New Viking Is an Instant Pro Bowl Candidate

Minnesota Vikings fans celebrate their win. The New York Giants lose to the Minnesota Vikings, 28-10, in NFL Week 5 on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in East Rutherford. © Danielle Parhizkaran/, North Jersey Record via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

The Minnesota Vikings sent seven players to the Pro Bowl in Las Vegas after their 13-4 season concluded in a disappointing postseason loss. Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, Dalvin Cook, Za’Darius Smith, Danielle Hunter, and Andrew DePaola were nominated. A couple of those players aren’t on the team anymore, but a new addition could replace at least one.

New Viking Is an Instant Pro Bowl Candidate

Alexander Mattison, his backup in the last four seasons, will replace Cook in the Vikings’ offense. After re-signing in free agency, he will get a chance to be the top guy in the backfield for the first time in his career. Smith was replaced before he even left the organization when the team agreed to terms with Marcus Davenport, a former first-round selection of the New Orleans Saints.

Is an Instant
Nov 7, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) is blocked by Atlanta Falcons offensive tackle Jake Matthews (70) during the second half at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports.

Davenport is a talented player but hasn’t quite put everything together so far in his five-year career. However, he is believed to have huge untapped potential, and a change of scenery could help him reach it. Connor Orr from believes Davenport could not just replace Smith in the lineup in Minnesota but also at the Pro Bowl as a first-time nominee. He made Orr’s list of ten possible first-time Pro Bowlers.

Davenport is my major sleeper this year, much like Reddick was last year. The 2018 first-round pick of the Saints has never logged more than nine sacks or 16 quarterback hits in a season, both of which I think he can surpass in Brian Flores’s defense this year. Davenport will slide into the position vacated by Za’Darius Smith, who had 10 sacks and a Pro Bowl nod last year.

Davenport will have the gifted Christian Darrisaw (another player who is certainly worth considering for a first-time Pro Bowl nod) to work against daily and a heightened focus on Flores’s ability to create confusion and simulate pressure from other areas of the field. Davenport won’t have the fully loaded deck of star pass rushers to work off like he did in New Orleans, but the change in scenery will help him bloom (and hit the ’24 free agent market with a bang).

Connor Orr,
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) is pressured by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) and defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) during an NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Davenport signed a one-year prove-it deal with the Vikings after his rookie contract, and the fifth-year option expired in New Orleans. He now has the chance to prove his worth and get a huge paycheck next year. However, he must play at a high level for that.

His counterpart is Danielle Hunter. That can change if the Vikings decide to trade him away instead of giving him a new contract. As long as the new addition is on the same defense as Hunter, he has a much easier path to the quarterback, as Hunter is certainly the scarier pass rusher for opponents and will see more of the available double teams. The duo can be one of the elite edge-rushing duos in the NFL.

In his five years with the Saints, Davenport recorded 21.5 sacks, 142 combined tackles, 25 tackles for loss, and 60 quarterback hits. He did not live up to his sky-high expectations on the stat sheet, but his talent hit top-notch. Davenport is a player who is much better than his stats indicate.

Naughty List
Jan 2, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) in the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports.

Injuries have been a big problem for Davenport, who played 63 games in five seasons without a single full campaign. Coming into the league, Davenport was considered a physical freak. At the combine, he was measured at 6’5″ and 264 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds with elite 10-yard and 20-yard splits.

PFF raved about the defenders in his free agency profile, where he ranked right outside of the top 20 available players and the best available edge defender:

Since he entered the league in 2018, Davenport’s 17.8% pass-rush win rate and 13.9% pressure percentage are both top-20 marks among edge defenders, and he’s also earned a very respectable 82.1 run-defense grade for his career, which ranks 16th over the span.

Davenport has five straight campaigns grading above 70.0. The issue is that he’s yet to log 600 snaps in a single season. At the end of the day, top-20 edge defenders against the pass and run don’t reach free agency often, and while his injury list is long, it doesn’t include any devastating ligament tears.

Davenport’s potential emergence would be significant for the defense in the first year under Brian Flores’ leadership. He is supposed to improve the horrendous defense, and having a couple of fantastic edge rushers goes a long way. If the defender has indeed a breakout season, especially on the stat sheet, a Pro Bowl nomination is easily conceivable.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt