Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell
(Why did you select Dante Fowler Jr.?) "He's physical. He's tough. He loves the game. He plays like he loves the game. He's heavy-handed. He's a three-down player. He has special get-off. He can rush the passer. He has long arms. He's a good fit in our scheme and we need an edge rusher. We need a young edge rusher. Not only is he a young edge rusher, but he's flexible in that we can play him in a lot of positions. He can play inside. He played defensive tackle when he was younger kid. He's played a little defensive tackle this year in pass rush situations, so we can use him inside if we have to. His physicality, we believe, was unmatched in this year's draft."
(Will he play primarily as your LEO?) "Yes. One of our LEOs."
(What gave him the edge over Leonard Williams?) "There was a handful of guys, I'll be honest with you. The difference is we're marginal if any. There was three or four players that we really liked at that spot. Some of the stuff, information that you're not privy to and probably never will be, but nothing major, that separated them. For us, it came down to need. Leonard will be a great player, but we signed Jared Odrick in the offseason and they have similar skills. Young edge rushers are hard to find. We look forward to next year's draft to be quite frank with you and it's not a great year for edge rushers. I hope we're not in a spot where we're picking high in the draft. We won't be able to be in a position to pick a guy. They're hard to find. We'll take the value of the pick and take a position of value and as Mark said last Friday, our plan has always been left tackle, quarterback and defensive end. That's what we stuck to. We didn't want to out-think it. We didn't out-think it."
(Was Amari Cooper one of the five players you were interested in?) "Yes."
(Did you get any reasonable offers to trade for your pick?) "We did not, actually. I think most teams, if they were interested, were going for two for a quarterback, the ones that wanted to trade up. We didn't think the position players that teams four, five and six, I think they felt like there were good options there after we pick. After that, teams that wanted to trade up didn't have enough ammunition to do that."
(How did you narrow down your picks?) "We actually had it down to one probably last Friday night. Gus and I met after the luncheon. It became clear to us meeting with our coaching staff and personnel department that Dante was going to be the guy."
(How did you experience with pass rushers play into this selection?) "Our last two years here, we were looking for a dominant guy. We have some guys that we feel good about: (Andre) Branch, (Chris) Clemons. Clemons had 8.5 sacks last year, which is good production. Branch had five and a half, six. If he had played all 16 games, he probably could have had 10 or double digits, or close to it. For a young guy, it just helps us for the future. There will be situations in the future that you're going to see Clemons, Branch and Dante on the field most likely. Maybe with Ryan Davis, too. So you have four LEOs that can play."
(How often do you anticipate Dante Fowler, Jr. not playing on the edge?) "I would say on first and second down, he'll be on the edge. In nickel and our fast nickel, we'll probably move him around and see where he goes. It's kind of what Ryan Davis did. With Sen'Derrick Marks being out and not knowing when he's going to come back. Further in the season until Sen'Derrick is 100 percent, you'll probably see him a little more inside."
(How did this experience differ from last year's deliberation on Blake Bortles?) "I think our defensive staff had a consensus that we needed a young LEO and that he was the top guy in our mind. We felt like that we would go defense. Having three young receivers and adding another in the mix and with Julius Thomas and Marcedes (Lewis), you're only going to have at most two receivers at a time. It got a little crowded there."
(Is Dante Fowler Jr. the best player in the draft?) "It's hard to say. I think somebody asked me that the other. I have a hard time going from position to position and saying this guy is a receiver, this guy is a defensive end, who's better? We thought he was the best player at his position."
(Was it partially the need or partially the bit?) "Absolutely, yes. But really how good he was. He affects games. You watch the Georgia game, some of the other games. When he arrives at a tackle, it's with bad intentions. Kentucky, Georgia, East Carolina in the bowl game. Here's a guy that knew he was coming out, had nothing to play for and he had three sacks and played as physical as he could be. Those are some things that really impressed us."
(Does he fit the profile of the LEO?) "Yes. That's a good thing. To have a LEO that can play at 260 pounds and play the run down. Sometimes you have a LEO that is just a third down rusher and only weighs 245, 250 and has a hard time holding up in the run down. We have a LEO that can rush the passer but also play first and second downs against the run."
Dante Fowler Jr
(On wardrobe) "Oh yeah, just something unique, something different. I'm a guy that is out there, not out there but just a guy that wants to do different things, show different tastes. I'm into that type of fashion so it's something that I've wanted to do for a minute."
(You called this earlier in the month, saying the Jags were going to take you third. Not surprised, right?) "No, even if they would have taken me I would have been surprised. There were a lot of great guys and great players in that draft. For them to choose me and have confidence and faith in me to do what I'm supposed to do, I'm going to show what I can."
(Is this the best fit for you?) "Besides my baby being born this is the best day. It was something I always dreamed about as a four-year-old and now I'm living it up."
(How does this defense fit you the best?) "Yes, the defense fits me. Coach Gus is going to do the right things and put me in the right position to make plays."
(How old is your baby?) "Three years old."
(Boy or girl?) "Boy. His name is Dante the third."
(Why was it so important to play in the bowl game when some other guys were sitting out?) "That shows the competitiveness in me. I couldn't just sit out there and not go out there and get what I wanted to do. That was something that I wanted to do and I did it and I'm glad that I did it."
(What was this process like?) "This was a long process but I'm happy that it's over with and I'm ready to get going."
(The Jags raved about your desire to play football. Is that your character?) "It's a lot of things that I do well. A motor is one of the small things that I do pretty well. I'm a polished defensive end. I'm very versatile and that's what guys really like about me. The motor comes but my big part of it is that I'm a jack of all trades and I can play more than one spot."
