Scouting: Eric Rowe – CB/FS, Utah
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/205 lbs.
Expected draft pick: Late first round, early second round
The Ravens just signed CB Jimmy Smith to four year, $48M contract extension. But should that change the needs of the team moving forward? Likely not. All it ensures is that Smith will be billed as the top corner and will be employed past 2015. The Ravens still have Lardarius Webb whose play has been declining and may be able to switch to free safety at some point. Asa Jackson has shown flashes, but is completely unreliable. After him, it’s a roll of the dice. Rashaan Melvin, Tremain Jacobs, Chris Greenwood, Anthony Levine. Yikes. If Smith, or Webb go down, or don’t even play up to snuff, the secondary is in big trouble yet again.
Eric Rowe is one of the least talked about, top defensive back prospects heading into this draft. Rowe brings versatility to the table as a three year player at free safety for the Utes, and moving to corner in 2014. Scouts have him listed as going from anywhere in the middle first round, to as low as middle second round. It’s hard to get a read on how teams feel about him. Sometimes versatile guys do two things, but not either one particularly great. Reports are that some teams view him as a CB, and some teams view him as a free safety. Which one the team decides will be a better fit, will depend on where they rank him on their board.
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Rowe was a top performer in all of the drills at the combine, but was most impressive at the 40-yard with a 4.45, and impressive 20 yard shuttle and cone drills, showing off his speed in tight spaces, and hope that translates to sticking in a receivers hip pocket when covering them. Let’s look at some of the game tape from Rowe.
Let’s start with tape against his most NFL ready opponent, Devin Funchess at Michigan. We’ll also get a look at Rowe in all three styles of coverage. Press-man, off-man, and zone. Here is Rowe in off-man against Funchess. He allows him to get way too open. Funchess has hands problems, but an NFL receiver catches this more often than not. An NFL QB also makes a better throw that isn’t behind him, allowing Rowe to come in a break it up.
Here, Rowe is in zone coverage and seems caught off guard as Funchess settles in behind him to make a nice grab. Rowe is caught in no mans land between the short receiver in front of him, and Funchess to his rear.
Now Rowe gives us a look in press-man. Watch his alignment prior to the snap. Something about turning before the snap bothers me. As if he doesn’t have a good enough backpedal and hip turn to keep up in press. I feel like it puts him in a bad position if the receiver decides to break off his route short, or if he puts on a double move, just like Funchess does here, and runs right by him. Rowe is just not in good position, stumbles trying to keep up with the not so speedy Funchess. A better throw and its six for Michigan.
Rowe did play a little safety in this matchup, and here he makes a nice break-up of the pass. Although, not against Funchess. Perhaps the Utah coaches moved him back to safety after Funchess got the best of him. As a safety, Rowe kept the play in front of him, and showed good timing on his leap to disrupt the pass. Also, good read of the QB and choosing the right target despite basically being responsible fore two guys that got deep.
Against UCLA, Rowe didn’t fair much better. Again with the hip turn before the snap, flatfooted for a moment, contact that flag happy NFL referees will call all day, and he gets ran right by in off-man coverage.
…and here is Rowe beat again by a double move in press coverage
- Not shy of contact
- Better safety than corner
- Gunner on special teams
- Solid run defender
- Not cut out for corner
- Easily beat by double moves
- Struggles against NFL talent (Devin Funchess)
- Hip turn/setup/mirroring ability
- Doesn’t express 4.4 speed in game
Overall: Rowe appears clearly more cut out for safety than corner at the next level, as some teams have expressed. But you would think as a ball hawking free safety, he might be better at playing zone and off-man coverages as a corner. Doesn’t seem to be the case. Sure it’s a little different because as a corner you expect safety help over the top. But safety help isn’t there on every play.
Rowe looks like a good blitzer, and solid in run defense, but those skills don’t really apply of the free safety position often. But if you put him in press coverage to stop the run, and you guess wrong, the receiver puts on a move and beats him. First round grades for Rowe are extremely too high. Second round grades, if you want him to be safety I guess. If I’m the Ravens, I would pass. I don’t see the impressive athletic ability that he expressed at the combine, translated to the field.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]