With Patriots' acquisition of CB/S Eric Rowe, start with size and athleticism

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots acquired cornerback/safety Eric Rowe from the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday in exchange for guard/center Josh Kline and a draft pick, sources told ESPN, and the first thought that came to mind is something learned from spending two seasons alongside former scout and current ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates: A good place to start with any analysis is focusing on a player's unique traits.

Rowe has them.

At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, and with 31.5-inch arm length, he has good size and length for a cornerback. Some teams viewed him as a solid press corner coming out of the 2015 draft, while others projected him to safety, but most seemed to be in agreement that he was a top-50 talent regardless.

Part of the reason Rowe was selected in the second round (47th overall) was the combination of his size and athleticism, with the latter highlighted by some of his top-ranked testing results at the 2015 NFL combine:

  • 4.45 in the 40-yard dash

  • 19 repetitions on the bench press

  • 39-inch vertical leap

  • 125-inch broad jump

  • 6.7 three-cone drill

Those traits can't be manufactured and help explain why the Patriots were willing to part with Kline and a 2018 fourth-round draft pick that could become as high as a third-rounder (according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network) depending on how much Rowe plays over the next two seasons. Rowe's manageable base salaries over the next three seasons, coupled with No. 2 cornerback Logan Ryan and No. 3 safety Duron Harmon having contracts that expire after the 2016 season, were surely other factors in what Bill Belichick often calls a "mosaic" when making roster-based decisions.

In addition, the team's depth at guard is strong with draft picks Joe Thuney and Ted Karras, as well as trade acquisition Jonathan Cooper, second-year player Shaq Mason and practice squad option Chris Barker, which made Kline expendable to them.

Specific to Rowe, how a player fits in another team's system compared to the Patriots is also important (e.g. New England safety Patrick Chung thriving in 2014-15 after struggling badly in Philadelphia in 2013). Rowe played under coordinator Billy Davis in 2015, and this year was learning a new scheme under Jim Schwartz. First-year head coach Doug Pederson previously said Rowe had some early "hiccups" and things were pulled back a bit.

Rowe gets a fresh slate in New England with a coaching staff that has had some recent trade success by identifying players' strengths and then employing them in their system to get the best out of them, with some notable examples coming in the form of trade acquisitions Akeem Ayers (2014), Jonathan Casillas (2014) and Akiem Hicks (2015), among others.

It doesn't always work out (e.g. Albert Haynesworth in 2011), but as noted in a similar trade two weeks ago for linebacker Barkevious Mingo and prior with the free-agent signing of Shea McClellin and trade acquisition Cooper, this is part of the Patriots' modus operandi of identifying players with unique traits who have fallen out of favor with their clubs.

The projection is that those unique traits will be harnessed in the Patriots' scheme.

Based on the team's recent track record, beware of betting against them.