As far as Raider fans are concerned, Khalil Mack comparisons are not to be thrown around lightly. And yet, Florida's Dante Fowler Jr. has seemed to find himself hearing just that.
At 6'3" and 261 pounds, Fowler is actually the same height Mack was heading into the draft last season, but he weighs 10 pounds more. Oh, and his 40-time was .05 seconds faster than Mack's. Of course, in almost every other combine measurable, Mack graded out higher, but still, the comparisons seem warranted.
So with Mack as a comparable, surely Fowler would earn a "Pick" grade from each of our writers, right?
If I'm honest, Fowler's name was unfamiliar to me heading into draft season. Maybe it's my west coast bias, but when I saw his name rising up boards, I was surprised.
Of course, a quick glance at his numbers cleared everything up for me.
In just this past season, Fowler logged 8.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss and 17 quarterback hurries. Can you imagine him on the other side of the field from Khalil Mack?
Now THAT gets me all excited. (Not to mention the Mack comparisons)
Obviously in a draft deep in pass rushers, Fowler isn't quite the standout he might have been in other years, but while he wouldn't be my first option, I wouldn't hate the pick. If Oakland is going to go for a defensive player other than Leonard Williams, my vote would be Fowler (and it really isn't that close).
As a Gators enthusiast I have seen my fair share of Dante Fowler's play. I can tell you he is incredibly athletic and a beast in pass rushing. He isn't quite as stout against the run, but keep in mind Florida has asked him primarily to rush the passer off the edge and, due to injury, he has had to play all over the field at various weights throughout his career. He has never been able to focus on being that stout, run-stuffing defensive end. Florida's defense doesn't really do that anyway, they ask their middle linebackers to be run-stoppers and their outside guys to get to the QB as fast as possible. Brandon Spikes was a Florida MLB and is a good example of what they want out of that sort of guy.
Fowler is already 6'3" and 261 pounds and has the frame to put on even more weight without sacrificing too much speed. He is already a terror to offensive linemen as is, but with an extra fifteen pounds on that frame he would be nigh unblockable. His versatility is great for a team playing a hybrid scheme. He is excellent at purauit in the open field and has a variety of moves to get to the passer.
NFL.com lists his pro comparison as Khalil Mack. Can you imagine two Macks on the left side for the Raiders, with Tuck and Sio Moore on the other side? Peyton Manning would soil himself in the huddle. Fowler is exactly the type of player Oakland needs at DE/OLB depending on where they want Mack to play. Wherever Mack isn't, Fowler could be. However, the Raiders do have bigger needs including WR and whatever Leonard Williams is.
Let's assume the draft goes thusly: Winston to Tampa, Williams to Tennessee, Cooper to Jacksonville. In the unlikely event that nobody wants to give a good enough deal for Mariota, Fowler should absolutely be the pick here.
Dante Fowler is a beast, but the Raiders should not pick him at number four overall. Yes, Fowler is the most well-rounded of the edge rushers. Yes, he has a great frame for a 4-3 defensive end in the NFL. Yes, he is extremely aggressive and would help the Raiders entire defense. But as talented as Fowler is, he should not be the pick.
If the Raiders truly want an edge rusher, they should trade back into anywhere from 12-20 and pick up either Randy Gregory or Alvin "Bud" Dupree.
Marcus Allen Krause
Should the Raiders pick or pass on Dante Fowler? Originally I was thinking no, I really like Sio Moore opposite Khalil Mack and Fowler seems like he would be better suited to play OLB over DE. However, it is very hard not to like what you see out of Fowler.
Two factors have changed my mind on passing on Dante Fowler and now I believe if he is there at number 4 I would pick him unless there was a King's Ransom in trade waiting or Leonard Williams was still there. One of those two reasons for the change of heart is the energy that Fowler brings and the other is that he is so versatile that he can solve multiple issues with his ability to play all over the field.
Adding Fowler would give the Raiders their much needed boost in QB pressure and he also would be a terrific long term partner to Khalil Mack. A defense with Fowler and Mack playing opposite of each other is a defense to be feared. If available Dante Fowler is definitely a good pick for the Raiders to make.
I really like Dante Fowler Jr. as a pass rusher. He reminds me a lot of Khalil Mack, actually. It's for that same reason I think he is a surefire top 5 pick and that I don't think the Raiders should pick him here. They already have a Khalil Mack. Yes, they need a defensive end, but from all indications, Fowler's best suited for rush OLB. In the vein that the draft can be somewhat of a crapshoot, the Raiders bet the field and came up snake eyes with Mack last year. You don't just let it ride, blow on the dice, and throw again.
It's entirely possible Fowler could be the 'Best Player Available' when the Raiders pick, but let's just say for sake of argument that teams drafting purely BPA is a myth (because it is). They have plenty of other pressing needs to address with a few great options bound to be available when their pick comes up. This is definitely a tough call, though. Can't really go wrong either way.