Dante Fowler Jr.
Position: Defensive End
Dante is exceptionally quick out of his stance both with his hand on the ground and standing up. He knifes through the line from his ILB spot which he lines up at 8-10 times a game. He isn’t extremely agile in space or around OL, but he has very good balance that he uses to work both inside and outside in the pass rush and to maintain his positioning on the LOS. Has excellent foot fire on the initial burst but can struggle in space with his COD at times. Not an exceptional athlete, rather a very good one. When pass rushing to the outside he has displayed a powerful, fluid ability to plant his foot to come back inside that gets OL off balance which he then uses heavy hands to get penetration. Also has shown the ability to get low and bend around the loop but is more of a power rusher overall.
Section Grade: 6.9
Pride / Quit
Fowler is a hard-nosed player that plays with a tremendous motor. He is extremely physical, aggressive, and plays with a ton of toughness. He has been very productive in his 3 seasons in Gainesville despite only 11.5 sacks in 3 seasons he creates havoc much more than the stat sheet indicates. He consistently gets penetration, wraps up, and brings the wood on contact and plays all over the defense. His best trait is his motor. He fires off the ball constantly, pursues ballcarriers from all over the field, and gets after the man in front of him. There’s no quit in Dante.
Section Grade: 7.4
Learn / Retain
Instinct / Reaction
Dante is a very versatile player who lines up at RDE, LDE, DT, OLB, & MLB in Florida’s 3-3-5 base & nickel packages. Shows the ability to be highly effective both from the outside with his speed and on the inside with his quickness and power. Rarely makes the same mistake twice on film. Needs to become a little more consistent in reading/reacting to screens and getting off blocks, particularly in the run game, but has top notch get off reading the snap.
Section Grade: 7.2
Strength / Explosion
Fowler has a compact, muscular frame with good sand that will enable him to play 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB on the next level plus have the ability to slide inside on passing downs. Does a good job of converting speed to power and has very good initial burst. Dante is very durable. Despite being a very physical player he’s only missed 1 game in 3 seasons. He plays strong at the POA and has very fast, heavy hands that he uses to stack OL routinely, maintaining enough distance to read/react easily. Also has the strength to set the edge and keep the QB in the pocket. Needs to become more consistent in keeping OL off his body, just turn on the LSU tape against La’el Collins and you will see that he can get engulfed by bigger OL and pushed back.
Section Grade: 7.4
6.5 Read & React
Does a nice job overall of identifying the ball and reacting but can be a little slow reacting to screens/read option
7.5 Initial Quicks
Dante has great snap timing and is very explosive out of his stance
7 Play Strength
Dante has very good overall strength, stabs/stacks OL with purpose.
7 Use of Hands
Has extremely strong, powerful hands but not a lot of pass rush moves
6.5 Shed Blockers
Uses explosion/quicks to beat blocks rather than disengaging. He is capable of shedding nicely but needs to become more consistent
6.5 Run at Him
Very good vs the run, sets the edge consistently but can be overrun by bigger/stronger blockers when they get into his chest
7 Pursuit / Range
His blend of speed, quickness, instincts, and power make him outstanding in pursuit, particularly on the backside. *Showed a very surprising/impressive 5th gear vs Alabama on a fumble return where he gets out to help block that shows his sneaky athleticism as well
Top-notch tackler who explodes on contact with nastiness. Needs to tighten up his footwork though, he can overrun the ballcarrier occasionally and only get an arm on them
7.5 Closing Burst
Has excellent closing speed pursuing ballcarriers from behind especially for his compact, bulky frame. Fills the hole on down blocks extremely well and gets upfield in a hurry
7 Power Rush
The bullrush is his preferred method to rush the passer and he does so very effectively due to heavy hands and an explosive initial push
7 Speed Rush
Beats OL with superb snap timing and shiftiness to get them off balance which is where his rare speed/power combo really can shine
Doesn’t make a lot of errors aside from the rare missed tackle and the occasional misread of a play. Overall he’s a very versatile, smart player on the field
Section Grade: 6.9
7.5 INITIAL QKS
7.5 PLAY SPEED
7 PLAY STR
Section Grade: 7.3
Overall Grade: D 7.2
Dante is very strong and balanced at the POA, has an excellent stab and stack ability due to heavy, powerful hands, and a strong press out to keep OL off his body. Times the snap masterfully when A gap blitzing and fires off the ball very well in general. Very versatile player who lines up in 4 positions every game I watched (MLB, OLB, DT, DE). Has a rare speed to power ability that he uses to obliterate TEs and RBs with ease. Does a very nice job of getting OL off balance on the outside, where his speed/power combine to produce a very effective bullrush. Plays with an extremely high motor and is a very physical, punishing tackler who wraps up consistently.
Needs to become more consistent in play recognition, sometimes can be a second late reacting. Doesn’t have an array of pass rush moves/counters, will need to develop an effective counter so he doesn’t become one-dimensional rushing the passer. Can get stuck reading a play while stacked up vs OL and not disengage quick enough to make tackles. Also can afford to clean up his footwork in space as this has led him getting pancaked a few times and not getting square on ballcarriers in the film I saw.
Fowler played all 3 years for Will Muschamp who primarily ran a 3-3-5 defense and a lot of nickel. Dante typically lined up either as a LDE or RDE in the 3-3-5 with his hand on the ground or as an OLB walked up to the LOS standing up in their nickel look. He also saw action as a MLB in the 3-3-5, typically in the A gap where he was very effective. Showed the ability to kick inside in their nickel looks as well. Fowler finished his career with a solid stat line: 137 total tackles, 70 solo, 31 TFL, 11.5 sacks, and 5 forced fumbles. In 2014 Fowler recorded 57 tackles, 12 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 15 hurries, and 2 forced fumbles and was even more disruptive than these numbers indicate.
Fowler is one of the most balanced/versatile 3-4 OLB/4-3 DE prospects in the nation both against the run and the pass. Dante uses his thick, well-developed, and compact frame combined with outstanding quickness to wreck a lot of havoc from multiple positions on the football field. He has very strong, heavy hands that he uses to keep OL away from his body and does an excellent job of keeping his shoulders square and his pad level low when engaging at the POA. He is explosive out of the gate and was extraordinarily difficult for OL to scoop or reach in the tapes I saw. He can get stay on blocks too long at times especially against bigger/stronger OL when his feet stop firing (see LSU tape vs La’el Collins). His numbers don’t paint the whole picture of how much penetration he gets, particularly when blitzing from the ILB spot or when crossing the face of OL. He not only is very effective as an inside pass rusher but he showed flexibility (bend) to run the loop vs Kentucky. In terms of pass rush moves Dante doesn’t have much versatility which is why his sack numbers aren’t very high but the quickness and tenacity are there for a coach to work with and develop. He gets QB pressure mainly by getting OL off balance or blowing by them with incredible effort, quickness, snap timing, and physicality. He’s much more quick than agile as evident by a couple of attempted spin moves that were sluggish. TEs and RBs don’t stand a chance vs him as he just overpowers them with ease. He occasionally will react/shed a second too late and he doesn’t have great COD to recover in space, so he needs to develop better play recognition and footwork. His motor combined with his quickness and underrated long speed make him excellent in backside pursuit. He tackles angry and has heavy hands to create turnovers on the ball. While his aggressiveness is something you love to see in a defensive player it can lead to some sloppy footwork in space resulting in missed arm tackles due to being out of position. The athleticism is there for this to be corrected, he just needs to refine his technique. His ideal position is as a 3-4 OLB, with the capabilities to put his hand in the dirt and it would be a shame if he didn’t get a chance to blitz the A gaps because he really shines there. In any draft I would give him a solid first round grade, specifically in the top half.
Value – Top 20Draft
Projection – Top 20
Pro Comp = Melvin Ingram