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, the Carolina Panthers have two high-draft-pick QBs unlikely to trouble the postseason. The New York Jets are in a similar boat, even if Zach Wilson is still young.

The Detroit Lions might argue they do not deserve to keep such company after a 3-3 finish to last season, but nobody could seriously argue they are title contenders.

Entering contention

If that first group was a mixed bag, so too is the second.

Anyone who has paid any attention to the New England Patriots' preseason would suggest they are very fortunate to be given any hope of success in the near future, but they finished with 10 wins in 2021 – even if that number is projected to shrink to 7.7. Despite a trade for Tyreek Hill, that still ranks the Patriots comfortably ahead of the Miami Dolphins (7.0), although the losing team in their Week 1 meeting will face a long slog of a season.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Philadelphia Eagles are forecast to have 11.9 wins – the second-most in the NFL – after a very strong offseason. But Jalen Hurts, for now, is unproven in the postseason, so Philly fans may have to stay patient.

The San Francisco 49ers are even younger at QB after promoting Trey Lance to a starting role, which explains why the prediction model looks so unfavourably on a team many consider contenders right now. Just 7.1 projected wins speaks to the potentially low floor Lance brings.

NFC West rivals the Arizona Cardinals have to be considered among this group of future hopefuls, with Kyler Murray hugely talented and now committed long term but frustratingly inconsistent, while the Jacksonville Jaguars will hope Trevor Lawrence can follow in the footsteps of the Bengals' Joe Burrow – the number one pick the year before him.

The Los Angeles Chargers, with 9.8 projected wins, have Justin Herbert to lead their charge, while the Cleveland Browns might have been contenders already if not for Watson's suspension, which is enough to limit them to a still strong 9.3-win forecast.

In their prime

The Chargers may have Herbert, but they also have three division rivals who intend to win and intend to win now. Indeed, all four AFC West teams rank in the top half of the league in terms of projected wins, with the Chargers second – behind the Kansas City Chiefs (11.5) and just ahead of the Denver Broncos (9.7) and the Las Vegas Raiders (9.2).

The Chiefs lead the AFC in this regard, although their playoff win over the Buffalo Bills last season came down to a coin flip, and the two are set to be similarly tough to separate this year. Buffalo are down for 11.1 wins.

The two teams coming off a Super Bowl run are of course prominent among the contenders, even if the model has far greater optimism for a Los Angeles Rams repeat than for another Bengals charge. The Rams are backed for a league-leading 12.4 wins and given a 15.3 per cent shot at defending their title, while the Bengals are actually projected to dip below .500 with 8.2 wins.

The Bengals' route to the Super Bowl will be complicated not just by the AFC West and the Bills but also by any return to form for the fit-again Lamar Jackson's Baltimore Ravens, who are counted among nine teams on course for 10 or more wins (10.4).

Also in that group are NFC pair the Dallas Cowboys (11.0) and the Minnesota Vikings (10.9), who may not even be the best teams in their divisions but might be nearing a point when they must seriously challenge or start again, which brings us to...

Last chance saloon

As long as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are the QBs for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Green Bay Packers, those teams are in with a chance. The question is how long that will remain the case.

Brady is 45, briefly retired this offseason and then missed a chunk of the preseason. Rodgers is 38, has repeatedly been linked with a move away from Green Bay and lost top target Davante Adams ahead of the new season. Still, the Buccaneers rank eighth for projected wins (10.7), with the Packers up in third (11.5).

They are not the only ageing teams in the NFL, however.

The Indianapolis Colts hope they have upgraded in moving from Wentz to Matt Ryan, yet the former MVP is now 37 and last played in the postseason in 2017 – when Wentz's Eagles took the title.

Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill is a little younger at 34, but of greater concern would be Derrick Henry's durability after the injury that limited to eight games last regular season. The Titans need to make the most of any seasons they have left of the superstar running back going at full tilt.

Missed their chance

Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees won Super Bowls with the Seattle Seahawks, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New Orleans Saints respectively, but with all three having now moved on, it is difficult to see those teams plotting a path to the title.

For the Seahawks and the Steelers, this will be their first year without their stalwart QBs, even if things had already gone stale in 2021. Wilson dipped below the .500 mark for a season for the first time in his career, while Pittsburgh were attempting to stay competitive in spite of Roethlisberger rather than because of him.

Still, with both gone – Wilson to Denver and Roethlisberger to retirement – there is a void under center that has not been suitably filled. Seattle also rank 32nd in pass protection, likely leaving Geno Smith hopelessly exposed.

