Quay Walker | Georgia 6’4” 241 lbs. | 5/8/2000 (Age 21)
Jaquavian “Quay” Walker was drafted with the 22nd pick of the first round by the Green Bay Packers, becoming the first linebacker and the 22nd overall player selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Walker was a four-star recruit from Cordele, Georgia, and ESPN’s second-ranked recruit at his position. He opted to play for his home-state team, the Georgia Bulldogs, where he took time to develop and emerge. After three years in Athens as a rotational piece, he established himself as a starter for UGa’s 2022 national championship defense. He started all 15 games, collecting 67 tackles including 5.5 for loss and 1.5 QB sacks along with three passes defensed and a fumble recovery.
Walker has both plus athleticism and superior size for an inside linebacker in today’s NFL. The first question most observers wonder is how Walker fits in the passing game. The size points to effective blitzing and the athleticism suggest he could operate well in space; however, Walker’s film does not demonstrate pro-level effectiveness in either facet. Walker was a good college linebacker with sound processing skills but was overshadowed by running mate Nakobe Dean at Georgia.
At 6’ 4” 241 lbs., Walker has the frame of a classic NFL linebacker that operated in small spaces and plugged gaps. His testing results suggest he could play in space like a modern coverage ‘backer. He checked in with a 40-yard dash time of 4.52 seconds, a three-cone time of 6.89 seconds, and a 10’ 2” broad jump. With a Relative Athletic Score of 9.63 out of 10, Walker ranked ninth in a strong class of potential NFL-caliber linebackers.
Rapid Reaction to Draft Capital: Excellent
Rapid Reaction to Landing Spot: Very Good
Walker was selected with the 22nd-overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers.
The DFF IDP team couldn’t get to this profile on Thursday night. It was best that this writer slept on his initial reaction to the pick. It was puzzling to watch the Packers stay and pick at 22 after wide receivers and offensive guards that must have been on their draft board ahead of Walker were drafted earlier. Secondly, the Packers’ defensive identity has been one of a preference for dime sub-packages for many years. The last linebacker on which the franchise used such a high pick was AJ Hawk in 2006.
The Packers’ selection of DT Devonte Wyatt at pick #28 and GM Brian Gutekunst’s Thursday night press conference provided insights into the choice of Walker at #22. The general manager explained that defensive coordinator Joe Barry wants to be less reliant on rotations to execute his defense. The team would prefer a linebacker competent in all phases that would open up the playbook. This versatility would improve the defense’s effectiveness against no-huddle offenses designed to prevent defensive substitutions.
Both first-round selections suggest to this writer a desire to attack gaps more often as a defense. That contrasts with the read-and-react identity the Packers’ defense has shown seemingly since Dom Capers led the team two decades ago.
All-Pro linebacker De’Vondre Campbell signed a five-year, $50M contract this spring, so the lead role inside is occupied for the foreseeable future. The spot next to Campbell has little competition for Walker. The rookie’s playing time will be limited only by his own development. If he can improve in pass defense such that Joe Barry doesn’t feel compelled to replace him in-game with a defensive back, Walker could emerge as a weekly LB3.
Walker should be selected only as a fourth or fifth linebacker in seasonal IDP leagues. That’s a disappointment for a first-round pick at the linebacker position; however, fantasy gamers might be tempted to leave him off their draft boards due to their preconceptions about the Green Bay defense. We must not overcorrect for what seems a reach by Green Bay. Walker should be dynasty gamers’ clear LB2 behind Devin Lloyd, analysts’ consensus top off-ball linebacker.
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