The Jaguars picked University of Florida DE Dante Fowler Jr. with the #3 overall pick last night, and unlike last years pick of Blake Bortles, this one wasn't surprising. Quite honestly, it is what the majority of analysts and fans assumed would happen. But why was he the pick?
Why Dante Fowler Makes Sense
I won't go on a long tangent and write a detailed breakdown on Fowler. I already did that here. But I will make a few points on why the pick makes sense from an outside point of view.
The Jaguars are very old school, and maybe even cliche, in the things that they value. They like energy, toughness, and versatility. Fowler brings all of this. You can watch 30 seconds of any of his interviews and recognize right away he is a Gus Bradley type of personality. His calling card leading up to the draft, and his reputation at UF, is that he is a physical defender who you can use to move around the formation, which Jax has already stated they plan to do.
The Jaguars also have made it well known that they are high on Fowler because they see him as a 3 down player. As a 265+ lb DE, he is big and strong enough to set the edge and also be used as a nickel DT. They don't have to worry about taking him off the field or how he will hold up in run defense.
Fowler has also played in a scheme at UF that was very similar to Jacksonville's, with former Seattle DC/Current Falcons HC Dan Quinn being Fowler's recruiter and first DC at UF. Seeing how the Falcons were also interested in moving up for Fowler, it is clear that those making decisions see Fowler as a good fit in this scheme.
Why Dante Fowler Does Not Make Sense
"Does not make sense" is too strong of a phrase here because regardless of what you think of the pick, Fowler does make sense. He embodies nearly everything the Jaguars value and is a seemingly clear scheme fit. So what are the issues?
Well, for one, Fowler simply hasn't shown the ability to be the dominant Edge Rushing presence that being the #3 pick would indicate. Fowler struggled at UF by winning 1on1's on the Edge, and a good amount of his disruption was due to being schemed into it vs slower IOL. This is something Jax has shown they can do with players, but if it comes to the point where Fowler NEEDS to be schemed into each sack... Well, lets just hope that doesn't happen.
Fowler will seemingly step into a day 1 role with Jax. Unlike other prospects, such as Bud Dupree or Vic Beasley, it looks like they think he can come in and contribute right off the bat. This is kind of sacrificing upside for a sense of security though, because they passed up on a better pure rusher in Beasley.
While my opinion on Fowler has been clear from the jump this year, I do get the rationale behind the pick. They recognized that LEO was their biggest need and that #3 was the best place to get one. Did they get the one I see as the best option? No. But they didn't make a pick that is tough to explain or rationalize.
Ultimately, how the Fowler pick looks down the road is going to depend on Todd Wash and Gus Bradley working with him to make him more comfortable as an Edge Rusher and get the disruption they need, but it is hard to envision Fowler ever being a true "bust."