Needs to improve run defense coming straight at him
Can wear down with runs straight at him
If he can't add weight, must play OLB in a 4-3 defense
Had some consistency issues prior to 2014
Summary: Coming out of St. Petersburg, Florida, Fowler joined the Gators as a top recruit for Will Muschamp. Fowler was expected to star in the same role in Muschamp's defense that had previously produced the likes of Brian Orakpo and Sergio Kindle. Fowler lived up the billing as he turned into a dynamite player for the Gators.
Fowler was a First-Team All-SEC Freshman-Team selection in 2012 even though he was a backup. Fowler recorded 47 tackles with 10.5 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks that year. Fowler won a starting job as a sophomore and flashed the ability to be special. He racked up 50 tackles with 10.5 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, one pass batted and three forced fumbles for 2013. Fowler played well against good competition, but his first year as a full-time player displayed some bouts of inconsistency.
Fowler took his game to another level in 2014 as he totaled 60 tackles with 8.5 sacks, 15 tackles for a loss, one pass broken up and a forced fumble. The junior killed East Carolina's offensive tackles in bowl season as he recorded three sacks and put quarterback Shane Carden into the turf roughly. Fowler had four tackles with a sack against Florida State to close out the regular season. He also made big impacts against Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and LSU. Fowler fought through some double-teams in 2014 and showed a consistent motor.
At the Combine, Fowler was excellent. He ran very well with a 4.61-second time in the 40-yard dash. Fowler also had one of the fastest times in the first 10 yards of any front seven defender at 1.59 seconds. In the field drills, he displayed quick feet and athleticism.
Fowler looks like he has the potential to become a double-digit sack-artist in the NFL. He is very fast and athletic off the edge. Fowler beats tackles around the corner with his speed and will dart back to the inside or use a spin move. He also is tough. Fowler has some shock to his hands and uses them to shed blocks and bull rush effectively on occasion. Fowler is a versatile edge rusher who can rush standing up, putting his hand in the ground, or moving over the interior linemen. Florida moved him all over the front seven, and he was tough for offensive linemen to block.
Fowler is physical with blockers while being an occasionally violent hitter. Routinely, he would put quarterbacks and running backs into the turf hard while showing the ability to make some momentum-changing plays.
In the ground game, Fowler can get the job done. He is strong and does well in pursuit. Fowler could use more power to shed blocks and hold his ground when runs come downhill straight at him. That was apparent against Alabama, but as an outside linebacker, Fowler has good size and strength to him. He can improve on that in the NFL with coaching and time in a strength and conditioning program.
Sources say they really like Fowler's intangibles as he is a leader who has good character. He impressed teams in the meeting room at the Combine.
Fowler is the favorite to be the first edge defender selected in the 2015 NFL Draft. Fowler is bigger and heavier than either of Randy Gregory or Shane Ray, so Fowler could interest 4-3 teams as a defensive end as well as remaining as a 3-4 outside linebacker. That flexibility could give him a real push up draft boards in the top 10. Fowler looks likely to be a top-five pick.
Player Comparison: James Harrison. Fowler is bigger than Harrison, but they have a similar style of play. For a time, Harrison was one of the best edge rushers and pass-rushers in the NFL, so this is high praise for Fowler. Harrison was a great fit in a 3-4 defense, and Fowler projects as the same. However, Fowler has more flexibility for a 4-3. Both Fowler and Harrison are physical, fiery, aggressive leaders. Fowler could end up being a player similar to Harrison.
NFL Matches: Tennessee, Jacksonville, Oakland, Washington, New York Jets, Chicago, Atlanta, New York Giants, Cleveland
There are a number of a lot of teams in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft that would be thrilled to land Fowler. There are a lot of potential landing spots for him in the top 10. The highest that Fowler could hope to go would be to the Titans with the second-overall pick. If Tennessee decides against a quarterback, Fowler would make a lot of sense as an edge rusher for Dick LeBeau's 3-4 scheme. Fowler would be a great fit in Tennessee and would help the Titans to try to stop Andrew Luck.
Jacksonville could consider Fowler as a replacement for Chris Clemons. The Jaguars have needed a long-term answer to their edge-rushing issues for years. Fowler could play end or the LEO linebacker in Gus Bradley's scheme. Off the field, Fowler has the leadership and personality that Jacksonville has been inclined to draft.
Oakland would be a fit for Fowler as well. He could form a dangerous pass-rushing duo with Khalil Mack. However after taking Mack, the Raiders may want to add a different kind of player along the defensive line or at wide receiver.
The Redskins could lose Brian Orakpo in free agency, so that would create a hole in their defense. Fowler has the versatility to let new defensive coordinator Joe Barry use Fowler as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 and a right defensive end in 4-3 sets. Barry has experience coaching the 3-4 and the Tampa 2, so Fowler could be a nice chess piece for Barry to move around the field.
The Jets also have to improve their edge rushing. Sheldon Richardson led New York in sacks with eight in 2014 while none of the team's edge rushers totaled seven sacks. Since the Jets look poised to miss out on a quarterback, they could improve their pass rush. Plus if Fowler gets to them, he's probably the best player available.
Chicago could use more young edge rushers. Willie Young was a great signing, but the Bears need a long-term edge rusher to replace Jared Allen.
Atlanta would be a great landing spot for Fowler. The Falcons have to improve their pass rush, and Fowler could be perfect for that. Like the Jaguars, Fowler could play the LEO linebacker - though in Dan Quinn's defense. Fowler also fits their off-the-field profile of players Atlanta likes. However if the Falcons really want Fowler, they'll probably have to trade up to get him.
The same goes for the Giants and Cleveland. New York could lose Jason Pierre-Paul in free agency. Even if they bring him back, they could look for another edge rusher to pair with him. The Browns could use a pass-rusher. Fowler won't fall to Cleveland's first pick, but with two first-rounders, the organization has the ammo to move up if they want Fowler badly enough.