Editor's note: our "Getting to Know You" series is back to examine numerous draft prospects who may be of interest to the Green Bay Packers in 2015.
The Green Bay Packers have been hit hard by free agency at one position: cornerback. Though the team has proven commodities in the slot with Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde, the team has a large question mark at the starting outside corner position opposite Sam Shields. Perhaps Hayward can be the guy to step in there, but he has yet to play there consistently, save for a short stretch during his rookie year in 2012.
Therefore, Ted Thompson will likely turn to this year's NFL Draft in order to help bolster that position. One player who might be an ideal fit for the Packers as a boundary corner is Eric Rowe from Utah.
What makes Rowe an ideal outside corner?
It's simple - size and speed. Rowe stands 6 feet and 3/4-inch tall and weighed in at 205 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine this February. That puts him a quarter-inch taller and about 10 pounds heavier than the departed Davon House.
His straight-line speed also puts him on par with the better receivers in the NFL. He ran a 4.45-second forty-yard dash at the Combine, which was tied for seventh-best among all cornerbacks. His Pro Day is going on today, March 26th, though he may choose to let his Combine measurements stand up for themselves and just work on positional drills.
Okay, but 40 times aren't everything, right?
True. Rowe also excelled in other drills, and actually performed better in most than House. Rowe posted 19 reps on the bench press, a 39-inch vertical, a 3.97-second short shuttle time, and a 6.70-second time in the 3-cone drill. In general, he's not just a big guy with long speed - he's an explosive athlete with very good quickness and agility as well.
For comparison, at the Combine, House ran at 4.49 in the 40, had a vertical of 33.5 inches, and put up shuttle and cone times of 4.12 and 6.65 seconds respectively.
Sounds like a good start. What did he do in college?
Rowe actually started out as a safety for his first three years before moving to cornerback for his senior season. However, he started all four years, and racked up a large number of tackles. He also posted three interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown in 2014) and added 7.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
So he's a safety converted to corner? Would he move back to safety or into the slot in the NFL?
Not necessarily. At the Scouting Combine, Rowe told Acme Packing Company that he sees himself as a boundary cornerback at the next level (though of course he said he would play whichever position the team that drafts him wants to assign him). With his skill set and the need on the roster, if the Packers were to draft him it seems clear that he would remain on the boundary.
Using his size is a big factor on the boundary, as he said "I got longer arms" so he can play press coverage better. He also noted that Utah used mostly a press-man scheme which is relatively similar to the Packers' tendency.
As far as playing the slot, Rowe noted that the reason he was moved to corner was because the Utah coaches began playing him in the slot on occasion and thought he had the ability to flip his hips and turn upfield, which led them to move him outside after Keith McGill left for the Draft last year. He also made sure to note that that teams can "always move me" from outside to the slot and to safety, but that because of his versatility to play throughout the secondary he feels like he has "that added value." However, he said that he feels he had more success playing cornerback, and that he loves "the challenge of it, going one-on-one with receivers."
He did just that his last year at Utah, as he was asked to cover a number of impressive receivers during his senior season. Michigan's Devin Funchess, Stanford's Ty Montgomery, and USC's Nelson Agholor were among the players he covered in 2014.
How about run support?
Rowe is a willing tackler, though he can occasionally take poor angles to the football. You can see that at about 40 seconds into the highlight video here of Rowe's game against Michigan, where he takes a poor angle trying to bring down Wolverines quarterback Devin Gardner. However, Rowe does make several impressive plays in this game.
Also, you may note that Rowe is playing exclusively on the left side in that video - that is the side that was manned by Tramon Williams the last several years.
So what's the verdict?
Rowe is a very good athlete at the cornerback position who would be a good fit in the Packers' defensive scheme. He has all the athletic traits you would want in a boundary cornerback: length, good speed, and explosiveness. However, perhaps because of his short time playing the cornerback position, his tape remains somewhat raw and inconsistent.
In all, Rowe would be a good fit for the Packers at the end of round three, where Green Bay holds the 94th overall pick, and based on his workouts it wouldn't be a shock to see him go in round two. He may take a season or two to develop into an NFL starter, but once he learns to be more consistent in his technique he should turn out to be an above-average corner.