The Saints have had another 12 months to come to terms with Brees' exit, albeit they spent it juggling Jameis Winston, Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill at QB. Winston's season-ending injury doomed the Saints' hopes of contention last year, and New Orleans' outlook for 9.5 wins with the entertaining but erratic former number one pick is at least far more positive than that of the Seahawks (6.2) or the Steelers (7.0).

Regardless, each of these three teams have provided an example in how not to do succession planning. They all could have won additional honours with their departed veterans and now face long waits for further title tilts.

The time is almost upon us. When that first ball is kicked at the start of the Los Angeles Rams' opener against the Buffalo Bills on Thursday, we will be on our way to yet another enthralling season of NFL action.

And there are few better reasons to get excited at the beginning of a new campaign than the promise of a good old redemption story.

These tales may not necessarily revolve around someone who has suffered a fall from grace, though; in some cases, it might just be someone who has taken a smidge longer than expected to blossom.

So, before the thunder and lightning of a new NFL season, Stats Perform has taken a look at five men who could have a touch more motivation to show everything they have to offer in 2022.

Baker Mayfield – Carolina Panthers

Mayfield perhaps leaps out as the most obvious choice.

Big things were expected of the quarterback when he was the number one pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, charged with leading a flailing 0-16 Cleveland Browns.

There were moments of promise in his four years in Cleveland, throwing 27 touchdowns in 14 games in his first season, and in 2020 he played a big part in getting the Browns to the playoffs, unthinkable when he came through the door.

However, in 2021, Mayfield threw just 18 TD passes, the worst season of his career, as a Browns team who were starting to feel like they had outgrown him finished 8-9.

Of quarterbacks to have more than 300 passing attempts, only Sam Darnold (59.9), Trevor Lawrence (59.6) and Zach Wilson (55.6) had a lower pass completion percentage than his 60.5.

After a lot of uncertainty, he finally found a new home after being traded to the Panthers, who are in desperate need of a quality QB after the Darnold experiment failed last year.

It is a risk for both parties, and both need it to work, but you could also argue it could not get much worse for either.

Gabe Davis – Buffalo Bills

There had not been any immediately obvious signs that Davis was going to be a breakout star for the Bills for most of his first two seasons.

Seven TDs in his rookie year – and none in the playoffs from only four catches – were followed by just six in the 2021 regular season.

However, thanks to his explosive performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in last season's playoffs, plenty are excited about what could come from Davis and the much-fancied Bills in 2022.

His four TDs and 201 yards from eight receptions – for an average of 25.1 yards – were still not enough as the Chiefs ultimately won the AFC Divisional Round encounter in overtime, but Davis emerged as a potential new star.

By the end of the campaign, no player had recorded over 1,000 burn yards – yards in situations where a receiver 'wins' his matchup against a defender – from fewer receptions (45) than Davis.

But was this a one-off, or can Davis do it all over again? We will soon find out.

Trevor Lawrence – Jacksonville Jaguars

Lawrence could end up being a very similar story to Mayfield. He was also the number one pick for a team with little else going for it.

In his rookie year, Lawrence threw for 12 TDs, but his poor pass completion percentage was set out above.

He remained a busy man regardless, with only six QBs making more than his 602 pass attempts, but the Jaguars could only manage three wins, two more than in 2020.

Whether it was sloppy throwing or feeling the need to take risks with little assistance, Lawrence threw 26 pickable passes, with only four QBs who made over 300 pass attempts seeing a worse pickable pass percentage than his 4.59 per cent (Jimmy Garoppolo – 4.82, Taylor Heinicke – 5.04, Zach Wilson – 5.21, Davis Mills – 5.56).

There is undoubted talent there, hence the hype when he was picked up by Jacksonville in 2021, and it is surely just a case of Lawrence having more help and getting more experience. We will perhaps see this season.

Matthew Stafford – LA Rams

Yes, it's another quarterback, but with a twist. This one just won the Super Bowl, after all.

It may seem strange given the ring he has on his finger, but the situation with Stafford's elbow means he must prove himself all over again.

In terms of numbers, the Rams QB has now established himself among the elite. Stafford ranks in the top 12 all-time in completions (11th, 4,302), passing yards (12th, 49,995), passing yards per game (sixth, 274.7), touchdown passes (12th, 323) and game-winning drives (seventh, 42).

Crucially, he led the team to Super Bowl success last year, too.

But the Rams' hopes of a repeat are pinned on Stafford being fit enough to perform all year long, and there are some worrying noises around an elbow issue heading into the year.

