JACKSONVILLE – Dante Fowler Jr. was right all along.
And when it comes to their collective futures, he and the Jaguars hardly could be happier.
Fowler, an edge rusher/linebacker/defensive end from the University of Florida, said during the pre-draft process he believed he would be the Jaguars' first-round selection. He turned out to be right, with the Jaguars selecting him Thursday with the No. 3 overall selection of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Fowler, widely considered the best of a talented 2015 class of edge rushers, had that status verified with the Jaguars' selection. He went ahead of every non-quarterback available in the draft.
Fowler's selection came at 8:25 p.m., shortly after teams seeking quarterbacks went that direction with the first two selections. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Jameis Winston of Florida State No. 1 overall and the Tennessee Titans selected Marcus Mariota of Oregon No. 2.
The selection came after a day rife with pre-draft chatter, with rumors/speculation that the Jaguars could trade the No. 3 selection to a variety of teams including the Atlanta Falcons at No. 8 or the New Orleans Saints at Nos. 13 and 31.
Instead, Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell stayed true to his pre-draft stance that it would take a significant package of selections to lure the Jaguars from what he considered a very good player at No. 3. He said hours before the draft he had narrowed the team's possible selections to three, enough to cover any combinations of players being taken at Nos. 1 and 2.
The Jaguars used a little over half their allotted 10 minutes to select Fowler.
Fowler became the earliest-drafted defensive lineman in franchise history. The team selected end Derrick Harvey of Florida No. 8 overall in 2008, tackle John Henderson No. 9 overall in 2002 and end Tyson Alualu No. 10 overall in 2010.
Fowler also became the fourth-earliest-drafted player in franchise history along with quarterback Blake Bortles, who was selected No. 3 overall in 2014. The Jaguars drafted left tackle Tony Boselli No. 2 overall in 1995, linebacker Kevin Hardy No. 2 overall in 1996 and left tackle Luke Joeckel No. 2 overall in 2013.
Fowler (6-feet-3, 261 pounds) was considered the No. 2-rated defensive player behind Southern California defensive end Leonard Williams by many analysts, and is considered an elite pass-rushing player with the size and strength to play the edge against the run.
Fowler, a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection as a junior this past season and a second-team All-SEC selection in 2013, led Florida this past season with 15 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks while registering 17 quarterback hurries. He was the team and defensive Most Valuable Player this past season, during which he also served as a captain.
He started 25 games for Florida, registering 34 tackles for loss.
The Jaguars not only brought Fowler to Jacksonville for a pre-draft visit, they also had Top 10-projected players such as wide receiver Amari Cooper of Alabama, wide receiver Kevin White of West Virginia, defensive end/tackle Leonard Williams of Southern California, edge rusher Randy Gregory of Nebraska, edge rusher Shane Ray of Missouri, offensive tackle Andrus Peat of Stanford, edge rusher Vic Beasley of Clemson, cornerback Trae Waynes of Michigan State and running back Todd Gurley of Georgia.
The Jaguars in recent days had been linked to many of the above players in various mock drafts, particularly Williams, Cooper and White.
With the third pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars have selected Florida DE Dante Fowler Jr.