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2022 NFL Draft: Marquee rookies who need a ‘redshirt’ year, with Travon Walker and Trevor Penning leading way

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If rookies don’t produce almost instantly in today’s game, they run the risk of being characterized as busts or players who won’t ever succeed in the NFL. But patience is not completely dead! Not every first-year pro is the same. Some, honestly, just need a “redshirt” season.

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Below are the players picked in either the first or second round of the 2022 NFL Draft who are most in need of a “redshirt” year of some sort before they should be relied upon in key roles by the team that picked them.

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Disclaimer: The term “redshirt” isn’t exactly meant to have the same definition as it does it college — a player sitting out an entire season. For a few of these players could be the case. For others, “redshirt” is simply meant to imply they should have a very limited on-field role in Year 1 as they fine-tune their skills and/or add strength in an NFL weight room.

Travon Walker, EDGE, Jaguars

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Redshirt need: Significant
Likelihood of redshirt: Not happening

Yes, I truly believe, in an ideal, football-playing world, the No. 1 overall pick would get redshirted. Preposterous, I know. But it’s true. And the rationale can actually be drawn from the defense of Walker during the predraft process being centered around Georgia’s scheme and what it asked of its defensive linemen.

Walker wasn’t asked to frequently fly upfield, he spent much of his college career two-gapping and reacting to what he saw instead of attacking the backfield. That was part of why he wasn’t anywhere remotely close to as productive as most no. 1 overall selections. In Jacksonville, they’re going to want Walker to create havoc as a pass-rusher. Even if the Jaguars want him to occupy blockers more, the greatest impact edge rushers make on the NFL game today is, of course, when they’re winning one-on-one battles on the perimeter of the line and pressing the quarterback.

And attacking will be relatively “new” to Walker. Don’t be surprised when he’s not very good at it right away, despite his immense physical traits and intimidating size. There’s a greater likelihood of Jacksonville rehiring Urban Meyer than Walker getting any type of redshirt after being the controversial No. 1 overall pick. Due to that, I expect a slow start for the former Georgia star.

Trevor Penning

Redshirt need: Significant
Likelihood of redshirt: Minimal

Overly heavy diets and countless hours in the weight room won’t be necessary for Penning. The dude has legitimate NFL offensive tackle size and strength — and I can’t stress how vital that is. He’ll be fine in those “power” situations at the point of attack on Sundays. On film, he’s a little on the heavy-footed side. If anything, dropping some weight to get leaner wouldn’t be the worst idea for the former Northern Iowa standout.

Because for as many times as he’ll face 6-foot-5, 270-pound power rusher who looks like a Greek god, Penning will also see the 6-3, 250-pound speed rusher who turns the corner like a stock car . Those types give Penning problems. And any advanced rusher — most in the NFL are — will give Penning problems initially. For evidence on this, watch his outing against Iowa State’s Will McDonald last season. It wasn’t pretty for Penning. But, because Penning was selected in Round 1, specifically to fill the roster crater left by Terron Armstead signing with the Dolphins, there’s essentially no chance Penning sits out of the gate or is slowly brought along into his full-time role.

Quay Walker, LB, Packers

Redshirt need: Moderate
Likelihood of redshirt: Minimal

Walker will not be bad right away in Green Bay. He’s long, fast, rarely misses a tackle, and the Packers have built a rather formidable defensive line in front of him. Inside linebackers in Green Bay accumulate tackles like local residences accumulate Spotted Cow for their fridges.

However, Walker does not take on/shed blocks nearly as well as his sizable frame indicates, and most importantly, he’s not a savvy, twitched-up coverage defender. There’s not much more offensive coordinators love when game-planning than a young, inexperienced linebacker. As the No. 22 overall pick, Walker will be instantly inserted into the starting lineup next to similarly sized De’Vondre Campbell, who’s fresh off an All-Pro season. It will take time for Walker to come even close to being as impactful on three-downs as his new linebacker mate.

Tyler Smith

Redshirt need: Moderate
Likelihood of redshirt: Moderate

Smith is a long, nasty, dancing bear on the field. And he loves giving bear hugs to defenders at the line of scrimmage or at the second level. Bear hugs off the field — nice. Bear hugs on the field — draw holding penalties.

It’s because of Smith’s tendency to get his arms wide that led to him being named in this article. He too can get a bit overzealous and out of control in space when attempting to locate those pesky linebackers much smaller than him. That over-aggression could be reined in too, which normally doesn’t happen overnight in the NFL.

With do-everything blocker Connor McGovern on the roster and legend Zack Martin at right guard, there’s a legitimate chance Smith doesn’t see the field or start early in his career with the Cowboys. For his long-term development, that’d be for the better.

Drake Jackson

Redshirt need: Minimal
Likelihood of redshirt: Significant

It’s a real challenge to peg Jackson from a physical perspective. After appearing somewhat skinny on film at USC, then weighing in at 254 at the NFL combine, he was a rocked-up 273 pounds at the USC Pro Day. And he’s not even 6-3. That’s a Justin Houston-esque body type.

On film, Jackson needed to get noticeably stronger at the point of attack. Does his weight gain mean he’s done that? We won’t know until he straps on the pads this summer. His burst/bend combination was among the most tantalizing in the class at the edge rusher spot. His pass-rush move arsenal? Not so much. Essentially non-existent. It must be built for him to succeed at the next level.

San Francisco has Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Kemoko Turay, Jordan Willis and edge rusher hybrids Charles Omenihu and Samson Ebukam on the roster right now. That collection of rushers will make for a captivating training camp competition, and it also means Jackson will have his work cut out for him to be a noticeable contribution early in his pro career.



Source: www.cbssports.com

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