Should Stafford shake off those concerns and combine with Cooper Kupp for another outstanding season – and perhaps another ring – nobody could possibly doubt his legacy.

Kliff Kingsbury – Arizona Cardinals

It is not just players who have something to prove, but coaches, too – and you could argue Kingsbury does more than most.

While undoubtedly a talented coach, Kingsbury is building a reputation as someone who comes up with effective plays to start a season but is less able to adjust to keep ahead of the competition once they figure it out.

After winning their first seven games, the Cardinals raced out to a sensational 10-2 start last season, well ahead of projected results, only to stumble to 11-6 after losing four of their last five in the regular season, before being humbled 34-11 by the Rams in their first postseason game.

The excellent start cannot be ignored, but neither can the fact that it made nine seasons in a row in which a team led by Kingsbury have had a worse second half of the season than the first.

Despite being without DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games due to suspension, Kingsbury has an exciting team in Arizona and it would be no surprise to see them start strongly again.

They just need to figure out a way to maintain it this time.

Deshaun Watson "understands there's work to do" following his Cleveland Browns preseason debut, according to head coach Kevin Stefanski.

Watson has not played a competitive game since January 2021 and is set to see that wait extended at least into October.

The Browns quarterback is facing a six-game suspension following a disciplinary hearing, although the NFL has appealed for a longer ban after sexual assault and misconduct allegations.

Watson, who faced 24 civil lawsuits, was not charged by two grand juries and has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, but he apologised "to all of the women that I have impacted" ahead of Friday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

When the game got underway, Watson was clearly rusty, with his first pass in a Browns uniform an awful overthrow.

Although the Browns won 24-13 – having trailed 13-0 – Stefanski acknowledged Watson's debut might not have gone exactly as he planned, but the coach was asked if the uncertainty around his suspension had contributed to the shaky performance and replied: "I don't think so, I don't."

Stefanski said: "I think he probably wants some throws back.

"Obviously playing football for the first time in a while, it was important for him to get out there, with his team-mates, in this scheme, hearing a different voice in the helmet, those kind of things.

"I'm sure he had the butterflies and the jitters early, but I think he understands there's work to do."

While Watson's status has been unclear for some time, Stefanski explained the team had been working towards giving him his bow in preseason.

"It's been something we've been talking about throughout the last months and weeks, trying to figure out what the best path forward was not just for our quarterbacks but for our entire team," he said.

"We just thought getting him some time out there in a game setting made sense in this preseason."

The Green Bay Packers' first regular-season game outside of the United States will see them face the New York Giants.

It was confirmed in February that reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers and Co. would play in London for the first time.

That game will take place at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on October 9, with the Packers taking on a historic NFC foe in Week 5.

The Giants won the inaugural London game at Wembley in 2007, defeating the Miami Dolphins, and beat the Los Angeles Rams at Twickenham in 2016.

Tottenham will also play host to a clash between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints on October 2.

Both the Vikings and Saints have played and won twice in London, New Orleans shutting out the Miami Dolphins on their last appearance in 2017.

The sole Wembley game will see new Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson face Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars at England's national stadium on October 30.

The Jacksonville Jaguars took a significant gamble with the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, using that selection on Georgia edge rusher Travon Walker.

Walker usurped Aidan Hutchinson as the favourite to go number one overall late in the pre-draft process.

And the Jaguars, picking number one overall for the second successive year after taking Trevor Lawrence first in 2021, proved the noise around Walker correct by backing him to develop into a dominant pass rusher at the next level.

General manager Trent Baalke made that move despite Walker finishing his college career with the Bulldogs with just 9.5 sacks, six of those coming in a final season that saw Georgia win the National Championship.

Walker registered 31 pressures on 259 pass-rush snaps for a pressure rate of just 12 per cent, according to Stats Perform data.

Those numbers were in stark contrast to Michigan star Hutchinson, who had a pressure rate of 30.8 per cent in 2021.

However, the Jaguars will be hoping his outstanding athletic traits translate to vastly improved production in the pros.

Though his Georgia defensive line mate Jordan Davis stole the show at the Combine with his remarkable 40-yard dash, Walker's pre-draft workout was exceptional.

Measuring at 6ft 5in and 272 pounds, Walker ran the 40 in 4.51 seconds, putting him in the 98th percentile for defensive ends. His 10-yard split of 1.62 seconds placed him in the 70th percentile.

