The NFL Combine gets underway in Indianapolis tomorrow. I will be there and I have been doing a lot of work getting up to speed on the draft class of 2015. Along the way I’ll be sharing some of what I find out with Real Redskins readers. The focus will be on players in areas of need for the Redskins but I might look at players at just about any position since Scot McCloughan has said that he will take the best player available regardless of need.
What they’re saying:
STRENGTHS Well-built, athletic frame with very long arms. Has transformed body since coming in, losing 25 pounds while adding substantial explosiveness in space. Versatile --was moved around field for Gators. Can rush from two- or three-point stance. Good first-step quickness. Uses improving spin move to counter when rush stalls high-side.
WEAKNESSES Bounced all over the field. Raw pass rusher. Still learning nuances of the position. Needs more coordination between hands and feet. Pass-rush approach lacks efficiency and includes too much wasted motion. Expected "speed-to-power" conversion inconsistent on tape.
—Lance Zierlein, NFL.com
How he fits the Redskins: Fowler is almost the prototype for the college defensive end who can successfully convert to an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He has the athletic ability to get it done and, as noted, Florida had him moving all around, rushing from a two-point stance and with his hand in the dirt. Although you ideally might want him to be an inch or two taller, he can compensate for that slight disadvantage with his long arms.
As they will if they draft Randy Gregory of Nebraska or Shane Ray of Missouri, the Redskins will slot Fowler at right outside linebacker opposite Ryan Kerrigan replacing Brian Orakpo, who is an unrestricted free agent. Second-year OLB Trent Murphy would revert to the role he played before Orakpo got hurt and come into the game in nickel situations.
There are no character questions about Fowler, who won’t turn 21 until training camp, and he gives a solid effort on every play.
Potential issues: Although the effort is always there for Fowler, his performance in inconsistent. His technique needs a lot of polish as he won’t be faster and stronger than a lot of players in the NFL like he was in college. This is the case with many great athletes and top performers in the draft as their coaches worry more about the underachievers. If a guy can get the job done as well as Fowler did they aren’t going to fuss over his fundamentals.
On glaring issue is with taking on straight-on blocks in the running game. That seems odd with his quickness and it’s something that his NFL coaches with work with him to correct.
Still, until he learns and adapts in the NFL you don’t know if he can do it. Projecting is the hardest part of drafting and with that No. 5 pick being so important for the Redskins, Scot McCloughan will earn his money with this evaluation.
Bottom line: Fowler will be in the mix for the Redskins with that fifth overall pick. Although it might take a year or two to add polish to his game, he could have instant impact on Redskins’ struggling defense.
If I had to make a way-too-early prediction of who will the Redskins’ top draft pick, I’d guess the name on the card will be Dante Fowler.
Previously in Combine Countdown: