Prospect: DE/OLB Dante Fowler, Florida
Measurements: 6'3", 261lbs
Projected Round: 1st, Top 15
Dante Fowler is an edge rusher who frequently gets overlooked as "top tier" in this draft class due to his lack of sack numbers alone. But if you dig deeper in the film, you will see a disrupting force that can turn an elite skill-set into elite performances in the NFL.
When you watch Fowler on film, it isn't his crazy sacks or flashy plays that jump out at you; it is his impact and tornado-like play-style that makes you say, "wow". And the more that I watch him, the more confident I am that the Falcons will leave the first round of the draft with one impact player to help rebuild this defense.
Here, Fowler warrants a double team, which frees up a teammate to a straight shot at the quarterback. In Falcon fashion, his teammate allows the passer to get away, leaving Dante to make the play. Spoiler: He does.
Fowler's most valuable skill, however, is the ability to play multiple positions on the defense and perform different tasks at each one. Want him to rush the quarterback? You can play him at either side, and stand him up if you'd like. Want him to stuff the run as an interior lineman? He can do that as well. Fowler is a package that Quinn would certainly love to have as a tool in a defense that he will begin to build from the bottom up. Not to mention, it also helps that the two have already worked together during Quinn's stint as Florida's defensive coordinator.
As a Gator, Dante dealt with mediocre talent on the defensive side of the ball. This kept complete pressure on him, without anyone to help free him from double-teams and the top prospects of powerhouse programs that filled the SEC. It makes you think what he could have done with the defensive talent of, say, an Alabama or Missouri.
Despite being considered a probable early first rounder, Fowler is still very raw in his technique. At times he can play too upright, and get blown off the snap. Other times, he can get pinned inside and allow a runner to slip out into open space. It's fundamental things that keep him out of the top 10.
He is a player that can frequently impact plays, but he can't keep up his havoc consistently.
When drafting a player like Fowler, you have to realize that you are banking on the player he can be, and not the player he is when you draft him. Dante has all the tools necessary to be the most dominant defensive player of this draft class; it will just take proper coaching to get him there.
SCHEME FIT AND FINAL THOUGHTS
Honestly, it doesn't matter much which scheme Fowler plays in, but it would probably be best to have him stand up and rush the quarterback as an outside linebacker. This would allow him to utilize his speed more efficiently and keep his weaknesses in transition to a minimum.
Would you like Fowler as our first rounder? Which prospect would you like to see next?