We’re still a couple of weeks away from the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine and over two months from the 2018 NFL Draft. But draft season is already ramping up. The mock drafts are coming hot and heavy, and some players have already built buzz thanks to strong performances at the collegiate all-star games.
And among those players, none are rising up draft boards faster than edge-rusher Marcus Davenport of tiny Texas—San Antonio.
Davenport may have played at a small school, but the 6’6” 255-pounder is a big-time talent. As Chris Trapasso reported for CBS Sports, After a 2016 season in which Davenport tallied 55 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks, he had the No. 1 Pass-Rushing Productivity Score among all 4-3 defensive ends at Pro Football Focus. Only North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb and Ohio State’s Nick Bosa had higher overall grades, and Davenport’s grade in run support ranked third in the nation as well.
Davenport followed up that outstanding season with a good week in Mobile at the 2018 Senior Bowl. After faring well in practice sessions against a better class of competition, Davenport was an absolute beast in the game itself, leading Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage to single Davenport out while speaking to Ethan Greenberg of the New York Jets’ website.
“He’s one of those players that’s not well known around the country, but everyone is going to know his name by the time we get to the end of April,” said Savage. “He’s a supremely gifted individual at 6’5”, 259 pounds and he can come off the edge. He’s shown that here and hopefully now you can apply the personality, intangibles and character with that, and they’ll (NFL teams) recognize they have the full package.”
Savage’s sentiments about Davenport’s impressive physical gifts were echoed by Dane Brugler of CBS Sports.
“He has those athletic traits that you love in a pass rusher,” Brugler said. “He’s still figuring things out, figuring out the dance, the move-to-move transition, how to best use his hands and protect himself from what blockers do. But when you just break down the traits, for that size, he’s really impressive.”
Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com is on board as well, slotting Davenport 10th in his list of the top 50 prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft.
“Davenport is a raw edge rusher with outstanding size, length and explosiveness,” Jeremiah wrote. “He aligned in a two-point stance for UTSA but could easily play with his hand in the ground as a 4-3 defensive end at the next level. As a pass rusher, he has a very quick first step and flashes the power to bull through tight ends and offensive tackles. He doesn’t always have a game plan and that will lead to him stalling out if he doesn’t win early in the down. His ability to bend and wrap around the edge is very impressive for his size. He’s a little segmented right now, but once he gets his feet and hands to work together, he will emerge as a double-digit sack artist. In the run game, he dominates tight ends at the point of attack. His effort and speed from the back side is outstanding. Overall, Davenport isn’t a finished product, but I’m bullish on his future because of his rare size, athleticism and effort.”
However, while Jeremiah (and some others) view Davenport as a top-10 prospect, the general belief early in draft season appears to be that Davenport will be drafted somewhere in the teens.
That’s where ESPN’s Todd McShay slotted Davenport, at pick No. 14 to Green Bay. “Davenport was one of the clear winners of the Senior Bowl,” McShay wrote. “Not only were his measurements impressive (6-5 7/8, 259), but he was terrific in practice. He’s still a work in progress and needs more of a variety of pass-rush moves, but he’s already long and powerful. Green Bay needs more difference-makers on defense, and Davenport could be one.”
That’s also where my Bleacher Report colleague Matt Miller has Davenport landing in his latest mock draft. “Drafting Davenport is a bet on his upside and ability to be developed,” Miller said, “but one evaluator has already compared him to Jason Taylor in a text to me. If teams believe they can coach him up, Davenport will be in high demand.”
At the end of the day, Davenport presents all the temptations and pitfalls that IDP owners go through every year with rookie edge-rushers. The talent and explosiveness aren’t in question, but it’s also not disputed that Davenport’s probably going to need some seasoning to best utilize those gifts at the NFL level.
In deeper redraft IDP leagues, if things fall just the right way, there’s a possibility that Davenport could be worth a late flier as an upside DL4 who comes on strong down the stretch once he gets his feet wet. In dynasty rookie drafts, Davenport’s going to be on the mid-round radar as one of the top handful of defensive ends—provided he isn’t drafted to play standing up.
We all hate it when that happens.