The focus of this Summer Scouting piece will be on Dante Fowler, Jr., the junior defensive end from the Florida Gators. We’ve taken a look at several of the top defensive ends likely to declare fore the 2015 Draft here. And even though Fowler still has two years of eligibility remaining with the Gators, I decided to break down his film as we inch closer to the start of the 2014 season.
Dante Fowler, DE, Florida| #6 | 6030, 277lbs
-Named 2nd Team All-SEC at the end of the 2013 season;
– Totaled 50 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 10.5 TFLs in ’13;
-Has started 13 games totaling 80 tackles, 6 sacks and 18.5 TFLs;
-Was considered a 5-star recruit and a top-150 overall player in the country;
Dante Fowler is an impressive guy physically, as he possesses the ideal frame for a traditional 43 defensive end. His length is a plus, both in his upper and lower body, and he’s able to carry is 277 lbs well. He’s not a very rocked-up guy, but he doesn’t need to be with the frame and length that he has.
Fowler is a decent athlete who moves adequately through traffic when chasing down the running back or quarterback. He maintains his balance and has good coordination for a guy as long as he is. That said, he’s not a real quick-twitch player and he needs to become more explosive off the snap of the ball. He’s consistently one of the last guys to move along the defensive line when the play begins. I think this is the main reason for his lacking sack totals, as he is a nice looking player once he engages with the tackle at the POA. He simply puts himself at a disadvantage by moving a tick too slow.
Fowler fares pretty well in space for a guy with his size. While he doesn’t project to OLB in a 34, it’s always a plus when a big man can drop into coverage from time to time.
Against the run, Fowler has the ability to disrupt a play in the backfield and frustrate an offense’s game plan. I like how he uses his hands to keep the offensive tackle at bay while he finds the ball, and he has the long stride and coordination to get to the running back and bring him to the ground. At times, however, Fowler can be fooled and completely loses the play’s aiming point. I want to see improvement in this area in 2014. If he continues to be duped by misdirection plays, then his overall awareness will have to be questioned.
Against the pass, Fowler is an enticing but raw prospect. As stated above, he has to do a better job firing off the ball in order to get that critical jump on the quarterback. That said, he displays a lot of power and a relentless approach when rushing the passer. He doesn’t have many rush moves, and relies on his length and strength right now, but he has the kind of makeup and raw tools in place to become a double-digit sack guy on the next level. Remember: this is with Fowler’s development in mind. The 2014 season is critical for him. Another year of 5 or so sacks will be discouraging and likely pigeon-hole him as a run-stuffer in the NFL.
Fowler is the perfect case for how important a player’s “most recent” season of tape is. Going strictly off of his ’13 film, he’s a guy who would go somewhere in the early portion of Day 3. If, however, he shows development in his ability as a pass rusher and displays improved quickness at the snap of the ball, I could easily see him as a first-round prospect. He has those kind of physical, raw tools as a 43 defensive end; he just needs to develop as a football player.