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Which Jaguars Defensive Newcomer Is the Most Important in 2022?

Is it Travon Walker, Devin Lloyd or one of the team's big free agent additions?

Few teams spent as much money as the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason. Not even just in this year's free agency cycle alone, with the Jaguars' spending spree this ranking among the most guaranteed money spent by any team in an offseason in NFL history.

Now, the Jaguars will need to see results follow their big-money process. A year after finishing 3-14, the Jaguars made sure they were aggressive to raise both the floor and the ceiling of their roster, hoping that big-name additions on offense and defense could push the Jaguars past the depths of losing they have faced for much of the last decade.

But which newcomers are the most important and which ones do the Jaguars need to simply produce no matter what? That is a key question after this year's spending spree and seven-player draft. To find the answer, we will take a look at all three units to determine who the most important newcomers on the roster are.

With the Jaguars pouring some of their most valuable resources of the 2022 season into the defense, there will be some high expectations put on the unit. But which of the key newcomers is the most important entering the season? 

EDGE Travon Walker

The No. 1 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft, the expectations for Travon Walker are high before he even steps onto the field. While he may have earned the label of a raw pass-rusher as a prospect, there will be little patience when it comes to Walker and his ability to make an impact; the No. 1 pick in any draft is expected to be an instant starter and playmaker, and Walker is no different.

Walker will get his chance to make that impact, slotting in as a starting outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell's 3-4 scheme. Walker will be moved around at times but will spend most of his snaps in a two-point stance on the edge, being asked to set a tough edge against the run while also impacting the passer. Jacksonville has failed to generate much pressure opposite Allen over the last two years, so Walker being able to step in and immediately offer some pass-rush value would be massive for the Jaguars' defense.

LB Devin Lloyd

The Jaguars had a massive hole at inside linebacker entering the 2022 NFL Draft. One of their first answers to that problem was to trade back into the first round for Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd, giving the Jaguars a second first-round pick for the third draft in a row. With the Jaguars having one starter locked in at middle linebacker, the question now is exactly what kind of role Lloyd will play on the weak side.

The Jaguars wouldn't have traded up for Lloyd if they didn't see him as an instant starter, so the Jaguars will likely expect some immediate production right away. Lloyd is a true four-down player thanks to his size, length, range, and overall athletic skill set, so there is no reason for the Jaguars to take him off the field as long as he is healthy. When he is able to play, he will be expected to.

LB Chad Muma

The fourth pick made by the Jaguars in this year's draft, Chad Muma was picked up by Jacksonville with the No. 70 pick after the Wyoming linebacker strangely dropped into the early portion of the third round. Muma has a starter's skill set and very well could be one of the Jaguars' most exciting young players right away, but there are some questions about how exactly he will see the field as a rookie. 

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Muma could handle a starting role as a rookie, but he projects as the Jaguars' No. 3 linebacker in 2022 because of Oluokun and Lloyd. He will still see some defensive snaps now and then, but the days of having three off-ball linebackers on the field at the same time has come and gone. He will make a big impact eventually, but there are some hurdles toward that happening this year.

LB Foyesade Oluokun

One of the top candidates to be the most important newcomer is new middle linebacker Foyesade Oluokun, who the Jaguars signed to a three-year deal worth between $45 million to $46.5 million that carries a guarantee of $28 million at signing. Oluokun was signed to replace Myles Jack and serve as one of the team's central defensive pieces over the next few seasons, and his paycheck alone demands him to be on the field.

The Jaguars didn't sign Oluokun to that kind of contract if he wasn't expected to be a major piece of their 2022 plans. He is expected to be one of the true quarterbacks of the defense, likely wearing the green dot and setting the defense up at all levels. Add in his four-down versatility and there are few overall defenders more important to the Jaguars this year than Oluokun.

CB Darious Williams

The answer to just how important Darious Williams is to the Jaguars in 2022 depends on his role. If he is the team's slot cornerback, which makes the most sense based on the skill sets of their top three cornerbacks, then he could potentially fall behind some of the players on this list who will be more full-time players.

Williams does have a chance to be more than just a slot, though. The Jaguars are embracing competition this offseason and it appears they are looking forward to having three starting-caliber cornerbacks duke it out for two starting spots. Slot cornerbacks are basically starters in today's defensive world, but it is still clear Williams' impact would be greater if he wasn't a nickel-only player.

DL Foley Fatukasi

There are few divisions in football where stopping the run is as important as it is in the AFC South. With Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor on the schedule four times a year, it will be key for the Jaguars to be tough in the middle of the defense. That is where free agent defensive lineman Foley Fatukasi will come into play right away.

Fatukasi will clearly start for the Jaguars after they signed him to a three-year, $30 million deal with $20 million in guaranteed money, but it is hard to make an argument for him as the most important newcomer since he is more of a run-stuffer than a pass-rusher or overall defender. He is a good player, but there may be more important options in terms of overall impact.

DL Arden Key

One of the Jaguars' most underrated moves this offseason was signing versatile defensive lineman Arden Key. Key has proven he can make an impact as a pass-rusher from the edge or as an interior pass-rusher on third-downs, giving the Jaguars some much-needed flexibility up front. 

The Jaguars consistently failed to push the pocket last season, with quarterbacks often having room to step up in the pocket as the outside rush closed in. Key is instantly one of the Jaguars' best interior pass-rushers, making him an important fixture to the team's third-down defense.

Verdict: Travon Walker

Players like Devin Lloyd and Foyesade Oluokun deserve consideration here since the Jaguars scheme will be so linebacker-focused, but the nod here still goes to Travon Walker. The No. 1 overall pick will have to be an impactful player against the run and pass right away to free up the rest of the defense, especially Josh Allen.