Jonathan Dowling, S, Western Kentucky (Round 7, pick 247)
A four star recruit out of high school, Jonathan Dowling committed to the University of Florida. But after two games, he was kicked off the team for not complying with the staff and coaches. He was also caught skipping classes on multiple occasions.
The highly touted safety transferred to Western Kentucky. As a result of the transfer, Dowling was forced to sit out the 2011 season.
In 2012, he returned to the field and made an immediate impact. He was named a First-Team All-Sun Belt Conference defensive back after racking up 68 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, seven pass breakups and six interceptions (fifth nationally).
Last season, the redshirt junior had another productive year totaling 67 tackles, one tackle for loss, seven pass breakups, three interceptions and an NCAA-leading six forced fumbles.
Dowling is a big safety listed at 6'3", 190 pounds. He also has long arms (33 1/8") that help him break up passes. While he has great height and length, there is definitely room to gain muscle. Durability could be a concern because of his thin frame.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Dowling ran the fifth fastest 40-yard dash (4.52) among safeties. But outside of that, he disappointed in his workouts. While his 33.5-inch vertical jump was better than Ha Ha Clinton-Dix's, it should be much higher. Because of his slight frame, he only benched 225 pounds eight times proving that his strength needs improving.
Dowling has great hips and is a fluid athlete. He covers a lot of ground with his long strides, but also has a good break with quick reactions. He is not afraid to jump throws and take risks; although that can sometimes be a negative.Once he is in position to make a play, the productive cornerback has reliable hands to make interceptions. He won't lose in many 50/50 balls because of his height. As his nine interceptions in two years show, Dowling is very effective in pass coverage.
Dowling does not have great tackling technique. He is often caught either diving, or lowering his shoulder without wrapping up. He is more interested in delivering a big hit than wrapping up. He also needs to learn how to take better angles, especially against the faster runningbacks he will face in the NFL. Shedding blocks has also been a concern due in part to his thin frame.
That being said, he has great physicality and is aggressive against the run. When he squares up his shoulder pads, he delivers vicious hits. Dowling has a knack for stripping the ball and has recorded nine forced fumbles in two seasons.
This is part of the reason why this fourth round talent fell to the seventh round. He was dismissed from Florida in 2010 because he failed to comply with the coaches and skipped classes. His body language and attitude suggest he thinks he is better than he is.
Coming into the draft, I had Jonathan Dowling rated as a fourth-fifth round prospect. So the fact that he fell to the late seventh round was great news for the Raiders.
"First of all, I'm gonna open this way; you ought to be put in jail for stealing," said NFL.com's Gil Brandt. "You got Dowling in the seventh round and I guarantee you he'll be your special teams demon and will be a good safety for you."
His great size and hip fluidity make him effective in pass coverage. He has great physicality, but needs to learn better tackling technique. Dowling can make an immediate impact on Special Teams. If he becomes more mature and coachable, there is a chance that he could see significant playing time at safety once Charles Woodson leaves the team.