Sometimes having an elite teammate at the same position is a boon for a college prospect. The attention that the teammate receives frees the second prospect up to show of his ability and make an impact he might not if he were the primary focus of the other team. But sometimes having an elite teammate at the same position can make life a bit harder for a prospect. If evaluators are concentrating on the elite prospect, they might ignore or at least not focus on the less-highly regarded player.
That second scenario seems to have happened to defensive lineman Marlon Davidson out of Auburn. While his stat line likely benefited from playing on the same defense as Derrick Brown, who is widely regarded as the best interior defender in the draft, but Davidson hasn’t gotten the attention that he deserves.
Scouts are beginning to take notice of Davidson, and he will likely climb the big boards on national outlets.
However could he still become a value pick for the New York Giants if he happens to slip on draft night?
Prospect: Marlon Davidson (iDL, Auburn)
Games Watched: vs. Oregon (2019), vs. LSU (2019), vs. Minnesota (2019)
Red Flags: none
Games Played: 50
Tackles For a loss: 28.0
Forced Fumbles: 3
Games Played: 12
Tackles For a loss: 9.0
Forced Fumbles: 1
Best: First step, power, leverage, hands, tackling
Worst: Lateral agility
Projection: A rotational interior defensive lineman in a one-gap defense.
Auburn’s Marlon Davidson has a good blend of size and linear athleticism for an interior defensive lineman. He shows a compact stance which leads to an explosive first step against the run and the pass. Davidson plays with very good leverage out of a three-point stance, which he uses to maximize his explosiveness and play strength. Davidson generally times the snap well and gets a good get-off as a pass rusher. He shows a variety of moves, contrasting power and speed moves to defeat blockers while attacking individual gaps. Davidson has very heavy hands, which he uses to jolt blockers as well as to keep them from getting inside his framework and gaining leverage on him. He also has a good sense of when to get his hands up to clog passing lanes when he can’t get to the quarterback.
Davidson is a capable run defender who sets a firm edge when being used as an EDGE defender. His play strength shows up well in run defense, letting him control blockers until it is time to shed and make a tackle. Davidson has an impressive tackle radius, often contorting his body to make an arm-tackle and drive the ball carrier into the ground.
Davidson was frequently used as an EDGE defender in Auburn’s defense and was, at times, a stand-up rusher. He did not show his usual get-off or leverage in those instances, instead playing upright with high hips. Blockers were frequently able to gain leverage on him and move him out of gaps in those instances. Davidson also does not show the necessary bend or burst around the corner to be a consistent edge rusher at the NFL level.
Overall Grade: 6.3 - Has the traits to be a high-volume rotational player with the potential to be an eventual starter in the right situation. [Grading sheet]
Marlon Davidson projects best to being a rotational interior defensive lineman in a defensive front built on one-gap principles. Ideally he would be a 3, 4i, or 5-technique defensive lineman, based on precise scheme or down and distance. Davidson does a very good job of getting upfield with leverage, attacking blockers with heavy hands, putting his hips in a gap and being disruptive in the backfield.
Davidson has upside in two-gap situations thanks to his hand usage and play strength, but that is an area of development for him at the moment.
While Auburn was able to use his athleticism to move him around the defensive front form EDGE to nose tackle, Davidson does not have the burst, agility, or flexibility to be an EDGE at the NFL level, and his burst is better employed around the B-gap than as a 1-technique.
Davidson might be best as a rotational player who teams feel confident giving a large share of the defensive snaps. Whether he gets the first snap and becomes a starter might simply depend on the situation into which he is drafted and the exact scheme of his future team.