2018 NFL Draft: UTSA pass rusher Marcus Davenport has enormous NFL potential
Davenport has showcased a variety of NFL-caliber pass-rushing talent during his underrated career
Marcus Davenport is a 6-foot-6, 250-pound defensive end with long arms, explosive burst, and an array of pass-rushing moves.
He plays for the University of Texas-San Antonio, which would explain why he's far from a household name at this point.
Give it a few months. He'll be well-known in the draft community, and among those who follow the draft intently at the start of each calendar year. Let's examine Davenport, a dynamic defender who's likely to rocket up boards and could even find himself in the late first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Davenport currently has Pro Football Focus' third-highest grade among all 4-3 defensive ends in the country, trailing just Bradley Chubb and Nick Bosa. On 199 pass-rush snaps in 2017, Davenport has accumulated 43 pressures (eight sacks, six hits, 29 hurries).
That equates to PFF's highest Pass-Rushing Productivity Score -- a metric that measures how often a defender creates pressure relative to how often he rushes the quarterback -- among 94 defensive ends playing in a 4-3 who've participated in at least 50 percent of their team's snaps. (For perspective, Von Miller has amassed 49 quarterback pressures on 249 pass-rush snaps this season.)
And Davenport's run-stopping grade is the third-best among all players at his position.
Beyond all that, he isn't some obscure, one-year wonder. In 2016, he had the No. 15 overall PFF grade among 159 qualifying 3-4 outside linebackers. The year before that, Davenport was given the No. 62 overall grade among 286 4-3 defensive ends who qualified.
The guy can play. Simple as that.
Davenport puts his long limbs to use, and coupled with his springy athleticism, he can overpower offensive tackles.
Check out this straight-arm rush against Rice earlier this season (he's No. 93 at the top of the screen). Note how quickly he gets off the ball, the speed-to-power conversion, and his immense length on display:
Here, against Texas State, Davenport deploys a similar move, yet finishes with a rip to pressure the quarterback.
Sometimes, Davenport doesn't need to use his hands to beat offensive linemen. He can win with sheer athleticism and length. On this rush, also against Texas State, he crashes inside, essentially runs through the guard and has the athletic talent to finish the play by leaping forward with arms extended.
Even when Davenport doesn't get home, his awareness and body frame help him.
On this play against Baylor, rushing from the left side of UTSA's defensive line, he moves the offensive tackle back but can't get into the body of the quarterback. Davenport realizes that, raises his hands and gets the pass deflection.
Lastly, here's an awesome illustration of his capabilities as an outside rusher.
Against Texas A&M in 2016, Davenport uses his length to instantly separate himself from the right tackle at the point of attack with an old-fashioned bench press. While controlling the offensive lineman, he finds the quarterback and easily dispatches the blocker then explodes to finish the play with a sack.
Those were all impressive, NFL-caliber pass-rushes by Davenport, a player who, on film, stands out in a good way. And the variety of ways he can beat offensive tackles along with his athletic prowess make him such an impactful edge-rusher.
But he's not solely a pass-rushing specialist.
Here, I'll start with another demonstration of his awareness and movement skills.
Against Rice, Davenport is the unblocked outside end immediately dealing with a misdirection play from the Owls. He processes quickly, then flips on the jets to force the huge loss for the offense. This is freakish.
From a two-point stance at the lower part of the screen, Davenport slides inside to take on the guard on an inside run play. While he doesn't make the tackle, note the pop he delivers on the interior offensive lineman to send him a yard into the backfield and his immediate hand use to swipe the blocker away and move closer to the football.
Davenport is a reliable edge-setter and seems to have enough strength to battle inside and make it difficult for runs between the tackles to be successful.
This Roadrunners defensive end is a twitchy, refined, productive pass-rusher. And when you're all three of those things -- while having NFL-size -- at the collegiate level, you're likely going to be a good professional player. It's the one-dimensional edge-rushers who typically struggle.
Sure, Davenport's played lower competition for most of his collegiate career. But he posted 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in outings against Arizona, Kansas State, Texas A&M, and Baylor while at UT-San Antonio.
No, he doesn't win on every pass-rush, and yes, he gets sounded blocked on run plays sometimes. Yet Davenport's film shows many snaps with electric edge-rushing and run-stopping abilities. Remember his name when draft season is in full swing.
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