Home Films Will Quay Walker live up to first-round selection?

Will Quay Walker live up to first-round selection?

2
0

The Green Bay Packers did something they hadn’t done in 16 years with their first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft: select an off-ball linebacker.

Quay Walker became the first inside linebacker since AJ Hawk to be selected by the Packers in the first round. Hawk was a fifth overall pick while Walker was 22nd, but hopefully the former Georgia Bulldog will have even more success.

Green Bay wants its linebackers to be long and fast, which is exactly what Walker is. He’s 6-foot-4, weighs 240 pounds, and ran 4.52 on the reconnaissance combine. His size and speed compare favorably to De’Vondre Campbell, who just signed a deal worth $50 million to remain a Packer for the next five seasons. Green Bay hopes two athletic inside linebackers will make their defense even more tenacious.

In four seasons at Georgia, Walker only started a season and a half. He sat behind a loaded group of linebackers his first two years before seeing an increased role as a junior. Last season, Walker started all 15 games for one of the best defenses in the nation, finishing with 65 tackles, as well as 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 25 QB pressures and three pass breakups.

Walker is a lot like Campbell in that he can impact the game in different ways. Campbell was extremely disruptive in 2021, which led to his first All-Pro selection. After Campbell’s breakout season and a resurgence of the Packers linebacker corps, the hope is that Walker will bring a similar skill set while strengthening the position for seasons to come.

To get a better idea of ​​what Green Bay saw in Walker, let’s dive into some of his films from his junior and senior seasons. By the end, we’ll know what Walker brings to the table and what he needs to work on to live up to his first-round hype.

Let’s start.

Strengths

Let’s talk about two of Walker’s best traits first: reach and tackle. Walker is a true sideline-to-sideline linebacker who rarely misses tackles. Pro Football Focus has only had seven missed tackles in his college career. For the most part, he is quick to diagnose and will take effective angles with the ball. As soon as it finds the bullet, its closing speed is off the charts as it looks like a homing missile when tracking.

Walker tested in the 66th percentile for his short shuttle, which is slightly above average. However, this game really does his lateral mobility justice. Walker stops in no time and then makes an impressive tackle. It’s rare to see a guy that size move so fluidly.

There are definitely some things Walker can clean up when it comes to tackling, but for the most part he’s rock solid. He can do a better job with his pad level and getting his head through, but the fact that he does such a good job following the hip to stop a guy like Najee Harris in his tracks is a good sign.

Here’s another example of Walker’s playing strength. This is one of the most impressive clips I’ve found of Georgia’s ILB. Evan Neal was the seventh overall pick by the New York Giants, and Walker tosses him aside like he’s taking out the trash. Walker needs to get better at breaking blocks, but it shows he’s more than capable.

The Packers will be able to play a lot more nickel at two linebackers with Walker and Campbell. Campbell can hold his own cover, and Walker can also do this when asked to play man-to-man. He is quick to break the ball and even shows strong ball skills to shoot his hand to break the hold. By the way, that game was against Tennessee Titans first-round pick Treylon Burks.

Walker will be able to cover big slot receivers, tight ends, and most running backs to the next level. He is truly a natural mover in man cover thanks to his route recognition and his ability to change direction. I think Walker will be very comfortable with the corresponding routes and the crackdown on things underneath.

Before continuing, I wanted to show two more clips of what impresses me the most about Walker. Its engine and competitive tenacity are insane. In the first game, he nearly chased away Alabama burner Jameson Williams, the Detroit Lions’ 12th overall pick. Then he’s the first guy there on a bubble screen. I think Packers fans will be most impressed with Walker’s athleticism.

Weaknesses

Walker has a quick trigger but will need to clean up missteps. He’s obviously very athletic, it’s just that his instincts aren’t there yet. Over time, his treatment should improve, and missteps will be eliminated. Yet, looking at this game, he shows impressive range and makes the save for minimal gain.

We saw earlier how Walker came out of a block from one of the best tackles in the draft. However, this is something he needs to do more regularly. Too often it will get stuck in a block and go out of its way. Walker has the strength and game length to be a better block kicker; he just needs to improve/speed up his technique.

As explosive as Walker is, you’d think he’d be a better blitzer. Georgia did a good job of mixing up the looks to try and put pressure on the quarterback from Walker, but he didn’t take advantage of it as much as he should. Instead, he was basically a battering ram trying to rush against blocks without having a set plan. Most of the time, his attempt was easily stopped. If Walker can develop at least a few moves he can implement effectively, Green Bay’s defense will benefit from another terrific passing thrower. Otherwise, he won’t add much as a blitzer and is better off spying on the quarterback.

Don’t ask Walker to play man against sneaky road runners in the slot. The end result will not be pretty.

I’d like to dig deeper into Walker’s covering ability. It’s a very important aspect of the modern linebacker and allows Campbell to play all three downs. Walker can handle it in the man, but the Zone is a whole different story. His vision is sporadic when not tasked with watching a guy and will lead to opening throwing lanes for the quarterback. He will need to be trained or the opposing offenses will try to go after Walker.

Watch how easily Walker is handled by the quarterback. He can probably move Walker wherever he wants to deliver the ball to the desired location. The Packers will have to stress Walker’s responsibilities in the zone. For now, it’s just a matter of where to be.

Conclusion

After watching the movie, I can honestly say that I’m not as excited about the choice as when it was first announced. Walker has plenty of desirable traits, but there are plenty of signs that show inexperience. Luckily, almost all of his weaknesses are things he can improve on, and Campbell’s presence will certainly help him. Walker should watch and learn from Campbell as much as possible to improve his football IQ and become a better all-around player.

During his rookie season, expect to see Walker fly around the field on Sunday, but also expect to see some stunning plays that will have you wondering why the Packers didn’t wait to sign a linebacker until second. or third round. It looks like they expect Walker to pull it all together and become the next Campbell before his contract expires. If Walker can become an All-Pro or Pro Bowl linebacker who can defend the run and cover at a high level, using a first-round pick will have been worth it.