Eric Rowe, DB, Utah
Ht. 6006, Wt. 205, Arm: 31 1/2”, Hand: 9 1/2”, Bench: 19
40 yd: 4.45, 10 yd.: 1.56, 3 Cone: 6.70, Vertical: 39”, Broad: 10’5”
Games Watched: Arizona (2012), at Michigan, at UCLA
Aside from defensive tackle, an upgrade at free safety might do the most to elevate the Cowboys’ defense next season. Cowboys coaches met with Utah cornerback Eric Rowe after the Combine, possibly to convert him back to safety in a draft low on supply at the position.
Rowe shifted to cornerback before his senior season after he spent the previous three years as a free safety. He was named an all-conference honorable mention as a cornerback and a safety and his 34 passes defensed ranks third in school history.
As a sophomore, Rowe looked like a legitimate single-high safety prospect in coverage. He flowed smoothly across the field and attacked contested catches like a wide receiver. He also showed ideal instincts for the position, staying on his keys and quickly diagnosing offensive plays.
Rowe’s ability to play outside cornerback and safety would give the Cowboys flexibility in the remainder of the draft and on Sundays. It also makes him a true three-down defensive back regardless of the formation he faces.
Out of more than 50 defensive backs at the NFL Combine, Rowe ranked in the top six in bench press reps, vertical and broad jumps and short shuttle. More importantly, his 3-cone time of 6.70 was second best. In a position where athleticism is important, he proved to be NFL caliber.
As a cornerback, Rowe’s hips stiffened and his feet became unnecessarily choppy in transition. It could be that he was uncomfortable changing positions, but it’s something teams should monitor in pre-draft workouts. Poor transitions lead to separation in coverage.
Rowe has a desire to be physical against the run, but he frequently took poor angles to ball carriers. Teams can live with that at cornerback, but a safety must be better in this regard.
In three seasons as a safety, Rowe forced no fumbles and intercepted only two passes. Turnovers aren’t the end-all-be-all for an NFL safety, but coaches covet "game-changing" safeties. Often, the ability to create turnovers separates elite safeties from the solid ones.
Verdict: Top 75 Pick
As a cornerback, Rowe has the tape of a fourth rounder. His tape as a safety and his Combine workout, though, suggest he's worthy of a higher pick and a switch back to his old position.
As a prospect, Rowe reminds me of Tampa Bay safety Dashon Goldson without the big hits and dumb penalties. He's an early third-round pick ideally, but I could see using a second rounder on him if he shows more fluidity in pre-draft workouts.