With a busload of five-star tailbacks annually recruited by Nick Saban and staff, Jalston Fowler had to find his niche another way – sacrificing carries for explosive lead blocks and an occasional reception or two for a touchdown. On most college teams, Fowler would likely be the featured back, but the move to fullback has him sitting as the “king of the hill” at the position, having no peers when it comes to widening rush lanes from that spot.
He’s had only 113 carries for the Tide, but boasts a 6.5-yard average with five touchdowns. As a receiver, he’s scored seven times behind 17 catches. Even with that small amount of chances to tote the ball, several scouts liken him to former Steelers great Jerome Bettis.
Calling him the “potential steal” of the draft by The NFL Draft Report, Fowler has outstanding size and impressive quickness for his position. He has a thick, yet athletic physique with a muscular and defined upper body. In brief chances as a ball carrier, he shows superb agility and balance with his pick-and-slide and the change of direction and hip flexibility to easily redirect to the cutback lanes.
For a 260-plus pound player, Fowler displays impressive acceleration into the second level and unlike most big backs, do not label him as a one-cut runner, as he is capable of eluding or running through tackles. He is never going to win foot races turning the corner, but he showed surprisingly good bounce-back agility in his running stride, along with a powerful lower frame to break tackles, especially when in motion as a receiver.
The fullback stays low in his pads and keeps his legs churning on contact, but looks like he is strictly a between the tackles type as a ball carrier. He is adequate getting a quick start out of his stance, but does a nice job of making adjustments on the move, especially when stalking and neutralizing second level defenders as a lead blocker.
Fowler not sudden in his initial step, but can build his acceleration once he gets off the blocks. As a fullback, you do see that he has the ability to get up on linebackers with good intensity. As a short-yardage runner, I feel that he has enough ability to hit the holes with urgency. He has only five carries for negative yardage (113 attempts) and shows good strength on contact and will gain tough yards, thanks to his ability to keep his legs churning.
The Tide performer plays with good forward body lean and has equally impressive leg drive and upper body strength. When he secures the ball as a receiver, he looks for defenders to run over rather than try to get “fancy” with juking moves. You can see on film his ability to uncoil and explode into the opponent on initial contact, and he has a compact running style to finish the play once he gets into the second level.
Fowler was part of a KISS (keep it simple and stupid) approach as a receiver, as he was used on dump-offs and controlled routes, but never asked to stretch the field. He has good body control and arm extension to get to off-target throws, but lacks separation quickness after the catch (only one of his 19 receptions gained at least 20 yards), but he is a pretty decent chain mover who is alert to the sticks and boundaries.
As a short area target, Fowler has good balance, never needing to throttle down in order to catch the ball. He has the hip snap to adjust and redirect to off-target throws and shows good vision to track the ball in flight, but again, you just don’t see him used on anything more than simple patterns.
While Fowler generates excellent power on initial contact and creates a tremendous push off the snap when operating as a lead blocker, he is not instinctive when asked to locate and take on opponents on to stunts, twists and the blitz, as he struggles to keep his feet to mirror his man when trying to neutralize edge rushers or backside activity.
His blocking success is limited as a lead blocker, where Fowler has the strength to gain leverage at the point of attack. He does a great job of using his hands to shock and jolt defenders with his punch. He delivers above average pop on contact and is always looking for an opponent to block when operating in the second level or when operating in space.
Jalston Fowler Scouting Combine measurables
5-11/254 (4.94 forty)
32 3/4-inch arm length
10 1/2-inch hands
33.5-inch vertical jump
114-inch broad jump
7.56 3 cone drill
4.40 20 yard shuttle
11.44 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.
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