The Jaguars made Dante Fowler the first non-quarterback selected in the 2015 NFL Draft. Even though Fowler played at nearby University of Florida, many Jaguars fans don't know his strengths, weaknesses, or how his game will translate to the NFL.
That's why we went to SB Nation's Alligator Army and asked Andy Hutchins five questions about Fowler:
1. What are Dante Fowler's strengths? If a defensive scheme was tailor-made for him, what would his roles and responsibilities be?
Florida's defensive scheme essentially revolved around Fowler in 2014, and so it was basically tailored to his ability to line up anywhere and bring chaos. Will Muschamp stood him up over basically every gap on the offensive line, and dropped him in coverage, too; I'll always prefer seeing Fowler coming off the edge, but he showed he could create pressure with speed and burst no matter where he was rushing from both in 2013 and 2014.
I think I'd try to streamline his role and make him a pure pass-rushing terror. Fowler's got the speed and agility to cover, but it's a misuse of his talents, really.
2. If you're an opponent, how are you trying to neutralize Fowler? What are his weaknesses?
I think I'm going to try to make him work through blocks. Fowler's speed is his strength, but his physical strength doesn't lend itself to bull-rushing, so forcing him to go through and not around protections is probably a good idea. For college teams, chipping Fowler or putting him up against a wide-bodied tackle (Alabama's Cam Robinson, Florida State's Roderick Johnson) were the two viable options.
At the NFL level, I think a tight end might be able to slow Fowler on occasion. The key is not letting him get a beat on a quarterback or a ball-carrier: Fowler strikes like lightning when that happens.
3. How will Fowler do against the run in the NFL?
Fowler's play against the run was quite good when he was in pursuit, but not as great when he was tasked with setting the edge. And that was against college offensive lines; if there's a single spot of worry about how he'll translate, it's in how well he will be able to deal with bigger blockers in run support.
4. What are some reasonable expectations for Fowler's rookie year with the Jaguars?
I think Fowler's going to be a very good pass-rusher in the NFL, but I think it might take time. He got a lot of great coaching at Florida, but also had four different coaches (Muschamp, Bryant Young, Dan Quinn, and Brad Lawing) teaching him, so it's unclear how much he was able to go beyond tips and tricks to specific skills of the craft. I think expecting a handful of sacks and pressures is reasonable — but anything about eight would be a surprise to me. He's going to need a little time to go from freak to fright.
5. How do you like Fowler's skill set in the Jaguars defense? Do you think he'll fit well, or are there some things he and the team will have to change?
Given that Gus Bradley and Quinn both hail from the Pete Carroll coaching tree, and Fowler might have gone to the Falcons if not to the Jaguars. That strikes me as pretty good evidence that Fowler fits that system pretty well. I don't think he's going to have to do much tweaking.