One of the aspects of breaking down prospects for the 2014 NFL draft that I look at are which parts of a player’s game can and can’t be coached up to the NFL level. There are things that even the greatest coaching staff can’t change. One of those is size. A big, tall wide receiver has a physical edge over a shorter wide receiver and there is no debating that. When it comes to breaking down Ohio State star cornerback Bradley Roby, it’s not size that wows scouts, it’s his speed. And speed is another of those parts of a player’s overall skillset that can’t be coached. But as we look at the rest of Roby’s game, does the speed make up for other potential “coachable” shortcomings?
The short answer is yes. Roby’s speed is an equalizer. Game after game, Roby is able to use that speed to close quickly in zone coverage and get to footballs that most cornerbacks would never even consider. Roby’s strength is in off-coverage where he’s able to diagnose the play, use his fluid athleticism and that blazing speed to read and react to the play. Roby’s 19 passes defended was impressive.
Physically, Roby is listed at 5-11, but will probably measure a little smaller. He is over 190 pounds and has a strong physical build. As a former top wide receiver recruit, it’s assumed Roby has nice ball skills. He does a good job once he breaks on the football or while fighting for it. He’s often high pointing the ball with a very nice vertical and has maybe the best hands of any cornerback in this class.
Roby is a brash, arrogant football player who believes he can find his way to every football that comes anywhere close to him. This is a good thing, but it does get him in trouble on occasion. He is susceptible to pump fakes and double moves, I suspect because he thinks that no play is out of his reach with that closing speed. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Even with what appears to be a high football IQ, he gives up plays when he gambles and his athletic ability can’t make up for it. The Buckeyes appear to understand this and typically don’t ask Roby to play a lot of pressman coverage. It would be interesting to see if Roby can play more, understand the importance of a backpedal and how to mirror a wide receiver rather than play an area and read the football.
Roby is a sound tackler, especially in the open field, but I’m not enamored with his ability to read the run play, fill lanes and close on the football. His speed allows him to get to plenty of plays, however, and the right scheme could help him play the run better. Overall, I have Roby as my top draft eligible cornerback for 2014. His game isn’t perfect, but you can’t coach elite speed and ball skills like he has. He can be taught to play more within a scheme and use his teammates better. It’s essentially a foregone conclusion that Roby is gone at the end of season, so this is his final audition for NFL franchises. It will be interesting to see if he sees as many targets as he did in 2012. If not, his positive and negative plays will be magnified greatly. Roby has a chance to be a top-10 pick in 2014, so his game is going to be under the magnifying glass all year long. Just don’t blink, because you might miss him.