Marcus Davenport wants to be as good or better than Myles Garrett.
The previously unheralded defensive end from Texas-San Antonio has felt that way since he crossed paths with Garrett, whom the Browns selected first overall in last year's NFL Draft, at a high school football camp in Texas. Davenport, who continued an unlikely surge up mock draft boards and player rankings last week at the Senior Bowl, remembers the moment well.
"I get to see (him) play and go against tackles," Davenport said, "and I was like, 'Wow, I think he's the best player I've ever seen.'"
Back then, Davenport was a tall (6-foot-7), undersized (198 pounds) lineman who wound up at UTSA after just two scholarship offers to play major college football. Garrett, meanwhile, was blue-chip recruit and -- around this time last year -- unanimously considered the best overall prospect in the 2017 draft class.
But after a dominating career at UTSA that saw Davenport blossom into one of the nation's best edge rushers, he's widely viewed as a first- or second-round pick in this spring's draft. Davenport, who eventually filled out to be roughly 255 pounds, continued turning heads in Mobile with his size, athleticism and explosiveness off the line of scrimmage. He used those attributes to accumulate 185 tackles, 37.5 TFLs, 21.5 sacks, 8 pass breakups and nine forced fumbles over four years in San Antonio.
Much like Garrett (who made the NFL's All-Rookie Team), Davenport hopes he's the latest defensive standout from Texas to earn his shot at the next level. At the very least, he's got everybody's attention.
In NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah's annual list of the top 50 best prospects, Davenport checked in at No. 10 — higher than well-known names such as Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, Florida State safety Derwin James and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith.
Jeremiah described Davenport, a multi-sport athlete in high school who excelled at basketball and track, as a raw prospect with remarkable upside. He "isn't a finished product,"Jeremiah wrote, "but I'm bullish on his future because of his rare size, athleticism and effort."
While pundits believe it's unlikely the Browns, owners of the first and fourth overall picks, take a defensive end at No. 1 for the second-straight year, Davenport's pursuit and personal competition with Garrett won't slow down anytime soon.
"He's always a player I wanted to be better than, so I was always looking up to him," he said. "I look up to him, but I'm trying to reach him."