ESPN analyst Mel Kiper released his NFL mock draft 2.0 version Wednesday morning, and just like Todd McShay‘s, he has Florida‘s Dante Fowler Jr. going to the New Orleans Saints at No. 13 overall. Clemson‘s Vic Beasley was the Saints’ choice in the 1.0 version.
"The Saints aren’t without talent on defense, but they were too often exposed in 2014 and took a major step backwards. Adding a pass-rusher of Fowler’s pedigree outside the top 10 is a really good get, as I think he’s a guy who comes in and competes for a ton of reps right away. Fowler isn’t dominant in any one area; he’s a good pass-rusher, not a great one, and an effective run defender, but not a destroyer in that area, either. But he also doesn’t come in with a clear weakness. He has experience on either edge, can move inside as a 3-4 DE and is also is athletic enough to make plays in the pass rush and the set the edge as a 3-4 OLB. He’s a fit almost anywhere and will bring a live motor."
Addressing the defense is the anticipated move by the Black and Gold in the first round, and a Fowler pickup is very possible. He finished his sophomore year (first as a starter) with 50 tackles (ten for loss), 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles, earning Second-Team All-SEC honors by the media.
As a junior in 2014, Fowler’s tackle totals went up, but sack numbers went down (57 and 5.5). However, during Florida’s Birmingham Bowl win against East Carolina, he was able to tally three additional tackles and another three sacks to his final resume before declaring for the draft.
Throughout his career in Gainesville, the Gators would line Fowler up at defensive end, outside linebacker, defensive tackle and occasionally drop him into coverage, depending on the situation. That kind of position flexibility is ideal for Rob Ryan‘s scheme as defensive coordinator.
Fowler’s game relies heavily on his capital versatility, which comes from his explosive lower body. His light feet and transitional movements make him a problematic matchup for most blockers. His energy on the football field is absolutely stunning, something the Saints lacked in 2014. If he does happen to fall into the hands of Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis, Dante Fowler’s talents would make for a great fit in the Big Easy.
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