AnalysisI once saw Fowler play quarterback, fullback, tight end, wide receiver, defensive end and defensive tackle in a high school game. That athleticism made him one of the most coveted recruits in the class of 2012. Now he enters the 2015 NFL Draft with the same distinction. Fowler looks ideal as an outside ‘backer in a 3-4 defense. He’s freaky on the edge and is arguably the top pass rusher in this class. He’s quick and explosive. At 260-pounds he ran 4.6 [forty] at Combine. That’s smoking fast and he can re-direct in space.
Dave-Te' Thomas Player Evaluation
Dante Fowler gets the call over the draft’s top two rated prospects in Leonard Williams and Amari Cooper. He’s the top pass rusher in this draft and plays with an incredibly high motor. Fowler is big, long and very athletic. I once saw Fowler play quarterback, fullback, tight end, wide receiver, defensive end and defensive tackle in a high school game. That athleticism made him one of the most coveted recruits in the class of 2012. Now he enters the NFL with the same distinction. Fowler looks ideal as an outside ‘backer in a 3-4 defense. He’s freaky on the edge, quick and explosive. At 260-pounds he ran 4.6 [forty] at Combine. That’s smoking fast and he can re-direct in space.
“I came in with Champ, I’m leaving with him,” was the short announcement made by Dante Fowler when he announced he was leaving school for the NFL. Not pleased with the school’s booster tormenting his head coach to the point where Will Muschamp decided to step down before the school administration fired him, Fowler has had enough of the politics plaguing the academic department. The NFL will thank those boosters for letting the best defensive lineman they had since Kevin Carter in the early 1990s simply leave in frustration.
Playing the “Buck” position, Fowler sported 60 tackles while leading the Gators with 8.5 sacks, 15.0 stops-for-loss, 17 QB pressures and a 27-yard gain via a fumble recovery to show for his 2014 performance. His final game saw him produce three sacks vs. East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl. The previous season was Fowler’s first at the ‘buck” position and the 2013 schedule saw him make 10.5 stops-for-loss with 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and 50 tackles.
Fowler is undersized for a defensive end, but has a well-built, muscled-up frame with defined upper body, good chest development, tight waist and hips, very good abdomen definition, good bubble, thick thighs and calves, very low body fat (8%) and room on his frame to add at least another ten pounds without losing any of his quickness.
Fowler has good quickness, but it is his all-out hustle that makes him look mush faster in his backside pursuit. He has good agility and balance on the move and adequate change of direction agility, but shows some hip stiffness when having to move suddenly. He accelerates into the backfield with good urgency and has the strength to jolt a blocker much bigger than him. He is much stronger with his upper body than in his legs and can be pushed back off the snap, as he does not generate a strong base to hold ground firmly, especially when trying to combat double teams.
When he plays with his hand down, Fowler generates a good burst off the snap and quick hand usage to get an edge on the offensive tackle’s outside shoulder He has good angle concept in the backfield to close on the quarterback in a hurry. He is effective at getting his hands up to obstruct the quarterback’s view. He does have issues when he stands up at the line, as he will drop his hands and leave his chest exposed for a blocker to lock on and he does not have the lower leg drive to prevent from being pushed back.
Fowler has functional lower body strength, but better upper body power. However, it is his quickness that helps him deal with stronger opponents. When he uses his hands well to control, he gets leverage, but he lacks the sand in his pants to prevent double teams from washing him out at the Xs, making him a better fit to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme than as a down lineman in a 4-3 base defense.
Fowler is good at locating the ball. It is hard to fool him with misdirection or play action and he is efficient at taking out the outside leg of the ball carrier to prevent them from falling forward for extra yardage (gave up just 38 yards on 59 running plays involved in during 2014). He makes a good effort to have the correct pad level and helmet placement and showed last season that he can strike and jar the ball loose (five forced fumbles with two recovered).
When Fowler keeps his hand down, he can fire off the snap and take on the offensive tackle with good leverage, but will get driven off the line when he gets too tall in his stance. He has the feet to disengage vs. lead blockers, but is best when slipping blocks by lineman rather than try to engage them in battle. When he fails to keep his hands active, he exposes too much of his body and will get stuck on blocks.
The Gator shows good up field speed and bend coming off the corner to beat a lethargic offensive tackle or counter back inside if the lineman overplays him outside. He just lacks an assortment of rush moves, otherwise. He can free up on twists and games, but has to be moving to be effective, as he is no threat to win one-on-one confrontations with bigger, stronger linemen.
Fowler shows the burst to accelerate around the corner on the pass rush and close the deal on the quarterback. He shows good tenacity running the horn to get to the passer. He is most effective on stunts and twists and when he stays at a good pad level, he shows the extra surge to finish the deal off. He also demonstrates good backfield awareness and won’t bite on play action.
The junior does a good job of making plays in front of him, but late in games, he does have stamina issues and will appear to look sluggish moving laterally in pursuit or when having to change direction. He seems to know schemes up front and acts accordingly and gets into good position to take out the short area receiver on the screens or slip past blocks to prevent ball carriers from slipping into the cutback lanes.
Fowler is a quality edge rusher that some teams are looking at as a potential strong-side linebacker in a 3-4 system, as he appears to have the range and foot speed to play there. Use him as a rush end and he will get a good piece of the quarterback, but unless he makes marked strength improvement (19 reps at 225 pounds in the bench press), he runs the risk of getting absorbed and stood up by bigger blockers when working in a phone booth.
Dante Fowler NFL Scouting Combine measurables
6-3/261 (4.60 forty)
33 3/4-inch arm length
9 1/2-inch hands
32.5-inch vertical jump
112-inch broad jump
7.40 3 cone drill
4.32 20 yard shuttle
11.89 60 yard shuttle
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
SCOUT.COM DRAFT RANKINGS
Position: QB RB FB WR TE OT OG C DT DE OLB MLB S CB K P LS