Walker's arm length (35 and a half inches), hand size (10 and three-quarter inches) and wingspan of over seven feet (84 and a quarter inches) all measured in the 95th percentile for his position.

In the vertical jump and broad jump, which gauge lower-body explosiveness, Walker produced efforts to put him 80th and 87th percentile respectively. In the three-cone drill, used for edge players as an examination of their flexibility to turn the corner and beat an offensive tackle to the outside, Walker posted a time of 6.89 seconds, good enough for the 93rd percentile.

Picking him first overall is a bet on athletic ability over production. It is a massive risk and, as the Jags look to build around a generational quarterback talent in Lawrence, it is one they cannot afford to have backfire.

The Jacksonville Jaguars took a significant gamble with the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, using that selection on Georgia edge rusher Travon Walker.

Walker usurped Aidan Hutchinson as the favourite to go number one overall late in the pre-draft process.

And the Jaguars, picking number one overall for the second successive year after taking Trevor Lawrence first in 2021, proved the noise around Walker correct by backing him to develop into a dominant pass rusher at the next level.

General manager Trent Baalke made that move despite Walker finishing his college career with the Bulldogs with just 9.5 sacks, six of those coming in a final season that saw Georgia win the National Championship.

Walker registered 31 pressures on 259 pass-rush snaps for a pressure rate of just 12 per cent, according to Stats Perform data.

Those numbers were in stark contrast to Michigan star Hutchinson, who had a pressure rate of 30.8 per cent in 2021.

However, the Jaguars will be hoping his outstanding athletic traits translate to vastly improved production in the pros.

Though his Georgia defensive line mate Jordan Davis stole the show at the Combine with his remarkable 40-yard dash, Walker's pre-draft workout was exceptional.

Measuring at 6ft 5in and 272 pounds, Walker ran the 40 in 4.51 seconds, putting him in the 98th percentile for defensive ends. His 10-yard split of 1.62 seconds placed him in the 70th percentile.

Walker's arm length (35 and a half inches), hand size (10 and three-quarter inches) and wingspan of over seven feet (84 and a quarter inches) all measured in the 95th percentile for his position.

In the vertical jump and broad jump, which gauge lower-body explosiveness, Walker produced efforts to put him 80th and 87th percentile respectively. In the three-cone drill, used for edge players as an examination of their flexibility to turn the corner and beat an offensive tackle to the outside, Walker posted a time of 6.89 seconds, good enough for the 93rd percentile.

Picking him first overall is a bet on athletic ability over production. It is a massive risk and, as the Jags look to build around a generational quarterback talent in Lawrence, it is one they cannot afford to have backfire.

It has been five years since a defensive lineman was last taken first overall in the NFL Draft.

Back in 2017, Myles Garrett's name had been written in pen next to the number one slot for a long time before the Cleveland Browns officially gave him the distinction of being the first player off the board.

Garrett was seen as a can't-miss prospect, and he has lived up to that billing, with his 361 career quarterback pressures the fourth-most in the NFL since 2017.

All the signs are pointing to an edge rusher going first overall again in 2022. However, while Garrett was a sure thing, the Jacksonville Jaguars appear set to select a player who is anything but.

Talk of Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux going number one has given way to the belief Georgia's Travon Walker will be hearing his name called first in a class filled with more divisive prospects than clear-cut stars.

Walker has emerged as the favourite despite finishing his college career with Georgia, which ended with the Bulldogs winning the National Championship, with just 9.5 sacks.

His stock has risen sharply in the wake of stunning athletic performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, yet given his mediocre production compared to his contemporaries in the edge class and the role he played for Georgia, selecting Walker would represent a substantial gamble by the Jags.

A year on from selecting Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick, it is a gamble Jacksonville cannot afford to backfire.

Walker's production woes

Any conversation about Walker must begin by addressing the elephant in the room: the production, or lack thereof.

Walker had 3.5 sacks over his first two seasons before displaying a marked improvement in that regard as Georgia's dominant defense laid the foundation for their National title.

Indeed, he registered six sacks, 17th among all defenders in the SEC, yet his pressure numbers are illustrative of a player who failed to impact the quarterback on a consistent basis.

Walker registered 31 pressures on 259 pass-rush snaps for a pressure rate of just 12 per cent, which is in stark contrast to the player he appears to have usurped as the number one pick, Michigan star Hutchinson, who had a pressure rate of 30.8 per cent in 2021.

Only 16 of Walker's pressures involved him beating a pass blocker. Hutchinson beat a pass protector on 72 of his 85 quarterback pressures.

