When Byron Cowart signed with Maryland football in December 2017, it was his final shot at salvaging what was supposed to be a stepping stone on his rise to stardom.
Cowart committed to Auburn as the No. 3 overall recruit and the top-ranked defensive end in the Class of 2015, according to the 247 Sports Composite, but never lived up to expectations. In 26 games for the Tigers, he recorded just 15 tackles before leaving Auburn and transferring to Hillsborough Community College in Florida just three games into the 2017 season.
He took advantage of his one year in College Park, starting every game at defensive end while recording 38 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble. Despite participating in the Senior Bowl and NFL combine, Cowart’s draft status is still murky.
With the NFL Draft starting tomorrow, let’s take an in-depth look at his pro outlook.
Weight: 298 pounds
40-yard dash: 5.16 seconds
Bench press: 26 reps
Vertical jump: 30 inches
Broad jump: 9’3
What an NFL team is getting
Cowart is an intriguing Day 3 prospect because of his potential versatility on the defensive line. His size gives him the ability to line up both as an interior lineman for added beef to stop the run or outside as a defensive end. He also has a 6’9 wingspan, and his 33 3/4” arms means he has the potential to get by offensive tackles on blitzes and get a hand on and help stop ball carriers. A team may take a chance on him just because of his measurables and upside.
Like any Maryland draft prospect, Cowart has been through a lot to get to this position. Besides being labeled a gigantic bust after struggling at Auburn, he also had to deal with the death of Jordan McNair and everything that followed. Cowart emerged as a leader for the Terps last year, and wasn’t afraid to speak about what he and his teammates went through at Senior Bowl and NFL combine interviews.
However, his future comes with just as many question marks. Cowart was inconsistent in his one year at Maryland, struggling to bolster a pass rush that was nonexistent for much of the season. After recording three sacks and four tackles for loss in the Terps’ first six games, Cowart had zero sacks and just one tackle for loss over the final six games.
A player like that usually has to have a great combine to increase his draft stock, but Cowart had mixed results. While he has good size, strength and wingspan, none of them were eye-popping. NFL.com projects Cowart as a backup or special teamer, although he grades in the same range as Yannick Ngakoue when he was drafted in the third round in 2016.
There aren’t many seven-round mocks, so it’s hard to know exactly where Cowart will end up. NFL.com’s Chad Reuter has him going to the Saints in the seventh round as the 244th overall pick, DraftSite has him going to the Buccaneers earlier in the round at No. 215, WalterFootball.com has him going to the Bears at No. 222.
Even if Cowart doesn’t hear his name called on Day 3, his size, versatility and length are enough for a team to give him a shot as an undrafted free agent and get a training camp invite.