For one easy payment of two first round draft picks and one fifth, the Saints moved up in the 2018 NFL draft to select edge rusher Marcus Davenport out of UTSA with the 14th pick. While many agreed that an edge rusher was a priority for the Saints this past off season, many were shocked at the price they paid for a “raw” athlete.
Having an impressive frame and testing numbers, Davenport frequently showed off his strength and speed in college, bullying opposing offensive tackles. But pure athleticism alone won’t get you far in the NFL, and a pass rusher must develop and learn techniques and “moves” that will help them shed blocks.
UTSA DE 93 Marcus Davenport. He’s raw but there’s a lot to work with here! pic.twitter.com/BA5fO5Sp3K— Todd McShay (@McShay13) January 26, 2018
This was an area of concern for Davenport and a huge part of the reason he was considered raw. But his ability to quickly learn many of the techniques helped him increase the amount of snaps he saw through the year.
#Saints DE Marcus Davenport with a nice rep here:— Deuce Windham (@RevDeuceWindham) August 26, 2018
-Swats outside hand of LT
-Very good athletic ability/bend/ankle flexion
Just needs to get there a bit sooner. pic.twitter.com/kVdQclzUUJ
Refining his pass rushing skills will be vital for him going forward, but his run defense is already at an advanced level. You can see that in this play where he avoids the block by the tackle and quickly chases down Saquon Barkley for a loss.
Marcus Davenport does something flashy each week where he looks like he’s playing at a different speed than everyone else pic.twitter.com/LzvX96y6vN— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) October 3, 2018
While he was only able to put up modest numbers, the rookie showed flashes of the skills that got him selected so high.
Playing in 13 games, Davenport was able to register 4.5 sacks, 21 tackles, 6 TFL (tackles for loss), and 12 quarterback hits. While those numbers may not be much to write home about, we later found out that a toe injury in week 8 should have shut him down for the season and required surgery. But after missing just four weeks, he toughed it out to help the team make it to the NFC Championship.
- Approximate Value: 1
- Pro Football Focus rank: 41 out of 103
- Overall Grade: 69.7
- Pass Rushing Grade: 62.6
- Run Defense Grade: 76.3
- Coverage Grade: 65.6
- Total Defensive Snaps: 465
While his rookie numbers may leave something to be desired, the last edge rusher the Saints drafted in the first round started off slow his rookie season with only one sack, but Cameron Jordan has since developed into a cornerstone on this defensive unit.
Its still too early to grade the draft pick, especially with the two first round picks it cost the team. But there’s no reason to believe Davenport won’t continue to ascend as he refines his pass rushing moves and becomes more of a complete player.