Making the big play was no problem for small-school standout Jonathan Dowling. The two-time First-Team All-Sun Belt performer sat out a season in 2010 after transferring from the University of Florida, but more than made up for it the past two seasons by registering nine interceptions and eight forced fumbles for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
With Dowling, a rangy 6-3, 198-pound free safety, routinely making the big plays, Western Kentucky was the Sun Belt’s top defense in 2013. The Hilltoppers led the conference in scoring defense (24.6 PPG), total defense (339.2 YPG) and pass defense (177.9 YPG). Only one Sun Belt squad (UL-Lafayette) forced more turnovers than WKU’s 21 and no squad in the conference collected more interceptions than the Hilltoppers’ 14.
In 2012, Dowling played in 12 games with 11 starts and registered a three-interception game against Kentucky, most by a Hilltopper in a single game since 1978. This past season, Dowling played and started in all 12 games, leading the team in forced fumbles with six and tying for second in passes defensed with 10.
Dowling’s NFL.com scouting profile lists good hands, linear fluidity, range, playmaking ability and special teams experience as his key strengths. As for weaknesses, the profile cites durability, instincts, and inconsistent tackling.
There is no perfect prospect, and Dowling is no exception to that rule. But Dowling’s physical makeup and penchant for making the big play has helped him built a profile that could appeal to teams with the ability to see through the small-school tag.
NFL.com Draft Projection: Rounds 4-5