Byron Cowart is officially headed to the next level. The defensive lineman was drafted 159th overall by the New England Patriots in the fifth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday. He becomes the second Maryland player to be drafted this weekend, joining first-rounder Darnell Savage Jr.
Although Cowart was expected to be an NFL player coming out of high school, he didn’t take the road everyone expected. After committing to Auburn as one of the top recruits in the country, he failed to live up to expectations and transferred to Hillsborough Community College three games into the 2017 season. He signed with Maryland in December 2017, recording 38 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble in his one season in College Park.
That was enough to earn him an invite to the NFL scouting combine, where he tested well in some areas but struggled in others. Cowart was viewed as a potential late-round prospect due to his versatility, with his 6’3, 298-pound frame big enough to provide extra run support and still slender enough to line up outside as a defensive end.
If there’s any team to be drafted by in the NFL, it’s probably the Patriots. They’re coming off their sixth Super Bowl win in franchise history, the third in the last five seasons. The pass rush has been led by Trey Flowers recently, but he signed with the Detroit Lions as a free agent this offseason. Bill Belichick is known for his development of late-round picks on the defensive side of the football, and Cowart could be the next man up for New England. He’ll join fellow Terp J.C. Jackson in Foxborough this fall. Although they didn’t cross paths at Maryland, both are Florida natives.