|Draft Home|||||Draft Tracker|||||Team Reports|||||Prospect Reports|
With all due respect to the "other" defensive linemen available in the 2017 NFL draft, no one was more disruptive over the past two seasons than Walker, who capped his career in Tallahassee by being named the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year by a vote of the media and coaches (co-winner with Clemson LB Ben Boulware), alike.
Walker was dominant as a junior, recording a then-career high 58 tackles (including 15.5 for loss), 10.5 sacks, five pass breakups, four forced fumbles and even an interception during the Peach Bowl. After receiving a less than flattering grade from the NFL Advisory Committee (reportedly third round), Walker opted to return to the Seminole to prove that his production was no fluke and certainly did so, shattering his 2015 production with 68 stops, including 21.5 tackles for loss, including 16 sacks - most among interior defensive linemen in the country and second overall to Boston College's Harold Landry, who registered just one assisted sack more. He also recovered three fumbles, forced another two, broke up two passes and blocked a kick.
The dominant back-to-back seasons made Walker the first FSU player in 20 years to have two straight seasons of double-digit sacks.
Perhaps what was most impressive about Walker's production is that he consistently showed up when the lights were brightest.
He played like a man possessed against the rival Florida Gators, registering five tackles (all solos), including two sacks and recovering two fumbles. His blocked PAT in final moments preserved a 20-19 win over Miami. Walker was virtually unstoppable in a season-opening shootout over then-highly touted quarterback Chad Kelly and Mississippi, recording an eye-popping 4.5 sacks. He recorded four tackles - all of them behind the line of scrimmage (including one sack) - in his final game for the Seminoles, a thrilling 33-32 win over Michigan in the Orange Bowl.
Walker originally committed to Alabama as a four-star recruit out of high school before switching to Florida State in 2013, where he started three games (and played in 12) as a true freshman (18 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack). He started 11 games (and played in 14) as a sophomore, registering 38 tackles, including six for loss and a sack before his breakout junior campaign.
The question with Walker for scouts is where he fits best at the next level. He was moved all over the defensive line at Florida State, showing the initial burst to beat tackles off the ball to create havoc off the edge, but was at his best inside at defensive tackle, incorporating terrific lateral agility, balance and a killer swim move to collapse the pocket. While he lacks ideal measureables, Walker's ability to pressure quarterbacks from a variety of positions could be the ticket that earns him a first round selection.
STRENGTHS: Though shorter than preferred, Walker possesses broad shoulders and a well-distributed musculature including a thick lower half. He possesses an explosive initial burst off the ball, showing the quick-twitch to slip through gaps, as well as good core strength and flexibility to "get skinny" and get home. Walker's quickness is accentuated by his preparation in the film room, as he is well known for spending hours each week searching for clues from offensive linemen and formations to give him tips on snap anticipation. In short yardage situations, Walker shows impressive patience to sprawl, allow guards to surge ahead and then slip past them to slip into the backfield. Walker shows excellent coordination between his hands and feet, ripping the reach of would-be blockers away while surging forward with powerful steps to efficiently slide through the line of scrimmage. Walker varies his pass rush technique and burst, leaving opponents guessing and vulnerable to a deadly over-arm swim move. Walker is more powerful than his frame suggests, getting good push as a bull rusher and sliding off of blocks due to his pad level and leg drive. He is a reliable tackler, wrapping his arms around ballcarriers and bringing his hips to emphatically take them to the ground. Walker plays with a high-revving motor, showing passion in his pursuit upfield, laterally and downfield. He keeps his eyes on the quarterback when unable to get home, showing good timing and body control to cloud their vision with his arms and leaping into the air to deflect passes (eight over the past two seasons). He has shown a knack for making big plays at critical moments.
WEAKNESSES: Walker has some clear 'tweener traits, lacking the bulk teams prefer as a full-time defensive tackle and he does not possess the requisite length for a traditional defensive end, nor the flexibility to run the arc off the edge. Walker is probably limited to a one-gap scheme due to his lack of length and power. If his initial move does not get him free, Walker struggles to separate, making too many of his tackles downfield. He is too often reliant upon slipping by blockers in short yardage situations, lacking the bulk to hold up consistently. Walker is powerful for his size but can get pushed off the ball when he loses the leverage battle and is too often simply washed out by double-teams. His lack of height shows up at times as Walker will lose track of the ball.
IN OUR VIEW: Simply put, Walker is more than the sum of his parts. He is not the biggest or strongest defensive lineman in the 2017 draft but he already prepares like a professional. His best fit would be inside as a three-technique defensive tackle in a traditional 4-3 alignment, projecting as a "pass rush specialist" for the interior - a role increasingly important in today's pass-happy NFL.
COMPARES TO: Adrian Clayborn, Atlanta Falcons - Like the 6-foot-3, 280 pound Clayborn, Walker is not going to wow anyone with his explosiveness or length but his preparation, snap anticipation, burst and motor will help him carve out a productive career in the NFL, likely rotating inside and out as the situation dictates.