INDIANAPOLIS – The draft wouldn’t be as much fun without a little intrigue, so how’s this?
The college coaches for two of the pass rushers linked to the Packers in various mock drafts – Texas-San Antonio’s Marcus Davenport and Boston College’s Harold Landry – are now on the staff of … wait for it … the Detroit Lions.
Yes, former UTSA defensive line coach Bo Davis is now in the same post under new Lions head coach Matt Patricia, while former BC D-line coach Paul Pasqualoni is Detroit’s defensive coordinator.
So, if the Packers are targeting either Davenport or Landry to boost new coordinator Mike Pettine’s pass rush, their NFC North rivals already know plenty about them and could share that interest as well.
The Packers at No. 14 pick six spots ahead of the No. 20 Lions in the first round, so barring any trades, Green Bay will have first crack if one or both are available the first night of the upcoming draft.
It’s also possible neither team will select either player, if other options are more attractive or if they’re just plain not interested.
In any event, the player most often aligned with the Packers in mock drafts is Davenport, the 6-foot-6, 255-pound small-school product who was a lightly recruited 198-pounder coming out of the prep ranks.
Upset his hometown school in San Antonio didn’t recruit him initially, Davenport was going to attend UNLV until finally taking a visit to UTSA. Through diet and workouts, he slowly built his body into that of an edge rusher, racking up 15 sacks over his final two years in college.
“I think I’m real violent. That’s a real attribute I have,” Davenport said Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I feel like with strength, I was able to develop violence. At first I was light, and I just had to use speed and finesse.”
Ideally, he has the whole package now. His speed dates back to successfully chasing and cornering a rabbit at age 8, and he feels the added weight – 30 pounds over the last two years – hasn’t slowed him down.
Being doubted by some due to the level of competition he faced at a smaller college comes with the territory, but he held his own at the Senior Bowl to solidify his status as a top prospect.
The questions surrounding his college competition haven’t ceased at the combine, though. So much so that the first query from a reporter at his news conference mistakenly referenced Davenport playing for Texas-El Paso.
“What motivates me is really when people say the wrong name. You said UTEP. I go to UTSA,” Davenport said to begin, awkwardly, his introduction to NFL media. “Yeah, that’s a little bit of motivation. I always have a chip on my shoulder.
“My stuff is already on film. There’s nothing I can change. If they’re going to hold it against me, they’re going to keep holding it against me. I can only do what I can do here. Now is my proving time.”
Davenport’s soft-spoken nature off the field belies the violence he ascribed to himself on it. He believes he can be a hand-down defensive end or a stand-up outside linebacker.
He’s confident enough in his athletic ability that he wagered $50 with North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb, the consensus top pass-rush prospect in the draft and a likely top-five pick, over whose test results Sunday would be better.
Similarly, there’s no lack of confidence in Landry, the 6-3, 250-pounder who believes he takes a back seat to no one at his position, not even Chubb.
“I think nobody in this class has a first step like mine, a bend like mine and a burst to the quarterback like me,” Landry said. “I’m not saying I’m perfect, there’s plenty of things I can improve on in my game, but I do believe in this draft I’m the best pass rusher.”
Landry didn’t finish his college career the way he would have liked, though. After compiling 16½ sacks in 2016, he had five sacks through six games last season before an ankle injury derailed the rest of the year. He tried to play through the injury for a couple of games but only made it worse and was then sidelined for good, stuck on five senior sacks.
Landry has “no doubt” he’d have reached double digits again had he stayed healthy, and he prides himself on not just getting to the quarterback, but getting the ball out, too. He had 10 forced fumbles in his college career, including seven in his junior season alone.
“When I burst to the quarterback, I just try to knock the hell out of him,” he said. “Especially if you’re coming from the blind side, make sure you’re getting strip-sacks, getting the outside hand on the ball. That’s what you should be taught when you’re coming around the edge.”
A dip-and-rip speed rusher, Landry plans to develop more power moves as he gets stronger, but even now he’s comfortable attacking from a two- or three-point stance.
His upside, and Davenport’s for that matter, are up to the scouts to discern. Their body types look the part and point to tremendous growth potential at the same time.
“I think I definitely have to develop my toolbox more,” Landry said, echoing words spoken by Davenport as well. “I’ll do whatever it takes to be the best at my position. I know the work it’s going to take to be at a dominant level.”
But the Lions may have the best idea whether either one can actually get there.