JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When Walker Little steps onto the field for his first regular-season NFL game, it will have been more than two years since he last played. Did the Jaguars land a steal in the second round or was it a reach for a player coming off an injury and a season opting out because of the pandemic?
After being named All Pac-12 during his sophomore year, Little injured his knee in Stanford’s season opener in his junior year. He missed the rest of the season. Then, as a senior, he opted out of the season with COVID concerns. So, is he ready to come in and get back on the field for the first time in nearly two years? That’s the biggest question for Little. He projects as the Jaguars left tackle of the future, but he doesn’t have to play right away since the Jaguars placed the franchise tag on Cam Robinson this offseason.
“I’m 100%. I’m as strong as in shape as I’ve ever been. I’m really ready for the NFL, for this next step. This last year and a half has been a lot of training, it’s been a lot of football studying just trying to learn the game a lot better, trying to get stronger and just working on a lot of technique work. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some really good coaches — Paul Alexander and Duke Manyweather being two of them. I’ve been training with them and working really hard to be in the best shape to one get here and be drafted but also to compete and play.” — Little after being drafted by the Jaguars
“Walker Little is going to push our tackles. Our tackles have to play better. I like how hard they’re working, I like their talent level, but the best thing you can do is create a little competition, and I’ve made that clear with Walker. — Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer
“Obviously, when you’re looking at tape from two years ago, you had one game to go by in ’19 and he played really well against Northwestern. He’s just a guy that’s going to have to get in here and go to work in the weight room, on the field, technique, all those things that you lose when you’re not out on the field. He’s going to start from a little bit behind the eight ball. It’s our job to get him up to speed as quickly as we can and [we’re] very confident we can do that.” — Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke
What the analysts are saying
Pro Football Network:
With the face of the franchise secured, protecting Lawrence figured to be a priority with one of the early picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. Walker Little was outstanding when he was on the field at Stanford. Still, he hasn’t been on the field for two years. He has enticing size, mobility, and strength, but there are concerns due to his period of inactivity. His selection with the 45th overall pick feels like a reach. Grade: C+
Andy Staples’ analysis: As long as Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor stay healthy, Little shouldn’t be relied upon much in 2021. But if one of the starters is injured, Little could slide into that spot.
Dane Brugler’s analysis: With basically two years of development missing, Little was a fascinating projection because he looked like he was on a first-round trajectory in his last game (2019′s season opener). He needs to get stronger and play with more consistent technique, but the talent is worthy of the gamble.
Sheil Kapadia’s grade: C
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN:
Walker Little (45) is an offensive tackle who hasn’t played in almost two full seasons, as he injured his knee in Week 1 of the 2019 season and then opted out in 2020. Based on his 2018 tape, though, I thought he might be a future first-rounder, so if he ends up as a starter at right tackle, it’s a big win. (Jacksonville has gone 20 seasons without a Pro Bowl offensive lineman, which is more than twice as long as any other team).