Dante Fowler Jr. Is a Jaguar: How Does He Fit?
Considered by some to be the best defensive prospect in the draft -- and others to be a dangerous early first-round pick -- Floridaâ€™s Dante Fowler Jr. has shown enough to give credit back these notions. There's little denying Fowlerâ€™s athletic ability, but he also tends to lack some nuances that would make him a consistent pass rush threat at the professional level.
Fowler certainly has the potential to be one of the best defensive players in this draft, but he also has the potential to underplay his draft position. On the positive side his athleticism offers a floor of being a capable productive piece on a defense, however heâ€™s being drafted to be the defenseâ€™s star.
Fowlerâ€™s success at the next level could hinge just as much on his own ability as the scheme heâ€™s used in and how heâ€™s broken into the league during his first few seasons. If a team expects him to consistently line up as the 9-technique defensive end as the main pass rusher and get after the quarterback play after play, they may be disappointed. Fowlerâ€™s ability to move around the defensive front is one of his greatest assets, and something that should be continued at the next level. The Jacksonville Jaguars certainly thought so, as they made them the number-three overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft
How Does He Fit With Jacksonville?
The Jaguars were in need of a pass rush. Sacks aren't the best indicator of defensive disruption, but Jacksonville's leader in sacks during the 2014 season was defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks. Marks had a breakthrough season in 2014, but should not be the best pass rusher on a good defensive line. Chris Clemons was just behind Marks with eight sacks, playing the LEO position Fowler is expected to take over in Jacksonville.
The LEO is often aligned a little wider than a typical defensive end to get him a better edge against the offensive tackle. Fowler has played the run well, but lining up as the LEO will take some responsibility away from him trying to play the run first, which should help his ability to rush the quarterback.
Jacksonville is a team that needs as much talent as they can place on the defense to add to some of the potential young stars they may have on offense. The Jaguars were a slightly below average defensive unit last season that finished 18th in Adjusted Defensive Net Expected Points (NEP) -- 16th against the pass and 18th against the run. Fowler adds a dynamic piece that can continue to be a building block for a unit under a defensive minded coach in Gus Bradley.