New Viking Tabbed as 1st-Time Pro Bowl Candidate

2 Vikings Reach PFF's Top 50 of 2022
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The Minnesota Vikings formally traded outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith to the Cleveland Browns for a couple of pick swaps and $10 million cap savings on March 16th.

In his stead, newcomer free agent Marcus Davenport will start this September.

New Viking Tabbed as 1st-Time Pro Bowl Candidate

And if Davenport plays his cards right, he might just become a first-time Pro Bowler, according to’s Conor Orr.

New Viking Tabbed
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Orr forecasted Monday 10 men to reach the Pro Bowl for the first time, and Davenport was nominated as a first-year Viking. Orr explained, “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 joined the Vikings in March on a one-year, $13 million deal.

Naughty List
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“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,” Orr continued.

The New Orleans Saints selected Davenport in the 1st Round of the 2018 NFL Draft, and he has played 63 games since, starting 32. He’s tallied 142 total tackles, 60 QB hits, 25 tackles for loss, 21.5 sacks, and 7 forced fumbles in five seasons. The knocks on his resume are durability and consistency.

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Orr concluded with the Pro Bowl prediction, “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).”

Davenport’s tale of the tape from Pro Football Focus since joining the NFL five years ago is quite impressive:

2018 = 71.8
2019 = 84.1
2020 = 73.3
2021 = 88.8
2022 = 76.8

Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatel after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

And Minnesota will need a productive campaign from Davenport after sending the aforementioned Smith to the Browns a month ago. Davenport is on deck to pair with Danielle Hunter this September — if the Vikings don’t trade Hunter — and replacing Smith won’t be a diminutive task. Minnesota also has Patrick Jones, D.J. Wonnum, and rookie Andre Carter II, among others, for pass-rushing depth.

Orr also notably mentioned Brock Purdy (49ers), Justin Fields (Bears), Chris Olave (Saints), and Kayvon Thibodeaux (Giants) as possible first-time Pro Bowlers.

The Vikings kick off mandatory minicamp on Tuesday.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by