NFL Draft analysis: defensive ends — Marcus Davenport

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DENTON, Texas (KNTU) The next player in my analysis of NFL 2018 Draft candidates:

Marcus Davenport, Edge, UTSA — 6’6″ / 260 lbs — Senior #93

  • Who is He?

On Oct. 14, 2017, the UNT football program posted it’s most significant win in recent history, taking down UTSA with a thrilling last-second touchdown pass from Mason Fine to Rico Bussey, but the storyline overshadowed Davenport’s performance. He finished the game with eight total tackles, four for a loss, 2.5 of which were sacks, and a forced fumble.

As the 2017 C-USA Defensive player of the year, Davenport posted 55 tackles and set school records with 17.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and eight quarterback hurries this season. He added four pass breakups, three forced fumbles, and had a fumble return for a touchdown. Davenport finished his UTSA career as the program’s all-time leader in tackles for loss (38.0), sacks (22.0) and QB hurries (21).

In three years as a starter for UTSA, the San Antonio native’s numbers never regressed. Each season he had more TFLs and sacks than the last. It’s a great indicator of his development and will aid him in the draft process (regression always comes with questions).

Davenport is an imposing 4-3 defensive end with the potential to become a 3-down lineman in the NFL. He’s a fantastic athlete with a massive frame and versatility. He can come off the edge as a pass rusher with a variety of moves, take away the edge in the run game, and even slide inside and play defensive tackle.

While he brings versatility as a prospect — which makes him valuable — a downside is that he’s still unpolished.

  • Positives

Davenport’s flexibility in his hips is part of why he’s so high in my edge rankings.

Having flexibility at his size gives him a variety of options in the pass rush. He can get low and leverage tackles backward. He can also get low and bend around them as he does in this play. He keeps his chest pointed upfield so the tackle can’t engage him, then dips low and corners around into the backfield for the easy sack.

Davenport can be just as explosive against the run. His ability to make himself small against lineman and explode through gaps is part of what makes him so well rounded as a rusher. On the play above, Davenport turns his shoulders just enough to slip through the C-gap into the backfield. The center is supposed to pull and block him, but Davenport beats his man to his spot and slows down the running back enough to blow up the play.

During senior bowl week, Davenport boosted his draft stock. He performed well against a level of competition higher than what he was used to, then finished the game itself with 5 QB hurries on 25 pass rush snaps.

The clip above is from the opening series. With his 34-inch arms, Davenport can keep offensive lineman’s hands away from his chest, making it difficult to engage him. On this play he does precisely that, long arming the tackle into Baker Mayfield, forcing the Heisman winner to step up and into Davenport’s arms.

  • Negatives

The negatives are harder to find on Davenport’s film, but they’re there.

Part of the reason that he’s considered unpolished is that he tends to rush the passer without a plan of attack. He’s strong enough to bull rush; but if he gets stood up, he doesn’t adjust or react, and that’s what happened in the play above.

The other issue I see in Davenport’s game is his inconsistency as far as correctly using his leverage. When he uses rushing techniques like the long arm and rip moves I showcased in the section above, he gets low and reduces his surface area. When he decides to bull rush and just run through his man, he doesn’t get his pad level or his hips low enough to drive his man up and backward.

The two clips above show this. One is from the same series as the first negative play I highlighted, so I decided to link one from another game this season to illustrate how it isn’t a one-time issue.

In both, Davenport is upright as he drives into his man, causing him to get stopped completely. Notice how his body is almost at a 90-degree angle to the ground. The idea behind leverage is to try to get closer to a 45-degree angle to the ground and drive up into your blocker.

  • Summary

As we climb the list of the best edge prospects in this class, it becomes harder to find the weaknesses in each player’s game. It’s one of the hard parts of scouting.

Recently Marcus Davenport was being talked about as a second rounder, but after an excellent performance in the 2018 Senior Bowl against some of the best offensive lineman at the college level, he’s been anointed a top 15 prospect.

There’s a lot to like about Davenport, but his technique needs work; however, if the three Edges I have ranked higher than him are gone by 15, and I need to address the position, I’d be happy to have him.

  • Relevance to the Cowboys

It would be hard to pass on a talent like Davenport, but I don’t think the Cowboys will even have the choice. I see him being picked before the Cowboys get on the clock at 19.

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