When it comes to USC football players, even the undrafted, under-the-radar ones can’t be underestimated. That rings true for Buffalo Bills cornerback Nickell Robey, who is quickly proving that his slipping through the cracks was a big mistake.
With Leodis McKelvin sidelined with a groin injury, Robey filled in as the other starting cornerback opposite Stephon Gilmore during OTAs. Although there’s still a long way to go before he’s starting for the Bills, the fact that the USC product already has the coaching staff’s trust is a promising sign.
Once training camp gets under way, Robey will go head-to-head with players like Justin Rogers and Ron Brooks for a significant role in the Buffalo sub-packages. Despite his standing as an undrafted rookie, Robey appears to have a leg up on the competition at this point in the offseason.
What’s going to hurt Robey as he makes the transition from college to the NFL is his size (or lack thereof). Measuring in at 5’8’’, 170 pounds, the rookie doesn’t exactly possess the ideal build to compete at the professional level. Considering that most starting receivers in the NFL are at least 6’0’’, 20o pounds, Robey’s severe lack of size puts him at a major disadvantage.
Despite his pint-sized frame, Robey has plenty to offer the Bills secondary.
Robey proved during his days with the Trojans that he has the smarts and football IQ to make up for his punitive size. He does a great job of staying aware in coverage and using his quick-read abilities to break on balls in the air. All you have to do is look at his production at USC – 163 total tackles, seven interceptions, 24 defended passes – to know that he can be an impact cornerback.
Earning a spot on the Bills’ 53-man roster is anything but a guarantee for Robey. If he can carry his momentum from OTAs into training camp, though, there’s a good chance that we’ll be seeing Robey on the field early and often in 2013.