One Viking Is Envisioned to Be a Bust

Contribution from Free
Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Marcus Davenport addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Davenport joined the Vikings in March of 2023 after four seasons with the New Orleans Saints.

The Minnesota Vikings made some big additions in the offseason to improve the roster that went 13-4. They lost some veteran pieces, of course, especially the departure of Dalvin Tomlinson will hurt while the absence of Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, Eric Kendricks, and Patrick Peterson could be a short-term problem, but considering their age, not in the long run.

One Viking Is Envisioned to Be a Bust

The Vikings need their additions to work out. Jordan Addison is needed to help Justin Jefferson in the passing game, and Byron Murphy is the clear top cornerback and must live up to the hype. Both players have exclusively drawn positive reports out of training camp. Addison also had a solid outing in the preseason.

1 Viking Is Envisioned to Be a Bust
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A third addition, meanwhile, is Marcus Davenport, an injury-plagued pass-rusher with high upside but low production in recent seasons. For that reason, he is viewed as a bust candidate according to David Kenyon from Bleacher Report, who had him as one of five free agent signings likely to bust:

When a pass-rush conversation pops up, I often think of two sentences from 49ers’ star Nick Bosa: “I just wanna sack the quarterback, dude. It’s not as easy as it looks.”

If that doesn’t describe Marcus Davenport’s career…After tallying 4.5 sacks as a rookie with the New Orleans Saints in 2018, he recorded six in 2019. But then, he hopped on a roller coaster with 1.5 sacks in 2020, a career-high nine in 2021 and 0.5 in 2022.

Davenport has done a superb job generating pressure, yet he’s struggled to consistently finish those opportunities. The optimistic view is Davenport will thrive opposite Danielle Hunter, giving the Minnesota Vikings a dynamic pair of pass-rushers. The more realistic view is Davenport won’t produce to the level of his $13 million salary.

These Are the 6
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Davenport has always been a highly talented edge rusher with incredible athletic tools and exciting potential. That’s why the New Orleans Saints traded a couple of first-round picks to the Green Bay Packers to select him with the 14th overall pick in 2018.

At the draft combine, he was measured at over 6’5″ and 264 lbs and ran a 4.58 40-yard dash. People of that size with that type of athleticism don’t come around very often. But in five years in New Orleans, he only produced 21.5 sacks and still hasn’t played a full season. He only played in 63 games throughout those five campaigns.

The good news for the Vikings is that a player with that potential shouldn’t be available in free agency, especially not for $13 million without any long-term commitment. Davenport signed a one-year prove-it deal with the Vikes.

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Interestingly, his pass-rush efficiency statistics have been at a high level for years, but it just didn’t translate into sacks. Fortunately, there is more to rushing the passer than sacks, as pressures and hurries disrupt the play’s timing and are extremely valuable, although they aren’t visible on the stat sheet. He is also a decent run defender.

PFF praised the former UTSA standout defender in their free-agent rankings, where he was the top edge rusher:

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.

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Davenport will be a beneficiary of Danielle Hunter drawing double teams. He has also been used a lot as an interior rusher. His size and quickness help him have an advantage over guards. The Vikings used Za’Darius Smith in a similar way last season.

It remains to be seen if Bleacher Report is correct or if Davenport can live up to the expectations and earns a big payday next offseason after helping the Vikings’ defense improve.

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