Late last week, the NFL announced it will host 22 prospects at the draft in Dallas. The list features most of the big names we’ve expected for the last year (with QB Baker Mayfield and OL Quenton Nelson being the most notable absences), plus one of this year’s biggest surprises, a WR-turned-DE who grew up and played four hours south of AT&T Stadium.
Marcus Davenport showed up at the University of Texas at San Antonio—which played its first game in 2011—weighing less than 200 pounds, having switched positions late in high school and viewing football as a means to a good education rather than a potential lifelong pursuit. But as a Roadrunner, he added 60 pounds while turning into a game-wrecking pass rusher who most believe has not yet hit his ceiling.
Davenport was not in Albert Breer’s heavily sourced first-round mock draft as recently as November, but sits at No. 12 in the most recent version, with other experts pegging him inside the top 10. Besides his lack of experienced polish, one of the biggest knocks against Davenport by old-school football thinkers is that he does not have a traditional football-obsessed, uber-confident mindset. Les Snead reportedly gave Davenport a book on thriving as an introvert after the prospect said he was nervous during their private meeting. According to USA Today, “He journals, writes poetry, watches Anime and is excited to wear the T-shirt his girlfriend bought him that says ‘We should all be feminists.’ “
While that might scare football purists—for whatever reason—it makes him a great ambassador for the game, proof of the sport’s on-the-field meritocracy. Clearly those in the league agree, as the draft invitation comes with an expectation that Davenport will speak to the media (something he’s been shy about in the past) and attend outreach events. The invitation also signifies the first formal recognition that he is truly one of the top prospects in this class as well as an easy player to root for as the draft nears.
“This is surreal, because I know this is what a lot of people dream for,” Davenport said at his pro day. “This wasn’t necessarily my dream, but it’s growing into one.”
Not getting this newsletter in your inbox yet? Join The MMQB’s Morning Huddle.