JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the first time in their tenure running the Jaguars, General Manager Dave Caldwell and Head Coach Gus Bradley opened themselves up to some criticism and questions regarding the pick of Dante Fowler Jr. with the third selection in the 2015 NFL Draft.
"I'm versatile, that's what guys like about me," Fowler said. "There's a lot of great players in the draft and just for them to choose me, you know, to have confidence and faith in me that I'm going to go in and do what I'm supposed to do I'm gonna show those guys that I can."
Caldwell said he knew whom the best player in the draft was and if he were available, he'd take him. Without fielding very many offers (as noted by the speed they turned the pick in) the Jaguars decided that Fowler, and not Leonard Williams from USC and Daytona Beach, was the best player. "Because he's physical and he's tough, he's a three down player and he loves the game. He's a good fit in our scheme," Caldwell said shortly after selecting Fowler.
Williams was the consensus pick as the best player, but for the Jaguars, an edge rusher was more important than another "big body" inside. And they had him rated higher on their board "We can use him inside if we need to because he's so physical," Caldwell added. "There were some guys who liked Leonard Williams but we signed Jared Odrick in the off season and edge rushers are hard to find. We looked forward to next year and there aren't many edge rushers available."
Last year, Sen'Derrick Marks was the sack leader for the Jaguars and he's a defensive tackle. Fowler can do a lot of different things between putting his hand down and rushing the passer or playing outside and getting into the backfield from there. "He loves football, it's important to him," Gus Bradley said following Caldwell to the podium. " He practices hard, he plays hard. We talked to his coaches. His physicality on the field jumps out at you."
He's not particularly big for a lineman, so expect the Jaguars to use him in their "Leo" position, rushing the passer, dropping into coverage and setting the edge against the run when he has to. "He can be a three down player," Bradley added. "It's a different level when he sets the edge. When he sets the edge, there's no lateral movement."
And in the Bradley mold, Fowler jumped out as early as last year when they started looking for their top pick in this draft.
"His effort stood out. We're not coaching effort right away, we can coach technique right away." "Looking at that spot, it's about speed. He's 260 lbs. and runs a 4.6. That's a different thing."