The New Orleans Saints traded up for Marcus Davenport last night, and many of the people who hated last year’s historically-great Saints draft class are also dogging on this year’s initial move. There are some optimists out there, which is nice, but they’re definitely a minority voice.
Strengths: Athleticism, upside.
Weaknesses: Technique, level-of-competition concerns.
Bleacher Report profiled Marcus Davenport earlier in April. The short version: athletic marvel and late bloomer; obliterated blockers at the mid-major level; looked lost at the start of Senior Bowl practices but caused sacks and turnovers in the game; mild-mannered “Silent Storm” personality off the field.
One thing to point out about Davenport’s level of competition is that UTSA plays in Conference USA, which may not be the conference it was 15 years ago, but it ain’t the Division VI East Prairie Nowhere Conference, either. The offensive linemen Davenport tossed around like bags of flour were FBS athletes. So the ramp-up to NFL competition won’t be as extreme as it’s made out to be, though he’s still fundamentally very raw.
A good comp for Davenport is Ziggy Ansah, who was also insanely athletic but raw (and mellow of disposition) coming out of college.
The Saints clearly think they are one player away from the Super Bowl. But is Davenport that player? New Orleans just gave up a first-round pick next year to get a project pass-rusher, albeit a good one. For a team counting on a 39-year-old quarterback to lead it to glory in a tight window, that’s a steep price for a player who may not pay immediate dividends.
From Dan Kadar of SB Nation:
The Saints gave up a first-round pick in next year’s draft to move up from No. 27 to 14 to get Davenport. It makes some sense because pass rush is the NFL’s most important position after a quarterback. Beyond Cameron Jordan, the Saints don’t have much of a pass rush. This obviously fills a need. However, this is a lot to give up for a raw player with a limited repertoire. This is a move to make a Super Bowl run this season.
When the Saints traded the No. 27 pick and next year’s first-rounder to move up, many thought they’d take Drew Brees’s successor, Lamar Jackson. But Marcus Davenport’s name was announced. Davenport provides the explosive edge-rushing that was missing opposite All-Pro Cameron Jordan. While the trade seemed like an awfully steep price to pay, the relief of the Saints doing the right thing and building on their improving—but still far from perfect—defense inflates this grade.
Scouting Report: Built like a power forward, UTSA’s Davenport dominated hapless Conference USA opponents with a blend of size and explosiveness rarely seen outside the Power Five conferences. After getting by purely on athletic gifts during his college career, Davenport has some work to do before he’ll be able to dominate similarly against NFL-caliber athletes. But his ceiling is enormous, and he’s even more intriguing in a draft that’s light on edge players (and in a year when there are few to be had on the free-agent market).
He is a a boom-or-bust player, but this move could pay off in a big way.
The skinny: Sean Payton jumps up the board to get his man, trading from 27 in a deal with the Packers. Davenport is a talented player, but trading a 2019 first-round pick and a 2018 fifth-round pick to go get a raw pass rusher was too heavy a price in my mind.
What...??? You don’t trade a future first-round pick for a non-quarterback, especially in a draft class that is absolutely loaded on the defensive line! This is absolutely atrocious. I wouldn’t have minded this pick at all if the Saints were stationed at No. 14, but to give up this much for a raw edge rusher. Ugh.
I don’t get it. The Saints had such a great 2017 NFL Draft class. How could they screw up this much? The only way this makes any sense is if the Saints know the world is going to come to an end before the 2019 season. This is a Matt Millen grade all the way.
From Pro Football Focus:
The former UTSA standout was selected 14th overall after finishing the 2017 season with an 89.8 overall grade which ranked second in the class. Davenport recorded a 21.2 percent pressure rate this season, which ranked third among draft-eligible edge defenders. Davenport ranked fourth among draft-eligible edge defenders in pass-rushing prouctivity in 2017 (16.4).
The Saints have long been searching for someone to pair with premier pass rusher Cameron Jordan, and they may have found him here. Davenport is big, physical, and explosive off the edge. Lined up opposite Jordan, he should be an instant-impact player in New Orleans’s pass-rush packages. He’s raw, but at 6-foot-6 and 264 pounds, he’s got nearly limitless potential with a more refined pass-rush plan. Davenport scored well in Football Outsiders’ SackSEER metric (which considers athleticism and college production), but with the ludicrous amount of draft capital the Saints gave up to make this pick (giving up a fifth-rounder this year and their first-round pick next year), he’s a huge risk.
From Yahoo! Sports:
The price the Saints paid for him is insane. New Orleans’ run as the most impulsive team in the NFL continues. They made a huge move to take an athletic but largely unproven pass rusher.
From Mike Mayock of NFL.com:
This is an exciting, young edge rusher. He’s very raw but his upside is off the charts. When you’re talking about an edge rusher, he’s raw but gifted, I love his motor and body type. Reminds me a lot of Ziggy Ansah.
What is your knee-jerk reaction? Did the Saints do well, or have they botched it?