Earlier this week, Georgia defensive end Travon Walker passed Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson as the betting favorite for the No. 1 selection in the 2022 National Football League draft, which starts Thursday in Las Vegas.
Walker was often overlooked on a suffocating defense that more than did its share last season in delivering the Bulldogs their first national championship since 1980. The 6-foot-5, 272-pounder from Thomaston, Georgia, tied for 10th on the team with 37 tackles and tied for fourth with 7.5 tackles for loss.
Yet when the NFL combine in Indianapolis rolled around in early March, Walker ran the 40-yard dash in a sizzling 4.51 seconds and had a vertical jump of 35.5 inches.
"He was disruptive at Georgia, but the finishing numbers weren't there," longtime ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said on a recent conference call. "You look at his numbers compared to Myles Garrett, (Jadeveon) Clowney and the (Joey and Nick) Bosa brothers, and it's not even close. You're betting on his talent, which is awesome."
Should Walker be taken as the No. 1 pick, it would result in Georgia becoming the first Southeastern Conference program with five top overall selections. Current Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford was Georgia's fourth No. 1 pick when he was taken by the Detroit Lions in 2009, but Auburn matched Georgia's total when Cam Newton, the NFL's 2015 MVP with the Carolina Panthers, went first overall in 2011.
A fifth No. 1 overall selection by Georgia would equal Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Southern California for the most among college football programs.
Here are the top overall NFL draft selections from every current SEC school:
ALABAMA — Halfback Harry Gilmer (1948 draft) was the No. 1 pick.
ARKANSAS — Quarterback Lamar McHan (1954) was the No. 2 pick.
AUBURN — Running back Tucker Frederickson (1965), running back Bo Jackson (1986), outside linebacker Aundray Bruce (1988) and quarterback Cam Newton (2011) were No. 1 picks.
FLORIDA — Halfback Paul Duhart (1945) was the No. 2 pick.
GEORGIA — Halfback Frank Sinkwich (1943), halfback Charley Trippi (1945), end Harry Babcock (1953) and quarterback Matthew Stafford (2009) were No. 1 picks.
KENTUCKY — Quarterback Tim Couch (1999) was the No. 1 pick.
LSU — Running back Billy Cannon (1960), quarterback Jamarcus Russell (2007) and quarterback Joe Burrow (2020) were No. 1 picks.
OLE MISS — Quarterback Eli Manning (2004) was the No. 1 pick.
MISSISSIPPI STATE — Outside linebacker Johnie Cooks (1982) was the No. 2 pick.
MISSOURI — Offensive tackle Russ Washington (1968) and defensive end Justin Smith (2001) were No. 4 picks.
SOUTH CAROLINA — Running back George Rogers (1981) and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (2014) were No. 1 picks.
TENNESSEE — Halfback George Cafego (1940) and quarterback Peyton Manning (1998) were No. 1 picks.
TEXAS A&M — Defensive end Myles Garrett (2017) was the No. 1 pick.
VANDERBILT — Quarterback Bill Wade (1952) was the No. 1 pick.
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