In 2017, the New Orleans Saints came extremely close to taking a trip to the NFC title game, losing to the Minnesota Vikings on a last-second miracle pass from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs. A few months later, the Saints traded two first-round picks to move up and select University of Texas-San Antonio pass rusher Marcus Davenport with the No. 14 overall pick, hoping that his dynamism on the edge would help push the team over the top.
Davenport struggled a bit with injuries during what was still a solid rookie season, but played only 51 snaps in New Orleans' two playoff games, the second of which was another heartbreaking loss, this time to the Los Angeles Rams. Davenport came back healthy for his second season and took a nice step forward, starting all 13 games in which he appeared and picking up six sacks, five tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, and 16 quarterback hits. He got injured again down the stretch, though, and didn't appear in New Orleans' playoff loss to (again) the Vikings.
Heading into Year 3, the Saints have high hopes for Davenport's future.
"He definitely has room to get better and it's there, the potential and the growth is there," defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen said, per The Times-Picayune. "I think he made a big step last season. There's some games where he was playing lights-out. Talking to him, I think his confidence is better this offseason. He's working hard and I know he had a couple of injuries, but he's put the work in."
If his overall production is any indication, Davenport is already among the most efficient edge rushers in the league, even with a relatively moderate sack total. He ranked 15th out of 93 edge rushers who played at least 25 snaps per game last season in my Weighted Overall Win Rating (WOW Rtg) metric, which adjusts a player's sack, hit, hurry, and run stop totals (via Pro Football Focus) to gauge how much more often than the league average player they produce one of those results.
Davenport's WOW Rtg of 125.9 in 2019 was on par with players like Calais Campbell, T.J. Watt, and Von Miller, and indicates that he was 25.9 percent more likely than the average edge rusher to produce a sack, hit, hurry, or run stop on any given snap.
|21||Melvin Ingram III||Chargers||116.7|
|23||Kyle Van Noy||Patriots||114.7|
If he can take on something closer to a full-time role after playing 40 and 50 percent of defensive snaps in his first two seasons, then Davenport will be more likely to live up to the high expectations the team apparently has for him. And if he can take that step, the Saints would suddenly have one of the best edge duos in the league, as teammate Cameron Jordan is on the above list as well.