As we delve further into the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason, our attention has begun to shift towards the draft. Like we’ve done in the past, these reports will cover the prospects of the 2015 NFL Draft, placing an emphasis on those who could help the Steelers the most.
Today it’s time to get back to looking at the outside linebacker prospects as we breakdown Florida defensive end/outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., who is expected to be drafted in the first round.
#6 – Dante Fowler Jr./DE-OLB 6’3 260
– Near ideal size, bulk for the position
– Strong, fearless, seeks contact
– Good hand and arm usage both as a pass rusher and against the run
– High effort player with a winning motor
– Good get off and straight ahead speed
– Good balance and rarely off feet
– Used all over the place
– Played standing up and with hand in the dirt
– Played against top flight competition
– Very productive 2014 season
– Could have had better production
– Could be a more reliable tackler
– Technical flaws and raw with counters
– Some wasted motion at times
– Can get out of control at times
– Needs to watch leverage at times against big tackles and tight ends
– Needs to show he can turn and run
– Questions about bend need to be answered
– Likely has to watch weight at next level
– 140 tackles, 33.5 TFLs, 14.5 sacks, 2 pass breakups, 2 fumble recoveries and 5 forced fumbles in college career
– Only 20 years old
– Ray Graves Award (Team MVP)
– Team MVP Defensive Player
– Coaches All-SEC team
You will likely read and be told several times between now and the draft how good Fowler uses his hands and arms not only as a pass rusher but against the run as well. This is right on the money as those traits show up constantly in his tape.
This probably isn’t the best example of his hand and arm usage in action, but it is a close-up shot of how active he can be.
Fowler is also a high-effort player and I think these next three clips below best exemplify that.
This sack was a cleanup sack but it is probably one of my favorites as Fowler works through two blockers to get it.
Here he chases the running back to the edge after going behind the lead blocker.
Here Fowler comes from the opposite side to deliver a big hit on a running back. He certainly didn’t take this play off.
Against the run Fowler appears to be very disciplined and once again he uses his long arms and active hands to fend off blockers. Here he tosses the tight end aside to make the tackle.
Here he takes on the tight end and doesn’t give up ground. He quickly disengages to get in on the tackle.
Occasionally, however, Fowler will lose the leverage war as you will see here.
I’ve already broken down several of Fowler’s sacks from last season and you can see those here. He’s not just a power rusher as you will see he uses a good inside move here to register a hit and force an early throw.
Here Fowler is with a great get-off against the right tackle and he easily wins the race to the edge. It’s hard to see it, but it looks like he has adequate bend here when turning the corner.
Florida moved Fowler around quite a bit and he’s very dangerous in the A-gap. Even more dangerous when he’s allowed to come from free. With his size and speed, it will be hard for running backs to offer much resistance against him one on one. This running back obviously wants no part of Fowler and the quarterback suffers the consequences.
Overall there’s not much not to like about Fowler. When he gets to the combine it will be intersting to see how he does in the drills that will show just how well he can flip his hips and run. While he did drop some at Florida, you really hardly ever see him asked to turn and run or follow a receiver across the field.
Fowler already uses his hands and arms well and he should only get stronger at the NFL level. He’s pretty fearless and moves great for a player with his size and build. You hardly ever see him off of his feet unless he misses with a tackle.
I will be interested in seeing him bend more so at the combine his 3-cone drill time should show us some of that.
In my opinion, Fowler is definitely a top-20 player in this year’s draft class and the Steelers should feel lucky if he’s drops to them with the 22nd overall pick. Stranger things have happened and he would look great in the black and gold should he land in Pittsburgh.
Projection: Top Twenty
Games Watched: at Alabama, vs LSU, vs Kentucky
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