(Is it important for you to be known as a guy that can play all three downs?) "Yeah, it shows guys that I'm a complete player.
(You had the idea this is where you wanted to be. Is that accurate?) "Yes sir, you're right about that. Duval let's go."
(Why?) "A lot of guys came here. Fred Taylor is a mentor that is in my life right now and played here. I grew up watching him. I know a lot of great guys that are in Jacksonville and I am Florida guy. Just being able to stay home and having to get __ and being close to me doesn't get any better than that."
(Are you ready to get after Andrew Luck?) "I'm ready to do that. Let's go."
(Where would someone buy a pair of shoes like that?) "Exactly. Where would somebody buy a pair of shoes like that? Nobody does it. It's really something like a fashion fanatic would do to sit on the internet and look at shoes. These sell out really fast. I saw Joe Haden with them and that's how it caught my eye on them. I went looking for them and they were really sold out. Somebody was able to get them for me and I was like, let me get them. I can't take that chance."
(What has Josh Evans told you about the culture here in Jacksonville?) "Josh loves it. That's a great guy that can help me out with the playbook just because when I went to UF he was a senior. He was a guy that I looked up to and a guy that helped me out. He told me Jacksonville is a great culture and they're trying to win around here."
(On relationship with Fred Taylor) "Kelvin Taylor is my best friend. That's like my little brother. Fred was out at the games and we always talked. He told me the right things and gave me great advice and what to prepare for. I know he's happy right now."
(What are you doing to celebrate?) "I'm going to hang out with my family and my friends and cherish this moment and live it up. I will be there May 7 and be ready to go."
(How many times did you get Jameis Winston?) "My whole career? I don't even know. I know I got to him a lot of times. Last year I know I got to him at least three times. The year before I got to him twice. Jameis doesn't like that."
(How cool is it to be the first guy walking across the stage?) "It was a dream come true, to be honest with you, to be fortunate enough to be here and walk across that stage. To show my family and friends back home that I did it was a great accomplishment."
(Did you buy the shoes first and then the suit?) "I knew I was going to get the shoes the whole time so I knew I had to find a suit that would match with them. That's when all white came, and gold."
Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley
(Dante Fowler is a Gus guy, isn't he?) "I really liked him. There were a lot of guys that we enjoyed that were in here in our building. Like Dave said, the need that we have, you can never have enough rushers. I did learn that the last couple of years being a defensive coordinator and now as a head coach that, any time you can get rush and good rushes. He is unique at the Leo position because of his size, strength and speed and what he brings. He is physical, explosive and I felt like he gives us a chance to become more explosive on defense."
(How does his physicality jump out at you?) "I think you see his explosiveness when he hits people, his run and chase. The thing that I loved is he loves football. That's extremely important to him. He practices hard, he plays hard, how he practices is how he plays. Talking to his coaches and how he operates in practice and some of the players that have played with him and his physicality on the field jumps out at you. Not only just in his tackles but how he engages in blocks and gets off blocks."
(How did the conversation go Friday when you zeroed in on him?) "We went through all scenarios. We challenged one another if we did take him what would be his position, how would we utilize him, but all of our conversations all came back to him."
(Did you have to talk Dave out of offense?) "No, I didn't because we liked Amari (Cooper) too as a guy. I think the position need that we had, and the idea that he was a rusher."
(Were you torn between him and Williams?) "He's a good player. I think that's when Dave said when we had it down to four or five guys that we're looking at that tells you we were a little torn. The more and more we talked about the more and more we brought all the people involved, it became clearer."
(Was it an easy choice once you got everybody involved?) "As we did it starting back in April, we went through it and talked to all of the guys; obviously he jumped out for us. We felt very strongly about him. After our meetings last Friday we came back together and it was more Dave and I and the scouts at that time. I had conversations with Bob and (Todd) Wash and how would we utilize him, what would be the situations, would we get him inside, outside, first and second down guy, how did they see the rotation, how did they see the competition and things like that. It just all came together."
(Is he a two-down player?) "He can be a three-down player."
(On being a heavy-handed player) "A guy that can set the edge. It's a different level when he sets the edge and taking on blockers. When you set the edge you don't want much movement—lateral movement. When he sets the edge there is no lateral movement. He just plays with a high motor and that fits our personality."
(Did anything surprise you watching him more and more?) "The effort is what really stood out. Every play. When you watch tape, especially with rushers, they take plays off. A guy plays hard for a while and then he does it. We looked to try to find plays where we felt like he took plays off and he didn't. That gives us the opportunity is we are not coaching effort right away. We can get right into technique things that we want him to work on. Sometimes in the process you're going, 'alright this is the level we need to play at,' and sometimes it takes time for guys to understand that."
(Did you visit with any of his old coaches?) "Yes I did."
(What will he need to work on when he gets here?) "I would say that his get-off. He is very strong, a very powerful rusher and to get the edge and the speed to get around the corner he has flashes of that. You see it and I think that we can even get that better."
(No concerns at 265 pounds?) "No. If we said ideal rusher looking at that spot because it's more speed. Sometimes when you get 260, 265 now they're 4.75 or 4.7, but he is 260 at 4.6; that's a little bit different now. He is a little bit different style Leo."
(On his wardrobe tonight) "I don't want to take their individuality away but I also want them to be…it's not about them. It's about us and how we do things, but it's a special day. We will have visits I'm sure."