NFL Draft Preview 2015: S Eric Rowe
The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series is back again. Over the course of the 10 weeks leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, we will be analyzing the top NFL prospects at each position. This week we are breaking down the safeties, and today’s prospect is Eric Rowe out of the University of Utah.
Rowe was a four year starter at Utah and played in 47 games, starting 45 of them. He primarily played free safety for his first three seasons, then switched to cornerback for his senior year. He was selected to multiple Freshman All-America teams in 2011, and was named Honorable Mention All-PAC 12 twice.
One of the most important qualities an NFL draft prospect can have is versatility. The ability to thrive in different positions and formations shows that a player is not scheme dependent, and that coaches will not have to draw up their game plan to tailor to his strengths in order for him to be successful.
Rowe is extremely versatile, having played free safety and corner, with some strong safety sprinkled in as well. His ability to play corner or safety will allow him to get on the field as a rookie and give his defensive coordinator the ability to disguise coverages more effectively.
Rowe has an ideal frame for a defensive back, standing 6'1 - 205 pounds. He is an exceptional athlete for his size and performed extremely well in every combine drill, particularly in the three cone (6.70 seconds, 2nd among DBs (CB & S) and tied for 6th among all participants) and the 20 yard shuttle (3.97 seconds, 5th among DBs and 6th overall). Both of these drills are extremely important for defensive backs, and these times are indicative of Rowe's impressive agility and quickness for a player of his height.
Despite having a somewhat lanky frame, Rowe is also an outstanding tackler, per Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo.
Utah CB/FS Eric Rowe missed two tackles all season. #CFF— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) March 5, 2015
To put this number in perspective, fellow draft prospect and former Louisville safety Gerod Holliman missed 20 tackles last season.
Rowe could benefit from putting on a few more pounds if the team that drafts him wants him to play safety, though he is at a good weight for the cornerback position. Rowe doesn't have particularly long arms (31 1/2 inches) for a player of his height, but that is really nitpicking and not a serious concern.
For teams that want Rowe as a corner, his lack of experience may be viewed as a potential problem. He only played the position for one season, so he may have a bit of a learning curve at the next level.
Rowe is one of the most underrated prospects at this point in the scouting process. He is flying very much under the radar at the moment, though don't be surprised if his stock rises between now and the draft. Rowe's measurables, experience, and versatility make him worthy of a late 2nd round pick, somewhere in the 55-65 range.
Rowe will have the best opportunity to be a difference-maker on a team that will utilize his versatility and play him at both safety and corner, depending on the down and distance. One team that could really use his services, barring some big pickups in free agency, is the San Francisco 49ers.
It appears as though both starting corners from last year will be gone (Chris Culliver has signed with the Redskins and it doesn't appear as though Perrish Cox will be back), and their defensive backfield wasn't a strength to begin with. San Francisco owns the 46th overall pick, and Rowe will likely be available. This maybe a little early for Rowe, but he will provide the Niners with valuable flexibility on the back end and allow them to get creative with their defensive alignments. If he happens to be available in the 3rd round, they should sprint to the podium.