By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Last August, WalterFootball.com was the first draft media to report that Bucknell offensive tackle Julie’n Davenport was a sleeper draft prospect who was generating a buzz in the scouting community. Given the weakness in this class of senior offensive tackles, Davenport stood out as a player with some upside considering his physical makeup. Scouts from all 32 NFL teams went to Bucknell in the autumen to watch him and write a report on him for the 2017 NFL Draft.
What got scouts excited is that Davenport has ideal measurements to be a starting left tackle in the NFL. He has good height, a natural build for weight and long arms. Davenport also has quick feet with athleticism. He is nimble on the edge with the ability to get depth in his kick slide to cut off speed rushers. Team sources felt that if Davenport had gone to a major program, he could have been an early round prospect. That mostly would have been from the development on the field amd in the weight room, along with the attention/hype that comes from playing at a big school.
Sources say that Davenport had a so-so senior season. He had some good games, and other contests where he was beaten by players who had no business getting the better of him considering his physical talent. Considering those opponents weren’t even NFL prospects, teams’ initial training-camp enthusiasm declined.
Davenport still played well enough to earn an invitation to the Senior Bowl. His week in Mobile mirrored his senior season. He flashed his size, athleticism and quickness, yet also struggled in terms of strength and was pushed around. His challenges with the higher level of competition illustrated that Davenport is a developmental project for the NFL.
Davenport needs a lot of work before he will be ready to play in at the next level, requiring at least one redshirt season. First and foremost, Davenport needs to add strength as he is a finesse player who will get bullied around in the NFL. He got pushed around and had a hard time sustaining blocks at the Senior Bowl because defenders had sufficient strength to shed him. Davenport also needs to play with a more aggressive demeanor. On top of the physical development, he needs to work on his technique in both the ground game and pass protection. That includes hand placement, footwork and leverage.
Thus, Davenport is a big developmental project and there are no guarantees that he will work out. As a result, he is more of a mid-round pick. Davenport could sneak into the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft, but going in the early rounds of the third day is possible. Davenport has the size, athleticism, and length to be a starting left tackle in the NFL, but he is a real boom-or-bust prospect for the next level.
Player Comparison: Jonathan Martin. Watching Davenport at the Senior Bowl, his play reminded me of Martin. Coming out of Stanford, Martin had an athletic skill set to develop into a starting tackle. He needed to get stronger and play with more aggression. If Davenport doesn’t add more power and attack pro lineman, he may not work out in the NFL like Martin.
NFL Matches: Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Carolina, Baltimore, Detroit, Oakland, Cleveland, Buffalo, Houston, Denver, Minnesota, Seattle and San Diego
There are a lot of teams in need of offensive line help in the 2017 NFL Draft. This year’s weak class of tackles could benefit Davenport, so he end up going higher than expected. The Browns need to find a right tackle and are coming into the 2017 NFL Draft armed with a lot of picks for the second day and the mid-rounds. The Browns are taking a long-term approach to building in Cleveland, so they could have the patience to give Davenport time to develop.
In the AFC South, the Jaguars need a left tackle and/or a left guard depending on what they do with Kelvin Beachum. Davenport could be a candidate to fill one of those spots for Jacksonville. Houston has to replace right tackle Derek Newton, but Davenport may not be a good fit for the Texans’ rushing style. The Colts need to continue to build up their offensive line to better protect Andrew Luck.
The Panthers neglected their tackle need last offseason to the detriment of Cam Newton. If Carolina doesn’t land a tackle in the first round, the organization could target Davenport later.
Baltimore could lose Ricky Wagner in free agency, while Detroit could lose Riley Reiff to another team. That would open up a hole at right tackle for either team. Buffalo is also needing a right tackle upgrade.
In the AFC West, Oakland has gotten good play out of Donald Penn, but they need to start grooming their long-term left tackle as Penn is aging. Denver needs a lot of help on its offensive line, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Broncos sign some veterans to upgrade their line. In the mid-rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft, Denver could target a developmental project like Davenport. The Chargers also could consider a long-term left tackle, and Davenport’s skill set could intrigue them.
Minnesota and Seattle fielded two of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last year. Both teams could target Davenport as competition in the mid-rounds.
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