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2019 NFL Draft: 3 reasons why the Patriots drafted Maryland DE Byron Cowart

Draft update: Patriots trade up, draft DE Byron Cowart with the 159th pick

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice-North John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots traded up in the fifth round to select Maryland defensive lineman Byron Cowart with the 159th overall pick in the draft. Let’s take a closer look at the developmental edge rusher to find out why New England decided to invest in him.

Developmental upside

The first word that comes to mind when describing Cowart is ‘raw.’ While he brings all the necessary physical attributes to the table to develop into a solid rotational option at the next level, he needs to improve his technique and play recognition skills in order to consistently compete against NFL-caliber blockers. What he therefore needs more than anything else at this point in his career are coaching and time.

The first, he certainly will get in New England: Cowart will learn from one of the NFL’s best coaching staffs and also from veteran players such as Michael Bennett and Deatrich Wise Jr. The time he receives, on the other hand, might depend on his development and whether or not the club thinks he is worth keeping around through roster cuts — the practice squad might be a good destination for Cowart to further work on refining his skills.

Positional versatility

At 6’3, 298 pounds, Cowart has the size to both line up on the edge and the interior. Moving inside might actually be a good move given his skill set: while he is not the quickest player, he does attack the pocket with excellent power and could therefore have a future in the NFL as an interior sub-pass rusher in the mold of Adam Butler. In this sense, Cowart is a classic Patriots pick.

Low risk-high reward investment

Even though the Patriots traded up to get him, Cowart is far from a lock to make the team. His roster outlook will likely depend on his development over the next few months and whether or not he can become a more polished defender. If he does, New England might have found a diamond in the rough in the fifth round of the draft. But even if not, the 159th selection hardly can be considered a wasted pick.

At the end of the day, picking Cowart is a calculated gamble on the Patriots’ part — one that could pay solid dividends if the Maryland product is able to work through his technical shortcomings.


How would you grade the Patriots’ selection of Byron Cowart?

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