New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton wanted to add a difference maker on his team's defensive line as they entered the 2018 NFL Draft. The Saints would make one of the bigger deals of the first round, sending their 1st round pick last year (#27 overall), last year's 5th round pick (#147 overall), along with their 1st round pick this year (30th overall) to the Green Bay Packers in order to move to the 14th overall selection. New Orleans used that pick to select defensive end Marcus Davenport from U.T.S.A. Davenport had a solid rookie season, finishing with 4.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, 6 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble in thirteen games of action. The Saints expect big things out of Davenport as he enters his second season. He was hampered a bit by a foot injury last year, but still showed the potential to be both an outstanding pass rusher and a solid run defender. New Orleans already has one of the NFL's elite defenders in Cameron Jordan at the other end spot, giving them one of the better pairings at defensive end in the league. Veteran Alex Okafor was lost in free agency though, and although 2017 3rd round pick Trey Hendrickson has given the team some solid snaps, an old football adage states that a team could never have enough pass rushers. Today's draft profile highlights a smaller school prospect that could turn out to be a big performer on the big stage.
Jamal Davis II, EDGE (Akron)
Davis was a highly regarded recruit out of Canton McKinley High School in Ohio, deciding to attend the University of Pittsburgh. He redshirted the 2014 season, and would see just a few games of action in 2015 for the Panthers, electing to transfer to Akron following the season. After sitting out 2016 as a transfer, Davis grabbed a starting role for the Zips in '17, and flashed disruptive potential with 15.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble. He was even better last season on his way to second team ALL-MAC and team M.V.P. honors, gathering 80 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, an interception, a fumble forced, and six pass breakups.
Davis grabbed the attention of scouts and media alike by putting on an impressive athletic display at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. His 11.78 60-yd. shuttle time was the best among all participating edge rushers, and his 39 inch broad jump would be better than all but one performer. Davis also turned in a 7 second 3-cone drill, 4.6 40-yd. dash, and 10'2 inch broad jump that were all within the top five of participating edge rushers.
Jamal Davis is an extremely agile athlete with a good playing motor. He has good speed around the edge, and an outstanding burst into the offensive backfield. Davis has a lethal inside move, and excellent spin moves in either direction due to quick feet and good body control. His upper body strength is decent enough to initially engage offensive tackles, as he uses his long arms and quickness to get around them and win leverage battles. He uses his large wingspan (82 inches) expertly to disrupt a quarterback's throwing lane and bat down passes. Davis maintains a good pad level in gaps as a run defender, and has good stride and the long speed to be effective in pursuit.
He must be better in his reaction at the snap, to fully utilize his speed and quickness. That delayed response to the snap can also cause him to get hung up in traffic on inside plays. Davis can get engulfed by blockers, and must improve his strength and hand placement to set the edge better. His hips can be a bit stiff at times, slowing his change of direction or altering his bend around the edge. Although Davis possesses the frame and athleticism of a standup linebacker, he may be a liability off the ball early on due to average coverage instincts and inexperience.
Jamal Davis is projected to be a day 3 draft selection, most likely to go in the 4th or 5th rounds. His aggressiveness and athleticism could be an asset to special teams early on, as well as a situational pass rusher. His best fit does seem to be at defensive end in passing situations, where his edge rush skills and athletic ability could make him a disruptive presence. Although an underrated run defender, Davis needs to add strength to hold up at the point of attack to be an every down defender, as well as honing his off the ball instincts to be a more versatile asset. Davis does have the frame, natural athletic ability, and burst around the edge into the backfield to potentially carve out a role quickly on an NFL roster