Yet the paucity of pass rush production is in part a reflection of how Walker was utilised by the Bulldogs.

Though Walker played 96 more snaps as a pass rusher than a run defender, his goal in attacking pass protectors was not always to get to the quarterback but to soak up attention from the offensive line and open rush lanes for second-level defenders.

As a result, teams evaluating Walker only saw flashes of his potential as a pass rusher, but it is the combination of those flashes and his astounding athletic profile that appears to have enticed the Jaguars into taking a significant risk.

Crushing the Combine

Though his Georgia defensive line mate Jordan Davis stole the show at the Combine with his remarkable performance in the 40-yard dash, Walker's pre-draft workout stands among the finest in NFL history.

Measuring at 6ft 5in and 272 pounds, Walker tore down the track in 4.51 seconds, putting him in the 98th percentile for defensive ends. His 10-yard split of 1.62 seconds was not quite as impressive but was still good enough for the 70th percentile.

Walker's arm length (35 and a half inches), hand size (10 and three-quarter inches) and wingspan of over seven feet (84 and a quarter inches) all measured in the 95th percentile for his position.

In the vertical jump and broad jump, which gauge lower-body explosiveness, Walker was in the 80th and 87th percentile respectively. In the three-cone drill, used for edge players as an assessment of their flexibility to turn the corner and beat an offensive tackle to the outside, Walker posted a time of 6.89 seconds that put him in the 93rd percentile.

Walker's testing suggests he has the physical skill set to blossom into an explosive and bendy pass rusher whose arm length should allow him to win hand fights with offensive linemen, with half the battle for pass rushers being the ability to make contact before the pass protector.

Evidence of his potential to develop into that player was sporadic during his college career, but the glimpses of that promise were undoubtedly tantalising.

A home-run swing

With Georgia frequently mixing up their defensive fronts, Walker played in a variety of roles. He was used as a defensive end in both 4-3 and 3-4 fronts and also played as a 3-technique defensive tackle lined up on the outside shoulder of the guard.

As such, it is difficult to know what Walker's best position is, though his versatility is undoubtedly part of his appeal.

Walker's athleticism clearly makes him a mismatch problem for guards when pass rushing from the inside. He had 13 pressures from the defensive tackle spot, with nine of those seeing him beat a pass protector, his quickness off the snap extremely tough for interior offensive linemen to react to and posing them significant issues when Walker was used in a stunt by the Georgia defensive line.

That same burst has facilitated his – albeit limited – success on edge. Though he needs to do a better job of translating his speed to power, when he does do so and gets his long arms into the pads of blockers, he can produce an impressive bull rush to help collapse the pocket.

On the top of that, Walker has fleetingly displayed the ability to get around the corner and flatten to the quarterback, with the acceleration he demonstrated on the 40 track showing up in the closing speed he displays when he has a path into the backfield and an opportunity to force a negative play.

Such closing speed can also be a substantial asset in the run game, in which Walker's arm length and power in his hands come into play in helping him disengage from blocks, freeing him to hunt the ball carrier.

Defending the run was certainly Walker's strength statistically last season, with only UAB's Alex Wright (18.7 per cent) and Hutchinson (17.9 per cent) recording a better run disruption rate among edge rushers than Walker's 12.9 per cent.

Of course, excelling as a run defender is a long way from being enough to justify a number one overall selection and, to make such a decision, the Jaguars must believe they can harness the untapped pass rush potential and refine a limited set of moves, with the rip move and the push-pull the only two with which Walker has enjoyed anything resembling consistent success.

The Jaguars do have a highly experienced defensive line coach who would be tasked with developing Walker. Brentson Buckner has worked with the likes of Chandler Jones and Jason Pierre-Paul during his career and was the defensive line coach for the then Oakland Raiders in 2019 when Maxx Crosby had 10 sacks as a rookie fourth-round pick.

Crosby, however, did not have the massive burden of expectation of being the number one overall pick.

Too often the Jaguars have seen top-five picks go to waste. Between 2012 and 2017 they picked in the top five for six consecutive drafts and only one of those selections, now Los Angeles Rams star Jalen Ramsey, even made a Pro Bowl.

In an era that will be defined by whether they take advantage of the gift of having Lawrence fall into their lap with the top overall pick last year, they cannot afford to miss on premium draft picks.

By likely taking Walker over Hutchinson, the Jags are going with the home-run swing over the prospect most believe to be a pro-ready day-one contributor. If they are to turn their fortunes around and contend with Lawrence, that swing must make contact.

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