The last thing on the mind of Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn this week, with a championship at stake, is who he might draft three months from now. But the man expected to become the Atlanta Falcons' new head coach following Super Bowl XLIX does, at least, have a strong familiarity with a candidate to be the Falcons' top pick: Florida defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr.
Quinn recruited Fowler to play for the Gators and coached him his freshman season in 2012 before taking the Seahawks' defensive coordinator job two years ago. In fact, he not only recruited Fowler but, along with being UF's defensive coordinator, he was Fowler's position coach as well. In his only start that season, Fowler made a season-high five tackles, two for losses, and a sack.
"Dante Fowler Jr. did a great job," Quinn said, according to ajc.com. "In fact, I know him and his family well."
It just so happens that the Falcons are in desperate need of a dynamic edge pass rusher. NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt rates a pass rusher, a tight end and a defensive back as Atlanta's primary draft needs.
"He was one that we thought would develop into a pass rusher," Quinn said. "His first year there, he played right away as a true freshmen, which as you guys know just from being down there, it is not the easiest thing to do in that conference playing as a true freshmen."
Whether Fowler will even be available when the Falcons pick at No. 8 overall, however, is another question. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah has the Jacksonville Jaguars taking Fowler at No. 3 in his initial mock draft, but analyst Bucky Brooks sees Fowler sliding to the New Orleans Saints at No. 13.
Fowler recorded 8.5 sacks among 15 tackles for loss as the top player in Florida's defensive front last season.