Every year it seems that a small-school prospect emerges from the ether to get scouts and the media excited for his (or their, if there’s more than one) potential at the next level.
This year, University of Texas at San Antonio edge rusher Marcus Davenport has emerged from the Small-School ranks with much acclaim from the likes of Mike Mayock and Mel Kiper Jr. Davenport simply dominated his level of competition, put on a show at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, and now stands to be drafted in the top half of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
The New York Giants have a hole at edge rusher between the trade of Jason Pierre-Paul and the move to more of a 3-4 look to their defense. Could Davenport be in play for them?
- Prototypical frame for the position. Tall with long arms and room to add mass if necessary.
- Explosive linear athlete. Sudden off the snap and able to run down most quarterbacks, and running backs from behind.
- Powerful rusher. Too much for tight ends and is a handful for most offensive linemen.
- Shows a good long-arm move. Able to keep linemen’s hands off of him, push them back, and discard the block to make a play.
- Flashes effective rip and arm-over moves.
- Has some schematic versatility.
- Able to physically dominate most players he lined up against.
- Almost always lined up as a stand-up rusher.
- Occasionally struggled to set a firm edge in run defense.
- Could get hung up on blocks when he didn’t get his hands on the lineman first.
What They’re Saying
“Davenport packed on 30 pounds from his sophomore to senior season and has the frame to continue getting bigger and stronger. While he’s been a stand-up rusher at UTSA, teams may see him as a 4-3 defensive end. Right now Davenport is more of a flash player than a consistent menace, but he showed flashes at the Senior Bowl of being able to take a substantial step forward with more time.”
Does He Fit The Giants?
There is a tremendous amount of media buzz surrounding Marcus Davenport.
To be sure, he certainly deserves his fair share of it, but there is also something of a novelty element with regards to the big, long, athletic edge rusher from the University of Texas - San Antonio. The challenge for those of us on the outside is separating the wheat from the chaff when it comes to small-school prospects like Davenport.
He has a number of truly great tools at his disposal. He is a rare athlete for his size, and he knows how to use that explosive strength along with his length to really put blockers back on their heels and set up shop on the backfield. Dominating his opponents is the minimum bar to hurdle for NFL scouts when evaluating small-school prospects -- if they want to be legitimate NFL players, they have to utterly dominate lower-level competition if they want to be able to hang in the pros.
But as high as his ceiling is (and it is very high), those who saw Davenport in practice at the Senior Bowl report that he is something like a big puppy who doesn’t quite know how to put all the pieces together just yet. For instance, his frame suggests a true hand-in-the-dirt, 4-3 defensive end, but he rarely (if ever) played in a 3-point stance in college, and it showed up at practice.
Assuming the Giants’ defense under James Bettcher is similar to that of the Cardinals’ in recent years, this shouldn’t be a big concern. Davenport would be able to play down-hill from as a stand-up rusher nearly every play, putting him in a good position to succeed early in his rookie year. He has dropped in coverage as an outside linebacker, and doesn’t look awkward doing so, but all things considered, he should be attacking in to the backfield as often as possible.
The bigger question is whether or not value will work out such that Davenport could become a Giant -- and the answer is probably “no” unless the team trades down in the first round.