The Saints traded up to pick UTSA defensive end Marcus Davenport with the 14th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft on Thursday. Here’s a scouting report on his game from someone who’d know how to scout him— a retired NFL defensive end:
I happened to have watched some of Marcus Davenport’s tape for the first time the Saturday morning before the combine workouts that day, and came away pretty impressed.
That’s why when I heard someone (*cough* Mike Mayock *cough*) say Davenport was “more raw than (Jadeveon) Clowney” later on during the combine broadcast, I was a little confused.
I loved Clowney coming out and made the case for him being the No. 1 pick overall, but one of the major selling points for me was Clowney’s technique was sorely lacking both as a pass rusher and a run defender. In my mind that made his ceiling pretty high because if he could ever get his technique polished up, Clowney would be damn near unblockable with his size and athletic ability.
It took a little while for that prediction to bear fruit because of injuries Clowney dealt with early in his career, but there is no question he has made a huge leap forward with his technique over his first four years in the league. Not coincidentally, opposing teams had a helluva time trying to block him last season.
But that doesn’t change the fact Clowney didn’t even have a single decent pass rush move that he could win with consistently when he came out of college.
That simply is not the case with Davenport.
Davenport had one of the best long-arm moves I’ve ever seen from a college prospect since I started doing these breakdowns.
And y’all know I’m a sucker for long-arm moves.
I just find them to be the perfect mix of a power and a speed rush move, and it comes with a built in counter move if the offensive tackle over-sets to the outside.
Just toss his ass aside and come back inside at the level of the quarterback.
Now, I can understand why power rushes like long-arms and bull rushes might make it appear an edge rusher is “raw,” to some people, but there is a lot of technique that goes into executing a good power rush.
Watch their hips turn toward the quarterback.
Check their hand placement on the blocker’s breast plate.
Do they get full extension with their arms?
What kind of move do they use to escape off the block?
Hell, anybody can run right down the middle of an offensive tackle and get stuck. Being able to push a guy back, feel when he’s stopped his feet, slide off the block cleanly, and complete all of this fast enough to get quick pressure on the quarterback should be considered a fucking art form.
And from what I’ve seen of Davenport’s tape, he has the potential to be a modern-day Picasso.
Power rushes were not the only moves Davenport won with, however.
He showed some really nice rip moves.
As well as some effective arm-overs.
Go back and try to find tape of Clowney beating an offensive tackle clean with an actual pass-rush move in college.
Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
You can argue about whether Davenport played against top competition at UTSA, and we will touch on that a little more later, but there is no denying his technique against the run and pass was consistently pretty damn good no matter who he was playing against.
With my own two eyes I saw Davenport come off in a six-technique with good hand placement on a tight end’s chest, get full extension with his arms, and then release off the block to make a tackle.
I also saw him jack a tight end up, again with good hand placement and arm extension, to the point where the running back had nowhere to go.
Then there was the time I watched Davenport spin a right tackle around like a top with his punch, then fall back inside and make the tackle.
So, no, Marcus Davenport isn’t more raw than Jadeveon Clowney was coming out of college. His technique may not be at Aaron Donald’s level as a prospect, but Davenport knows how to use his hands and he has pretty good footwork as well.
Now does he have room for improvement?
For instance, after seeing Davenport run a 4.58 at the combine I had to ask myself, “Where was that kind of get off on film?”
It’s not that I never saw Davenport haul ass on the snap of the football, but it certainly wasn’t the norm.
Some of that may be the fact Davenport plays so much in a two-point stance and sometimes it’s harder to get a good jump off the ball when you don’t have your hand in the dirt.
And to be fair, there were a few occasions where he did fly up the field on the snap of the football.
When he took off like a bat out of hell he got good results, too. I just don’t know why he didn’t use his speed more.
The encouraging thing is guys can improve their get off. If Davenport goes to a team with a defensive line coach who stresses it, he could be better at that before preseason is over this year.
And even if it does take him a little longer to improve his get off, Davenport should still be able to get good pressure with those long-arms and bull rush moves in the meanwhile.
One other criticism I had about Davenport’s play was at times he got too heavy on blocks when playing the run. That means he was trying so hard to restrict the inside running lane he didn’t maintain outside leverage. That allowed the runner to bounce outside and break containment.
On other occasions Davenport lost containment to quarterbacks on passing plays as well.
I am sure you have heard the term “setting the edge” when listening to a broadcast. As an edge rusher, one of your main jobs on most plays is doing just that and trying to keep everything inside of you when a play comes your way.
So allowing a running back or quarterback to bounce outside is usually a really bad thing for an edge defender, Davenport had it happen a few times in the four games I watched.
That, however, is also something he can improve on after he gets to the NFL. Davenport is certainly strong enough and athletic enough to be great at setting the edge, so I don’t see that being an issue after he gets into the NFL.
If you’re wondering, in the four games I watched, Davenport did drop into coverage a handful of times and he definitely didn’t look like a fish out of water.
One time he actually did a helluva job peeling with a running back on a wheel route.
So, yes, he could certainly play as a outside rush linebacker in a base 3-4 defense where he doesn’t have to do spend a whole lot of time covering man-to-man down the field. He didn’t play with his hand in the dirt much in the games I watched, but I certainly think he would fit as a defensive end in a base 4-3 defense as well.
I just realized I’ve gotten this far into the profile without even mentioning the fact that Davenport is 6”6, has arms that are almost 34 inches long, and weighed in at 264 pounds at the combine. His size isn’t even the biggest selling point for Davenport as a first-round pick. But damn if it isn’t a nice plus.
If you combine his size and athleticism with the fact that Davenport’s frame suggests he could easily bulk up some more after he gets to the league, now you’re looking at a guy who might be able to play inside and outside, especially on passing plays. Scheme and position versatility are always a good thing when we are talking about draft stock. Davenport has the potential to line up all over the place and thrive.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out Davenport was also ridiculously productive in college, too. This isn’t just some workout warrior, folks.
Seven sacks, six hurries, three tackles for a loss, 21 other tackles, and two passes knocked down.
For some college edge rushers those numbers would make for a pretty good season. For Marcus Davenport, that was his damage from just four games.
Read that again.
Let me circle back to the “level of competition” thing and this won’t take long. Although I didn’t use the Senior Bowl as an official part of this breakdown, I did happen to catch it when it came on live, and I’ve seen highlight clips on TV and Twitter since then. All I’ll say is Davenport did the offensive tackles in that game just as dirty as he did the offensive tackles for North Texas.
No, I’m not worried about his level of competition. Ballers ball, period.
For now I have Bradley Chubb ahead of Davenport as the better edge rusher prospect. Chubb is a little more polished and has a little better motor. But I want to be clear that Davenport has just as much if not more potential than Chubb.
Chubb is indeed the safer pick of the two, but with risk could come great reward with Davenport.
All I’m saying is don’t be surprised if three years or so down the road Davenport isn’t at at least as good as Chubb.
Maybe even better.
Since I don’t have access to all-22 for college football games, I use the next best thing for my draft profiles and go to Draft Breakdown where they post the TV copy of a bunch of top prospects’ games already cut up and ready to go. This time Draft Breakdown only had two of Marcus Davenport’s games from last season on their website, so I had to use Google to find two more (Baylor and Rice). For the purposes of this breakdown I watched Davenport play against Baylor, Texas State, North Texas, and Rice. Those represented the second, fourth, sixth, and seventh games on UTSA’s schedule last season, respectively.