The New York Jets will pick 6th overall on April 30th in Chicago at the 2015 NFL Draft. After an active free agency that leaves any draft possibility on the table, what will they do? Let’s take a look at a round one target, EDGE defender Dante Fowler Jr. out of Florida…
Weight: 261 lbs
Arm Length: 33 3/4″
40 yard dash: 4.60
Vertical jump: 32.5 inches
Broad jump: 112 inches
3 cone: 7.40
Bench Reps: 19
Fowler was a five star defensive end recruit out of Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, Florida. According to nfl.com, Fowler has lost 25 pounds since his arrival to the University of Florida, which aided explosion for his move to outside linebacker.
In his third and final season at Florida, Fowler was a team captain, the team’s defensive MVP, and made 1st-team on the All-SEC squad. He finished his college career with 34 tackles for a loss, 14.5 sacks and 5 forced fumbles.
Strengths:Fowler is a true 3-4 EDGE defender at the next level that wins with length, power, and quick feet off the line of scrimmage. He plays with a high motor and can rush from anywhere on the field.
Strength #1: Jump off the LOS
Fowler is excellent at timing the snap and exploding off the line of scrimmage. He constantly finds himself in the backfield blowing up run plays and chasing down quarterbacks. As seen above on a vital 3rd and goal, he forces an errant throw by ECU quarterback Shane Carden.Strength #2: Lateral Movement
Fowler perfectly fakes an outside rush, plants his foot to drive inside, and uses a swim move to shoot the lane to the passer. His ability here to not allow the tackle to gain any leverage on him is top notch and one reason to believe he can become a more consistent rusher at the next level.
Strength #3: Power
Once again Fowler brings the tackle outside and plants his foot. This time rather than going with a more finesse swim move to create a lane to the passer, he uses raw power to drive the tackle back into the pocket.
With the tackle completely off balance and the pocket quickly becoming congested, Fowler gets the sack before the quarterback can escape.
Strength #4: Versatility
Fowler’s versatility is a big reason I expect him to be one of the first two edge players off the board on draft night. While he does not possess the pure pass rush ability of Clemson’s Vic Beasley, he is a much more well rounded defender.
As seen above, he can set the edge and a true run stopper. While his coverage samples are quite limited, he has the athleticism to drop back from a decoy rusher stance when necessary. He is a three down outside linebacker at the next level.
As expected from a raw pass rusher, Fowler displays a ton of wasted motion when rushing off the edge. Above, he makes more cuts and arm motion than necessary.
If he uses his burst while making one move to go, (as seen in the ‘strengths’ clips) he can avoid getting locked on by the tackle. The ball comes out quicker at the next level and Fowler will have to make the most of his time to be a threat to infiltrate the pocket.
Weakness #2: Over pursuit/Downhill Defending
Fowler can be caught over pursuing plays that require reads in the backfield. While he won’t see a ton of option style offense at the next level, his containment from an IQ standpoint can use some tailoring.
As seen above, he is so athletic that he initially reads the play wrong and makes his way back to get the last hit on the ball carrier Jameis Winston.
Fowler is a top five player in the 2015 NFL Draft class and the top overall EDGE defender. While he is not the best pure pass rusher (that title belongs to Vic Beasley), he is the most rounded.
He is a classic case of a plug and play prospect that can set the edge at the NFL level while also developing his (currently raw) pass rush ability.
For the Jets, he is an ideal fit in Todd Bowles defense from both a size and skill set perspective and a very likely candidate for the 6th overall pick on April 30th.