The New Orleans Saints traded three draft picks to the Green Bay Packers to move up to the number 14 pick in the 1st Round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
They used that selection to draft Marcus Davenport, a promising defensive end from the University of Texas at San Antonio.
It was a heavy price to pay. The Saints gave up their first-round pick in 2018, No. 27 overall, along with a 2018 5th round choice and their first-round pick in 2019, which would be the 30th overall selection.
Davenport had freakish athletic ability and good size for the position at 6-6 and 265 pounds. However, he was also considered a raw project and facing a big jump in competition from what he faced in college.
His raw potential was on full display during his first training camp as a rookie, but so was his inexperience. Davenport was also affected by a foot injury in training camp that further slowed his development.
Davenport appeared in 15 of 17 games as a rookie, including two playoff games. Despite missing three contests at midseason with injury, he played in 40% of the team’s defensive snaps.
His rookie stat line was solid with 4.5 sacks, 18 pressures, 7 tackles for loss among his 25 total stops, broke up 2 passes, and forced a fumble.
Marcus showed disruptive potential, but wasn't nearly as effective after returning from his midseason injury.
Davenport started his second season strong, registering 3 sacks, 12 QB hits, and 2 tackles for loss over the first six contests. His year ended with 6 sacks, 26 pressures, 5 tackles for loss, and 3 forced fumbles.
Despite 13 starts and appearing in 50% of the defensive snaps, Davenport had another disappointing end to the year. He missed the team's last three regular season games and their first round playoff loss because of a foot injury.
Davenport missed most of his third training camp and the first four games of 2020 while dealing with an elbow injury. He played sparingly upon his return, but still had 1.5 sacks, 6 pressures, and 2 tackles for loss in his first three games back.
Struggling with nagging injuries throughout the year, Davenport appeared in 13 of 18 games and played 36% of the defensive snaps. He had just 1.5 sacks and 3 tackles for loss on the year, but did record 17 QB pressures.
New Orleans showed continued faith in the 24-year-old Davenport's potential by picking up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract this offseason. He will count $4.37 million against the team's salary cap this season, but will escalate to a $9.55 million cap hit in 2022.
Davenport's production and injury issues have caused some to consider him a disappointment. Especially because of what the team gave up to get him. His numbers and impact on the defense in 2020 were the lowest of his short career.
New Orleans is betting that their former 1st Round pick will finally live up to his promise. If Davenport has another disappointing campaign in 2021, his entire $9.55 million salary will convert to dead cap space if released before 2022.
The Saints lost DE Trey Hendrickson, who led the team with 13.5 sacks in 2020, in free agency this offseason.
They still have veteran Pro Bowler Cameron Jordan, who is coming off a disappointing year by his standards, along with a potential breakout candidate in third-year DE Carl Granderson.
New Orleans also added DE Tanoh Kpassagnon in free agency to bolster depth, and re-signed backup edge rusher Noah Spence.
In a surprise to many, they then spent a 1st Round choice this spring on University of Houston defensive end Payton Turner. Some project that Turner could be a replacement for either Jordan or Davenport in 2022.
The Saints spent a big wager to get Marcus Davenport in the 2018 NFL Draft. They doubled down on that wager this offseason by picking up his fifth-year option, betting that Davenport will finally live up to his first-round pedigree.
That gamble will be a major determining factor on how well the New Orleans defense performs in 2021.
You can follow Bob Rose on Facebook or on Twitter @bobbyr2613.
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