The Atlanta Falcons currently have either mediocre talent in Charles Godfrey starting at free safety or a first-year starter in Dezmen Southward. Either way, they need some competition on the back end of the defense in new head coach Dan Quinn's defensive scheme.
One option to potentially take the job from Southward or Godfrey is Eric Rowe out of Utah. He's a comparable player to Eric Weddle or Devin McCourty when he plays safety and should be a better fit at the pro level as a free safety than as a cornerback.
University of Utah
Height: 6'1" Weight: 205 pounds
Arm Length: 31 ½" Hand Measurement: 9 ½"
40-Yard Dash: 4.45 sec. 10-Yard Split: 1.56 sec.
20-Yard Shuttle: 3.97 sec. Three-Cone Drill: 6.70 sec. Bench Reps: 19 reps
Vertical Jump: 39" Broad Jump: 10 ½"
2014: 12 Games Played, 59 Tackles, 3.0 Tackles for Loss, 1 Interception, 1 Fumble Recovered, 13 Pass Deflections, 1 Blocked Kick, 1 Defensive Touchdown
2013: 12 Games Played, 69 Tackles, 1.0 Tackle for Loss, 0.5 Sacks, 7 Pass Deflections
2012: 10 Games Played, 64 Tackles, 0.5 Tackles for Loss, 1 Interception, 5 Pass Deflections
2011: 13 Games Played, 68 Tackles, 2.5 Tackles for Loss, 1.0 Sack, 1 Interception, 8 Pass Deflections
Rowe has excellent ball skills and understands how to undercut outside and inside routes while also fighting for the ball in midair to create contested catches. He's the ideal cornerback or safety for Quinn when it comes to the athletic profile that he looks for.
His hips are very smooth, and he isn't afraid to play in man coverage against slot or outside cornerbacks when he has to. He's a heady player who can be a true playmaker at safety and whose best position is a free safety role within a Cover 3/Cover 1 defense.
A couple of things that Rowe truly needs to improve on come in the running game. He tends to get blocked out of plays and gets lost in tight spaces while he's trying to find the ball-carrier. He has to get his head around on certain situations and isn't ideally a cornerback in base packages.
When at cornerback, his tackling angles aren't the best either. That seems to be better when he plays safety. His aggressive attitude in coverage will cause him to get burned at times, but he has the ability to recover from it athletically.
How Does He Fit the Comrade Filter?
Despite never being a captain, Rowe was a leader for Utah and was very competent at adjusting his positional group when he was back in the final level. He's a very football-smart individual who works hard and isn't afraid to fight through smaller, nagging injuries.
Rowe also has kept his nose clean off the field with no arrests or suspensions. Most of the players Atlanta will look at this offseason tend to have this common trait because it's a huge deal not to have guys missing games over incidents such as DUIs.
Rowe's ideal role is likely that of a single-high safety playing center field attacking the ball while playing in the deep third of the field. He can maximize his strengths and minimize his weaknesses while playing in this role, which a ton of teams have begun to embrace.
As a taller, longer cornerback with great range, the former safety needs to move back to free safety once he gets to the pros. It will be his best position, and if the Falcons draft him, he could be a great starting free safety in the NFL when given the chance.
How He Would Fit into the Falcons' Plans
Atlanta needs a starting free safety and could get a playmaker should it select Rowe early in the second round of the 2015 draft. The Falcons would be wise to invest that pick into the Utah cornerback/safety and could do much worse than getting their next 10-year starter.
Even if he's only 80 percent of what Weddle has been in the pros, he'll be a great fit for Quinn's defense and should be able to have his abilities maximized with the new Falcons head coach. The Falcons filling one of their biggest needs with Rowe would be an excellent pick in 2015.
All stats used are from Pro Football Focus' Premium Stats, ESPN, CFBStats or the NFL. All combine and pro-day info is courtesy of NFL Draft Scout. All contract information is courtesy of Spotrac and Rotoworld.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and the NFL draft. He's also a Draft Analyst for Pro Football Spot.