This summer has been one of reclamation projects for the Patriots, as they have acquired a bevy of players who, for whatever reason, did not play up to expectations in their previous stops. Anthony Johnson and Barkevious Mingo both earned roster spots on New England's 53 man roster and flashed some of their prodigious physical gifts in spurts of live action. Now, Ute Eric Rowe joins the former Bayou Bengals after the Patriots acquired him on Tuesday for a conditional draft pick.
Rowe, in many ways, seems to be a victim of circumstance. He did not get much playing time last year after the Philadelphia Eagles traded up to select him in the 2015 NFL Draft at 47 overall. Throughout the draft process, the Eagles were consistently connected to Rowe due to his physicality, strong off-field presence, and ability to play press in Chip Kelly's preferred defensive scheme. With Kelly gone, though, Howie Roseman has sought to purge the team of his players, and Rowe is yet another casualty of Howie's acrimonious liquidation of assets.
Howie may have sold low on Rowe, who has actually only played cornerback for his last year on Utah before getting picked by Philadelphia; he was Utah's starting free safety before then, and had limited draft buzz despite strong performance. However, as the year wore on, a lot of people began to take notice of Rowe thanks to his physicality, his long arms, and his intelligence. Specifically, his strong performance against Michigan and future second round draft pick Devin Funchess was what piqued the interest of many draft enthusiasts.
@DarrenPage haven't seen that game yet. Eric Rowe and Nate Orchard both looked good vs. UM. Rowe was very physical, impressive eyes too— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) October 10, 2014
Watching tape on CB/FS Eric Rowe of Utah, should be an off-season riser. Size 6'1 205 & ability in man coverage will bring many suitors— Jmpasq (@Jmpasq) October 22, 2014
First two passes thrown near Eric Rowe vs Michigan, he does a good job playing ball at catch point and gets 2 PBU's. looks good so far.— School Hanx (@HankJoness) October 30, 2014
The comparison I personally used for Eric Rowe that draft season was ex-Clemson Tiger Bashaud Breeland, a physically gifted player who has blossomed in Washington. I saw similar hip flexibility and intelligence with both players, especially given how well they used sidelines to limit potential routes of receivers. In hindsight though, I think I overvalued Rowe's athletic ability a bit in that comparison. Breeland would not let many receivers do this to him.
At the Senior Bowl, while Rowe had some slips (including this one against Breeland's now-teammate, Jamison Crowder), he also had moments where he shone; specifically, when he got measured at the weigh in. His 32.5 inch arms became public knowledge, and in a league where physical cornerbacks were en vogue, Rowe's value would only go up. At the NFL Combine, Rowe shone, earning a "Top Performer" status in every drill according to NFL.com. He ran a 4.45 40, had a 39 inch vertical, and racked up a 6.70 3-cone drill. Rowe clearly had the goods to get picked quite highly in the upcoming draft, even if he did trip over his own feet at times.
Rowe with a 4.45 40? That's a great time for him— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) February 23, 2015
Many will say Eric Rowe's 40 time will boost his stock, but his film should have had him higher than most projections already.— Luke Easterling (@LukeEasterling) February 23, 2015
Eric Rowe: 6006, 205 lbs, 77-1/2" wing, 4.45 40, 39" vert, 10'5" broad. $$$$— Zach Whitman (@zjwhitman) February 23, 2015
Rowe is a physically talented, intelligent player who needs to use the sideline effectively to be at his best. I'm not particularly sure if this is a harbinger for losing Logan Ryan next season or if his arrival might be insurance for a safety's eventual departure. In my mind, Rowe should play a money position, manning up against tight ends and larger receivers a la Pat Chung's current status with the Patriots. Either way, the pick given away shows that New England is willing to make an investment in Rowe, and he has the skillset to be well worth it.