The Chiefs have a strong cover corner in Sean Smith but he's only under contract for one more year. Rowe offers the length Kansas City likes at cornerback and offers positional versatility due to his experience at safety. Some clubs, in fact, have Rowe as the top safety in this draft class.
Corner run! Bill Belichick needs to stock up on his secondary players after losing Browner and Darrelle Revis. Rowe gives him a guy he can mold into a future stud at the position.
STRENGTHS: Possesses a legitimate NFL frame with good height, broad shoulders and a tapered, well-defined musculature. Uses his length and physicality to harass receivers at the line of scrimmage and throughout the route. Extends an arm to jam opponents and disrupt timing.
Good balance and coordination to turn and run, showing steady acceleration and at least functional straight-line speed to remain at cornerback. Good hand-eye coordination to disrupt passes at the catch-point, showing no panic when the ball is in the air and the strength to rip it out of the hands of receivers as they attempt to secure the catch.
Aggressive in run support. Fights through would-be blockers, including offensive linemen. Physical tackler who lowers his shoulder and drives through ballcarriers.
Good awareness and aggression on special teams. Blocked a kick in 2014 and is a cognizant, physical blocker on the return unit.
WEAKNESSES: May project better to the NFL back at safety than at cornerback. Like many taller corners, Rowe has a slight hitch in his transition, leaving him vulnerable to double-moves. He rides the receiver throughout the route and too often extends his arms to limit their movement.
Does not possess ideal hands, dropping several potential interceptions on tape.
A three-year starter and all-conference pick at free safety, Rowe made the transition to cornerback in 2014 to help the Utes recover from the loss of Keith McGill (a fourth-round pick by the Oakland Raiders). Rowe demonstrated the awareness and physicality that could earn him an even higher selection in 2015.
Rowe's length, broad-shouldered frame and straight-line speed (Utah coaches reportedly clocked him at 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash) make him an intriguing prospect regardless of where he ultimately lines up. He's a heady, physical defender who is well-versed in pro-style schemes given Utah's heavy man coverage philosophy, and has proven a standout since first stepping onto campus.
Rowe recorded 69 tackles and nine pass breakups while starting all 13 games (10 at free safety, three at strong safety) as a true freshman in 2011, earning Freshman All-American honors by several publications. Rowe earned Second Team All-Pac-12 honors in 2014 at cornerback, registering 57 tackles and 13 passes broken up in just 11 regular-season games.
Rowe shows good balance, a functional turning motion and steady acceleration in coverage. He's alert to come up in run support and against underneath routes and breaks down well to make the efficient open-field tackle. Rowe is poised in coverage but he's not a ball-hawk. Of his 34 career passes broken up, he only intercepted three passes.
02/23/2015 - 2015 NFL Combine Five Things to Know: 4. Corner or safety? Rowe shows the skillset for both: At 6-1 and 205 pounds with long arms, Eric Rowe saw playing time at both safety and cornerback in college with scouts split on where his best position might be at the next level. But instead of limiting him to one or the other, he has the versatility to do both, and his workout numbers on Monday only backed that up. Rowe finished among the best performers in Indianapolis with a 4.45 40-yard dash, 39-inch vertical, 10-5 broad jump, 6.70 3-cone drill, 3.97 short shuttle and 19 reps on the bench. He checked a number of boxes and might have secured his spot as a top-100 prospect in the 2015 class. Some teams still like him best at cornerback while others see him as a safety, but regardless, he has the skill-set to play either and start in the NFL. - Dane Brugler, NFLDraftScout.com