Draft Daily: Utah DB Rowe Will Intrigue Eagles
THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON APRIL 8.
Between now and the draft, we’ll zero in on one prospect a day with an Eagles slant. If you have a player you want covered, let us know on the Birds 24/7 Facebook page.
THE BACK STORY
When the Eagles finalize their draft board in the coming weeks, they will have certain players ranked higher than many other teams around the league.
And one of those guys very well could be Utah defensive back Eric Rowe.
Rowe was a four-year starter, appearing in 45 games for the Utes. He was a safety his first three years before transitioning to cornerback as a senior.
Rowe has very good size, athleticism and versatility. He was a Pac-12 All-Academic second-team selection last season and graduated with a degree in business.
In other words, he checks off a lot of the boxes that Chip Kelly seems to find valuable.
Rowe (6-1, 205) has excellent size to play either corner or safety. And he tested very well at the combine.
Here’s the spider chart comparing him to other cornerbacks:
On Mock Draftable, you can also view his numbers against safeties.
As you can see, measurables are of no concern here. Rowe’s height and weight is almost identical to current Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins (6-0, 204). And he doesn’t appear to have any glaring physical limitations.
On the field, there’s a lot to like with Rowe. He lined up quite a bit in press coverage last year and showed very good ball skills, finishing with 13 pass breakups and an interception.
At the 1:10 mark here, he’s in man coverage and does a great job of playing the fade:
I’ve asked Billy Davis about this on multiple occasions. Sometimes, coaches don’t want corners looking back for the ball. Instead, they are taught to play through the hands of the receiver. Rowe did a great job of that on this play.
Against Washington State (9-second mark), he lines up in man coverage, runs the route for the receiver, intercepts the slant and takes it back to the house:
Here is Rowe in off coverage. At the 1:31 mark, he makes a great play over the middle of the field, attacking the ball and forcing an incompletion.
One aspect of Rowe’s game that really stands out is his physicality. He may be the best tackler among the cornerbacks in this year’s draft class. Per Pro Football Focus, he only missed two tackles all season. Rowe doesn’t hesitate at all when playing the run and is willing to embrace contact.
Here, he lines up outside and comes on a blitz, stopping the ball-carrier and bringing him to the ground.
Here’s another example of Rowe playing the run at the 4:44 mark:
There are aspects of Rowe’s game that make me wonder whether the Eagles might see him as a nice option at safety, a position they’ve struggled to fill over the years.
The Eagles want three things out of their safeties: the ability to play man coverage; the ability to play single-high; and the ability to stop the run. It seems reasonable to project that Rowe would be able to do one and three on that list. He already has cornerback experience and is very good against the run.
The question is whether the Eagles believe he’d be effective playing center field. That’s something very difficult to tell off of TV tape, but below is a nice play (3:56) where he’s playing deep, reads the QB’s eyes and breaks up a pass.
Rowe is very impressive in the open field. Here’s a play from 2012 where he’s playing single high safety and is basically the last line of defense on a potential TD run (1:38). Rowe does a tremendous job of bringing the ball-carrier down.
In that one specific game, he did this on multiple occasions.
So what are the knocks on Rowe?
From Lance Zierlein of NFL.com:
Linear body type with average play strength. Will struggle to carry NFL deep speed. Lacks an accelerator and is not a recovery-type cornerback. Limited as a man-cover corner. Has change-of-direction issues in tight spaces. Plays into boundary too often. Had to fight through a leg issue at one point during the 2014 season. Likely a scheme-specific player.
Of course, the Eagles could have the specific scheme where he succeeds.
THE BOTTOM LINE
What’s interesting about many of the prospects we’ve covered – UConn CB Byron Jones, USC WR Nelson Agholor and Rowe – is that analysts seem to think they’ll go late in the first round or early in the second.
The Eagles, of course, pick at No. 20 and don’t get another selection until No. 52. After last year, the guess here is that Kelly is more likely to “reach” for a guy at No. 20 than trade down and risk losing out on a prospect he covets.
The only analyst I’ve seen mock Rowe to the Eagles at No. 20 is Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Rowe will be a player who ranks highly on the Eagles’ draft board. I’m not sure whether they’ll see him more as a corner or safety, but I know Kelly will be fascinated by the idea that he seems capable of playing both.
Rowe has excellent measurables, is an experienced player and seems to fit all the #culture guidelines. I don’t know if the Eagles would take him at No. 20, but he’s a player to watch come draft time.