With the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars picked Florida pass rusher Dante Fowler. He's going to play the LEO end position that the Jaguars employ in their defensive scheme, popularized by the Seattle Seahawks and now being used by the Atlanta Falcons.
Gus Bradley, Dan Quinn and Washington general manager Scot McCloughan all came from Seattle so they're familiar with the system and what fits where, Quinn even utilized a similar system when he was the defensive coordinator of the Florida Gators and recruited Dante Fowler to the team. Something interesting that struck me this morning was the fact that the Jaguars viewed Fowler as the best player at his position, the Falcons wanted to trade up for Fowler and Washington reportedly was planning to draft him No. 5 overall if he fell to them.
"We had a lot of discussions as well [about the No. 3 pick] and we talked early about the potential of moving up there. There were probably two or three players, that I won't necessarily get into right now, that were worthy of thinking about moving up to three. Compensation was big," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff told 680 The Fan in Atlanta on Friday morning.
"Dave [Caldwell] was bullish on the guy he took, he knew that we were focused on that guy as well," Dimitroff continued.
This means that there is at least some legitimacy to the Falcons wanting to trade up for Fowler.
Most, including myself, thought Fowler was more of a fit at the OTTO position for the Jaguars more than the LEO, as we've always thought of the LEO as a pure edge rusher more in the mold of Vic Beasley. Considering the three teams with Seattle disciples on them (two in the form of head coaches that were defensive coordinators and one personnel guy), it's interesting they all seemed to view Fowler as the top edge guy, AKA the top LEO player.
"Sometimes the LEOs are down to 240 and that kind of stuff, and that’s where you get the speed and stuff," Jaguars defensive line coach Todd Wash said about the Jaguars first round draft pick on Thursday evening. "(Fowler) is 260-265 and he can still run and get the edge."
Caldwell also pointed out after he made the pick that they looked ahead to the 2016 draft class and determined the pass rusher class "frankly wasn't that good." That put even more an emphasis on the Jaguars finally addressing the LEO position, which has largely been ignored since Caldwell and Bradley took over, outside of some patch work and late round picks.
Both Bradley and Caldwell were asked if Fowler was too big for the LEO spot and both dismissed it, stating he was big for the position but had the necessary speed.
"No. If we said ideal rusher looking at that spot because it’s more speed," Bradley said when asked if Fowler's weight was a concern. "Sometimes when you get 260, 265 now they’re 4.75 or 4.7, but he is 260 at 4.6; that’s a little bit different now."
"He is a little bit different style Leo."
Fowler has the ability to play all three downs, kick inside or play rush linebacker in certain packages, so it's possible he was just the starting block for building what the team actually wants from the LEO position.
But maybe we don't know what a LEO is yet.