Marcus Davenport – DE
School: University of Texas-San Antonio
Weight: 265 lbs.
Marcus Davenport NFL Draft Profile
In every NFL Draft, there is a small-school prospect who rockets up draft boards who will be selected in the first few rounds of the draft despite the lack of talent they played in college. Last year, it was Corey Davis, a receiver at Western Michigan, and this year the top small-school prospect is without a doubt Marcus Davenport from the University of Texas-San Antonio.
Davenport is benefitting greatly from his best season as a college player that also happened to be his last as a college player in which he had 55 tackles including 17.5 for a loss and 8.5 sacks. His production as a junior was also satisfactory with him earning 6.5 sacks as well. Davenport has the typical small-school concerns that any prospect coming from a small school would but if you watch his tape, he puts those concerns to bed
Davenport will inevitably have to battle against the cliché criticism of “one-year wonder” and so forth but his physical ability legitimatizes his draft status as a first rounder and leaves some room for teams to see they can develop a special type of player from his skillset. However, looking at the film, Davenport’s performances reek of the typical case of a good athlete at the college level that will struggle at the NFL. His performance against sub-par talent in college isn’t the main concern but his ability to depend on his athletic ability alone is because once he reaches the next level, that advantage is gone and it is risky to think he has enough technique to develop further.
The first thing that jumps out at anyone watching tape of Davenport is his freak athleticism. His frame and game knowledge allows him to read screens to the running back better than any defensive end in the draft and when the quarterback rolls out, he will be a tough defender to prevent from breaking up the play.
Davenport relies heavily on his speed and strength to get an advantage on the offensive line and for the most part, it works out. This speaks a lot to just how fast and strong he is as he ranked among the top defensive While his mediocre stats at the combine may not show it, Davenport is without a doubt the biggest freak athlete at defensive end in this year’s draft which, for better or for worse, could make or break his stock.
As said before, Davenport’s ability to simply out-strong the tackle is a talent that cannot be overlooked. Davenport never quits on a play which may sound like a “no duh” type of observation but it’s a quality that really tells general managers if a defensive end will be a success at the next level.
Davenport rarely lets offensive linemen get the better of him through several methods. The first is his ability to properly utilize the length of his arms. He positions them in a way that makes it tough for offensive linemen to get the inner hold on him that effectively shuts bull rushers down. He also does a good job of utilizing field position while engaging with linemen that allows him to quickly shut down running lanes, giving him a better opportunity to tackle the ball carrier.
His aggressiveness also wears down the linemen and allows him to increase his presence in the backfield as the game wears on. While much of his ability to get off blocks isn’t very sound technically, his natural talent is good enough to be confident they can translate to the next level.
While some point to his aggressiveness off the snap as a negative as it sometimes leads him to over pursue, more often than not it results in a positive play for the defense. Davenport’s reaction to the ball punishes tackles who don’t share a similar speed and can quickly result in him pushing his way up the field.
This also allows him to break up more pass attempts which he does more often than most defensive ends in college. This is a crucial upside of his since he can affect a passing play without contacting the quarterback. It’s also a key reason he is able to interrupt running back screens so effectively.
Level Of Competition
Obviously, the first and most frequent concern scouts have expressed is the level of competition he played in college. UTSA is a member of Conference USA whose other members include Rice, Marshall, FAU, and Southern Miss among others. While the Roadrunners did play schools from power five conferences and Davenport performed well in them, including their game against Baylor this past season in which he had a sack, for the most part, it was stuck playing mid-level schools.
This has led to concerns that his physical ability was only so successful because he was playing down to his talent. This is a legitimate concern but it is reminiscent of similar criticisms made against Jason Pierre-Paul when he was coming out of college at USF. However, his occasional struggles at the Senior Bowl practices have reinforced the concerns for some.
Lack Of Technique
What is noticeably absent from Davenport’s positives is his lack of technique, particularly with his hands. He relies heavily on his athleticism to bull rush pass protectors and as a result, he is underdeveloped as a technique-based pass rusher. The reason this is troublesome is when bull rushers attempt to utilize that skill in the NFL, it has high bust potential.
There is no better (or in this case worse) example than Ohio State product Vernon Gholston. Gholston was drafted sixth overall by the Jets in 2008 and failed to register a single sack in his four years in the NFL. His dismal performance is something all NFL teams keep in mind and this combined with his lack of legitimate competition in college will undoubtedly have teams worried about Davenport’s technical skills.
As stated when talking about his reaction off the snap, Davenport can at times be too quick to get to the ball which often leaves him lost. He consistently bites too hard on play-action passes and frequently loses sight of where the ball is when the offense does a simple tactic of trickery. This is most obvious when the offense ran the run option which is becoming increasingly common in the NFL.
Davenport needs to learn how to rush the ball carrier while at the same time analyzing the play from an active situation. While his quick reflexes do have their positives, there is such a thing as overly anticipatory and Davenport needs to fix the mental side of his game to pair it well with his outstanding physical side.
While Marcus Davenport is a raw prospect, it’s easy to see why many consider the small-school talent a first-round prospect. He lacks the vision and on-the-field smarts to be a successful outside linebacker in the NFL but his physical tools provide a high ceiling for him as a top pass rusher at defensive end in the pros. If an NFL team is confident in its coaching staff’s ability to teach him how to better utilize his hands to develop more effective pass-rushing techniques, he will be well worth the risk outside of the top ten of the draft. Davenport carries a fair amount of risk with his game but his positives are promising enough to warrant the gamble for teams sitting in the mid-to-late range in the first round.
NFL Player Comparison
Teams With Need At Defensive End
Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots
Los Angeles Rams