Marcus Davenport Gives NFL Draft Advice, Discusses Handling Pressure and Criticism

The Saints traded up to get Marcus Davenport in the first round of 2018, and it sounds like he's learned some valuable lessons in his three years in New Orleans.
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Marcus Davenport enters a pivotal point of his NFL career this season. This is crucial 'contract year' for the Saints defensive end, and there's still a window open for New Orleans to use the fifth-year option on him. The financials behind it come in around $9.6 million, which would be fully guaranteed, and something the team will have to weigh out until the league deadline prior to May 3.

Davenport recently joined Greg Sherman, who covered Davenport in high school and at UTSA. Sherman used to work at Fox Sports Southwest, but now works for himself covering high school and local sports in San Antonio. The full nearly 27-minute interview can be seen below, and Davenport starts talking about the draft and the Saints around the 3:07 mark (go here).

The pressure of being a first round pick for anyone is great. There tends to be more busts than hits, and obviously the price New Orleans paid to get him was a pretty penny. The Saints traded their 1st Round pick (No. 27, Rashaad Penny), 5th Round pick (No. 147, Micah Kiser), and a 2019 1st Round pick (No. 30, Deandre Baker) to the Packers for their 1st Round pick (No. 14 Overall). In particular, Davenport admitted that he had his fair share of struggles coming in with the pressure.

"I didn't handle it well," Davenport said. 

"I'd say coming from UTSA I wouldn't say it was a small school, but a newer school, for the most part, I think I listened too much to the writers, everybody else, anybody that had a voice. I kind of listened to that at one point, and for a good while it got me off my game, and then I started doubting myself. I know I've gotten better, but shoot, I haven't even done really what I can do consistently."

Apr 26, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell with Marcus Davenport as selected as the number fourteen overall pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Davenport - 2018 NFL Draft

Davenport said he was lucky coming to the Saints and being around players like Cam Jordan and Trey Hendrickson, who he said was a friend to him. Ultimately, his teammates are the ones who have really picked him back up and helped him along the journey.

"Being around a lot of good players have helped me build up my own confidence, or build it back to a point where you know especially to the other guys coming in, you're a player too."

His draft advice was pretty simple and straightforward to some of the fellow San Antonio prospects like Kellen Mond, Caden Sterns, and Trevon Moehrig, who hope to have their name called early during the draft process.

"Don't listen to what people say you can't do. A lot of it's just nonsense. A lot of people just talk, and it's a lot of opinions out there. At first, I don't think I handled it quite well, or actually knew what I was looking for, so I didn't know where I was going."

After another season in the books, Davenport said that coupled along with this offseason and COVID gave him a little bit of a break to think, and he said that he's lucky. He said he has a great coach in Ryan Nielsen, and is currently reading Amor Fati, which means 'Love of Life'.

"With my coach (Nielsen), he puts it, 'It's on us.' A lot of the games, it's on us. We didn't necessarily do enough. A lot of that is the driving force to the next one, the next day, the next mill, just grinding so we never have to feel that losing feeling, that bad performance feeling. Sometimes you may win and have a bad game, and deep down you know, 'that just wasn't good enough'."

Davenport added, "Sometimes it gets to a certain point where winning is everything, but if you're really a player, winning is not everything. It's how you play, how you contribute, how you want to be the best. Winning is just a side effect of following the right process."

Andrew Gullotta of Saints News Network recently looked at the roller coaster career Davenport has had so far. From an analytics standpoint, he's been strong over his first three seasons. Of course, a caveat of the time has him not making it a full season, missing 11-of-36 regular season games. The Saints need Davenport to make a huge leap and be a terror on the outside opposite of Cam Jordan, and him being in the spotlight is nothing new for him, but the approach sounds better from critics.

"I didn't always handle it good, but I've been learning to handle it better, and for the most part, especially now, I can understand there was some truth in some of the words that people were saying. That's just that. You know, there's truth in almost a lot of things that people are saying, or messages or how we actually get the point across is bad. For the most part, I don't even look at it. If I happen to stumble across it, I might like it, laugh a little bit, share it with my best friend, share it with my family because sometimes people are funny. I think the best thing you can do about all the hate or negative comments or even some of the good, you really have to laugh at it. You can't let it affect your grind, at least in any negative way."