By: Thomas Gibbons
When asked about the best player at the Senior Bowl, ESPN NFL draft specialist Todd McShay was not hesistant to say its defensive end Marcus Davenport from the University of Texas San-Antonio.
A two star prospect in high school, Davenport had just two offers, UTSA and UNLV. Now, he could be a top ten pick come April.
The Bears hold the 8th pick in the 2018 draft and Davenport will be hard to pass up. Ryan Pace has a lot of needs to address this offseason, mainly at outside linebacker and wide receiver. His track record says he will draft the best player available rather than need. Come pick eight or wherever, Davenport could very well be the best prospect.
Measuring 6’5 259lbs, Davenport sets schools records in career sacks(22) and tackles for loss (38) along with honors of 2017 Conference USA Defensive player of the year and 1st team All-Conference while at UTSA.
When you watch tape on Davenport, the first thing that jumps out at you is his quick first step. Then, it’s his unreal strength. His pass rush moves are existent but need work. And as ESPN NFL writer Matt Bowen and many others have said is that his technique needs work and I agree. As an edge rusher, you do not want to engage with the offensive lineman. The goal is to slap wrists and elbows, dip and rip, and get home to the quarterback. Davenport is still very raw at the position but if you pair him with a great position coach and coordinator, he could become an elite player.
When you look at the outside linebacker position for the Bears, it’s pretty thin. Leonard Floyd showed improvement last season and the arrow is pointing up for the former Bulldog. Pernell McPhee missed just three games in 2017 but the injuries continue to pile up and does not look like the same player he was a few years ago. Willie Young has been very consistent and someone the Bears could relay on since coming to Chicago in 2014 but he will be 33 when the season starts. It is in the best interest for the Bears to get younger at the position and with McPhee’s low production and age not being on Willie Young’s side, the Bears have a huge hole to fill if they plan to move on. Who’s left? Isiah Irving and Howard Jones? Pace needs to make outside linebacker a priority in free agency and if it presents itself, in the draft.
If you look at the teams ahead of the Bears, a lot of talent will be off the board already before eight that would be good fits in Chicago. Bradley Cubb is not going to fall outside the top five and Minkah Fitzpatrick would be a great fit for the Browns or Jets as both are in the process of revamping their secondary. Calvin Ridley is the best receiver in the draft but is 8 too high? Ridley is the exact target Mitchell Trubisky needs and he could be one guy the Bears trade down to grab.
It’s only January, a lot of opinions will change and rumors will swirl until that great night in April. But if you are looking for Pace to draft a highly talented player and maybe the best available when the commissioner announces the Bears are on the clock, look more into Davenport.