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UTSA DE Marcus Davenport drawing comparisons to Ziggy Ansah

MOBILE, Ala. -- Back in 2013 at the Senior Bowl, while coaching the North team, the Detroit Lions got an up-close look at a super athletic but raw defensive end out of BYU.

Detroit fell in love with the pass rusher's athleticism and intelligence, and ultimately made Ziggy Ansah their first-round pick (No. 5 overall) in the NFL Draft a few months later.

Five years later, Ansah enters free agency this offseason as one of the top players available with a Pro Bowl nod and two double-digit sack seasons under his belt.

Ansah, who had only been playing football for three years at the time of his Senior Bowl, had a lot to prove that week.

Fast forward five years, and Marcus Davenport, out of University of Texas San Antonio, is trying to prove himself in a similar way during his Senior Bowl week.

Davenport has the frame (6-6, 260 pounds) and athleticism that make scouts drool. He recorded 55 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks last season. But he has to prove this week that he can do it against stiffer competition.

"He's probably the player in this game who is not well known," said Phil Savage, former Cleveland Browns GM and current Executive Director of the Senior Bowl. "But by the time we get to Saturday, he's going to be the talk of the game."

Ansah had an impressive week of practice at his Senior Bowl back in 2013, and then dominated the game with seven tackles (3.5 for loss), 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

Davenport wasn't highly recruited out of high school. He started playing football as a receiver and weighed just 198 pounds when he entered the college ranks.

UTSA, his hometown college, saw some potential and gave him a shot. Davenport didn't disappoint. He put in the work and put on the weight – getting as high as 264 pounds – and has turned himself into one of the most interesting prospect to keep an eye on this week.

Most analysts think he'll be a first-round pick, another one of those relative unknown players to make a big impression in the pre-draft process.

"I love the comparison and I have to say I'm blessed to even be here," Davenport said Monday. "It wasn't that long ago that this wasn't even a thought on my radar."

Ansah said the same thing back in 2013.

The Lions are one of the teams this offseason in need of pass rushing help. Detroit's 35 sacks ranked 20th in the NFL, but there were too many long lulls of insufficient pass rush this season, especially in the middle of the season.

Ansah led the Lions with 12 sacks in 2017, but as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, his future is somewhat uncertain.

Look for Detroit to add a pass rusher early in this draft. Maybe Davenport is one of those names they'll do their homework on.

Davenport told reporters at the Senior Bowl Monday that he expects to have a good week of practice. He certainly seems like a young man who has high expectations for himself.

"There's like a big three I try to imitate all at one point," Davenport said. "Calais Campbell's power, J.J. Watt's motor and Von Miller's speed."

When asked what he wanted teams to take away from his week in Mobile, Davenport thought about it for a few seconds, grinned, and said he hoped teams walked away thinking, "that guy is interesting."

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