Mobile, Ala – Eric Rowe finished his career with the Utah Utes as a four-year starter. Three of them were at free safety. But when Keith McGill left for the NFL, following the 2013 season, Rowe was moved to cornerback.
Rowe officially weighed in last Tuesday in Mobile at 6-foot-0 ½ and 204 pounds. He has the size that NFL teams covet in the modern corner prototype, but just a year of experience at the position. Although he’s been playing with the cornerbacks all week at the Senior Bowl, he might be better suited to safety at the pro level.
He was productive in his senior season with the Utes, finishing with 59 total tackles, 3 tackles for a loss and an interception (a pick six). As a corner, he has a propensity for using his size to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage and disrupt slants and shallow crossing routes.
Rowe also happens to be third all-time in Utes history with 34 career pass breakups. He’s an instinctual player who is comfortable playing in a zone. But some scouts question whether he has the skills to line up and cover man-to-man.
Rowe’s senior season at Utah was impressive enough to earn him an invitation to play in Reese’s Senior Bowl. And he’s relished the opportunity to showcase his skills on a deeper level with pro scouts and compete with some of the best players in the country.
“It’s been a great experience,” he told me, “meeting players from all over the country and great players, too, at that. And then getting coached by a pro staff, you know, to see the kind of tempo and energy at practice. It’s been a great experience.”
Rowe has had to line up against some special players, like Duke’s Jamison Crowder and Ohio State’s Devin Smith. Both of these players represent the type that some scouts believe Rowe struggles to handle one-on-one, but for either of them to win vs. Rowe, they first have to get off his jam at the line of scrimmage.
Rowe played corner his senior year and has been with the corner group at the Senior Bowl all week. He's showed well but hasn't jumped off the field. Again, I query that perhaps he's best suited at safety.
NFL teams are always looking for that centerfielding-type of safety who can cover a lot of ground and break on plays developing in front of him and laterally.
If asked to play safety at the pro level, I believe he’d be successful – arguably more so than as a corner. He played free safety for three years and believes he has what it takes. He’s great at attacking the ball at the high-point and makes it difficult for the receiver to haul in the pass.
When I asked him what type of safety he sees himself as, he was happy to answer.
“The free-range type safety -- ball-hawk -- centerfield. I would say those are more my attributes but I’ve played in the box, of course, so I can go down there just as easy.”
In the box, Rowe has displayed that he’s not afraid to stick his nose into the action and get his hands dirty. In run support, he flies into the muss and his tackle numbers show that. As a prospect, his versatility sets him apart.
Although he might not fit what every NFL team is looking for, they have taken notice of Rowe. When I asked him which teams had been in contact with him, he made it known that very few hadn’t.
“Almost all of them,” he said, “with a few exceptions.”
Knowing that I cover the Denver Broncos, he also offered me this extra nugget.
”And yeah, I’ve talked to the Broncos.”
The Broncos are deep at corner, with Chris Harris, Jr., Aqib Talib, Bradley Roby, Omar Bolden and Kayvon Webster. But two of their safeties are unrestricted free agents – Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of the interest Rowe’s garnered from NFL scouts has come as a safety prospect.
A great showing today in the game itself could really help bolster his draft stock. As is, many draftniks see him as a mid-round pick – fourth or fifth round. His official 40-time will be key in exactly where he falls in the draft. The Utes list him at 4.39 40-yard speed. It’ll be interesting to see if that holds true at his pro day and at the combine.