Every year, SB Nation holds a mock draft where the managing editors of each team’s site act as general manager for their respective franchises. It’s always one of my favorite mock drafts to follow, because, unlike the wildly popular mocks of Mel Kiper and Daniel Jeremiah and Todd McShay, the analysts that know the most about their own teams and needs are the ones making the decisions. It may not always result in the most accurate mock drafts, but it certainly highlights a possible course of action for the draft.
This year, the draft didn’t fall all that favorably for the Detroit Lions. Top potential targets like Vita Vea, Maurice Hurst, Harold Landry, Da’Ron Payne and Isaiah Wynn were all gone by the time the Lions were on the clock. Here’s a look at the board as it fell to 20:
1. Cleveland Browns: QB Sam Darnold
2. New York Giants: DE Bradley Chubb
3. New York Jets: QB Josh Rosen
4. Cleveland Browns: RB Saquon Barkley
5. Denver Broncos: QB Baker Mayfield
6. Indianapolis Colts: G Quenton Nelson
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: S Derwin James
8. Chicago Bears: LB Tremaine Edmunds
9. San Francisco 49ers: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick
10. Oakland Raiders: DT Maurice Hurst
11. Miami Dolphins: LB Roquan Smith
12. Buffalo Bills: QB Josh Allen
13. Washington Redskins: DT Vita Vea
14. Green Bay Packers: CB Denzel Ward
15. Arizona Cardinals: DE Harold Landry
16. Baltimore Ravens: WR Calvin Ridley
17. Los Angeles Chargers: OL Isaiah Wynn
18. Seattle Seahawks: QB Lamar Jackson
19. Dallas Cowboys: DT Da’Ron Payne
That left me with a choice between three different options I considered: Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan, UTEP offensive guard Will Hernandez and UTSA edge defender Marcus Davenport (I just don’t think running back is of good value here). I decided to go with Marcus Davenport for the pick, and here are three reasons why:
There’s just too much potential to pass on
The biggest knock on Davenport was his poor level of competition at the University of Texas-San Antonio, and it makes him an incredibly hard prospect to project. There’s no doubt that there’s some risk in picking Davenport in the first round, but the idea that there is a “safe” pick all the way at 20 in the first round is an laughable take. This is the NFL Draft, where everyone is wrong more often than not, and nothing is guaranteed, especially this late in the round.
But almost everything we know about Davenport is promising.
- He’s incredibly athletic.
With one of the best #RAS at the Combine, Marcus Davenport is a bit less polished than most prospects in 2018.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 15, 2018
Per @Dan_Hatman of @ITPylon:
"His explosion is real (Combine verified that) and his physical toughness/aggression with that frame can’t be taught. " pic.twitter.com/jk0VycOmYI
- His production in 2016 and 2017 was excellent.
2016: 67 tackles, 10.0 TFLs, 6.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 1 forced fumble
2017: 55 tackles, 17.5 TFLs, 8.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 3 forced fumbles
- His tape is eye-popping.
My first exposure to Davenport was his 2017 tape against Rice. Granted, Rice went 1-11 in 2017, but look at some of the plays made by Davenport in that game:
Though he was gifted a touchdown 38 seconds into the highlight reel, on that play Davenport showed good awareness by not biting on the play-action fake. Check out Davenport’s brute strength at 5:42, when he throws the right tackle down with one hand. But my very favorite play of Davenport comes on the very next highlight. Davenport quickly diagnoses a reverse coming his way, and although he’s slightly out of position, his incredible speed for his size allows him to catch the wide receiver, forcing him out-of-bounds for a huge loss.
He may be very raw in his technique, but all the physical tools and football instincts are there. If he puts it all together, he could be the steal of the draft.
He has excellent character traits
Part of the reason I believe Davenport will be to realize his potential is his character background. This in-depth piece from Mike Tanier of Bleacher Report is a must-read when getting to know Davenport. Here are just a few excerpts:
But the NFL can cross bad grades or classroom habits off the checklist as it tries to figure out what’s wrong with Davenport.
”Teachers loved him. He was a leader by example in the classroom. School wasn’t the problem,” Hemphill says. “His size was the problem.”
Davenport also thrived in the classroom, completing a grueling 18-credit semester while playing his senior year so he could graduate on time.
“Marcus would make a great play, and that’s just what he did,” Hernandez says. “He didn’t have to scream or yell. Maybe a high five at most. But his mentality was: OK, I’m gonna go do it again.”
Innocent, humble and deliberate are descriptions that can easily be twisted in the echo chamber of pre-draft chatter. He rode the school bus almost sounds like coded anonymous-scout character subversion. But former coaches insist that Davenport was a quiet leader by example who just happens to shrug off the trappings of success.
Davenport sounds just like the kind of prospect that is willing to put in the work to find success. While some may fear he’ll get a deer-in-the-headlights look when thrown into a highly-stressful NFL environment, Davenport has shown composure in every step of his football career. And while you can never predict whether a prospect will give you trouble off the field, Davenport has literally zero red flags with his personality.
His relationship with Lions defensive line coach Bo Davis
It’s rare for a top college prospect to already have a working relationship with an NFL coach, but the Lions are in the unique position of having that bonus for three different potential first-round prospects. Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni coached Harold Landry at Boston College and defensive line coach Bo Davis worked with both Da’Ron Payne at Alabama and Davenport at UTSA.
Though there are reports out there that Davis doesn’t believe Davenport is as good as some of the other players he coached at Alabama, this prior relationship really gives the Lions a scouting edge over other NFL teams. Detroit knows how he’ll respond to criticism. Detroit knows how devoted he is to the game of football. They know his strengths and weaknesses and how he’d fit with the Lions’ new defense.
They may not see Davenport in the same way that I do, but if they do, they’ll have his named circled on draft day if he’s there at 20th overall.
Which player would you have taken at 20th overall in the SB Nation mock?
This poll is closed
DT Taven Bryan
RB Derrius Guice
EDGE Marcus Davenport
G Will Hernandez
LB Leighton Vander Esch