Byron Cowart drafted by Pats to bolster defensive line
Maryland alum Byron Cowart, capable of playing either defensive end or defensive tackle, was taken by the Patriots in the fifth round of the draft.
The New England Patriots continued their efforts to rebuild their pass rush and defensive line in the wake of losing Trey Flowers and Malcom Brown in free agency. Two rounds after drafting defensive end Chase Winovich from the University of Michigan, New England selected another pass-rusher from the Big Ten conference: Byron Cowart of the University of Maryland.
Cowart, according to one report, has been “widely deemed as a defensive tackle in an end’s body.” Coming out of high school, Rivals.com had him ranked as the No. 1 defensive end prospect in the entire country.
Despite that high billing, Cowart drastically underwhelmed during roughly two seasons of play with the Auburn Tigers. He was considered one of the biggest busts in the country until he left Auburn and enrolled at Maryland for this past season. In 12 games with the Terrapins, Cowart recorded 38 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, and a forced fumble.
Because of this college career turnaround, Cowart essentially rose from the dead as a football player, earning invites to the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine in the process. And on Sunday, his up-and-down journey took another decidedly upward swing for the better, when Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots made him their 159th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
As Evan Lazar points out in the tweet above, Cowart is an accomplished run-defender. While still considered a developmental pass-rusher, the Patriots probably fell in love with the Terrapin when they saw how effectively he could seal off running lanes for opposing offenses. They also probably love his versatility, having played in a variety of schemes during his college career and at both defensive end and defensive tackle.
Where exactly they plan to sub Cowart in (and when) will be an interesting storyline to follow as the team moves closer and closer to starting the regular season. Hopefully this feel-good story continues for a long time, and the marriage between Cowart and New England proves to be a lengthy and mutually-beneficial one for both parties.