The Ohio State Buckeyes have one of the best traditions for producing talented defensive backs both at cornerback and safety. The next in this line is Bradley Roby, the extremely talented and physical corner from Georgia. Roby had a great deal of buzz as a possible underclassman that could have declared for the NFL Draft after his redshirt sophomore year this past season, but opted to stay for his junior year. His stated goal is to be a Top 10 pick.
It is still possible he gets to that goal as he is a terrific athletic talent with a ton of ability as a football player. He has not been quite the same player on the field where bad habits developed and some issues with effort appeared to show up, possibly in an effort to avoid injury for the draft, but areas that need to be addressed including his stance and tackling. Coming into the year, Roby needed to work on doing better with his back turned to the quarterback and that really has not happened this year, but it still could in the pros. There is also a character question that popped up in the offseason, even though it appears to be rather minor. Roby’s draft stock will largely depend on how much teams weigh this year against last year and which they feel is the true player. He still appears to warrant a first round pick and this season, while it has produced some bad habits and questionable results, is not enough to take him out of the top 32 picks and he could end up going higher than some might expect.
Vitals & Build
Roby is listed 5’11” 192lbs and has a great frame for the position with broader shoulders than a lot of corners enabling him to take up space and box out receivers. He has impressive strength and incredible acceleration and raw speed. Roby has fluid hips and changes direction extremely well. It is unclear how much better Roby’s athleticism and overall strength can get but the draft community will be excited to find out as most of his physical tools are already bordering on elite. His motor never seems to stop and he rarely, if ever, gives up on plays and he tracked down some plays that looked like surefire touchdowns from behind.
Tackling for Roby is hit or miss; he can make big plays and make good plays but he will also try to make plays out of control, lunge and dive where he should be breaking down, and at times will miss plays badly. The one area where Roby was consistent last season was his ability to use his arms and wrapping up on tackles. This season, that has seemingly vanished entirely. Perhaps in an effort to protect his arms and shoulders from injury, he has opted to throw his body at opponents, which has had terrible results and actually left him hurting himself. Whatever the case, it needs to be gotten rid of, he needs to get back to wrapping up tackles with his arms.
Roby is a guy who goes all out and is looking to hit and intimidate his opponent every time he gets a chance. He comes downhill as hard as he can and will demonstrate power when he can or dive and try to wrap up and ankle or grab a foot at others, so he will have highlight plays that look good, but he will also have plays where he misses badly and can be extremely frustrating. There were times last season when he would do exactly what a coach would want; gets in position, breaks down, wraps up and explodes through the ball carrier. He needs to not only bring this back from the dead but expand on it and make it a consistent part of his game.
Roby is really impressive when it comes to limiting receivers with yards after catch by being able to tackle receivers who he is covering immediately or getting in position to make tackles on players making catches in other areas of the field.
Roby is an asset in run support and is a guy who could easily play strong side corner at the next level and brings an attitude that a defensive coordinator is going to love. When he reads run, he comes downhill as fast as he can to make plays and is not afraid to lay the wood and is a guy who will make plays in the backfield. He has shown the ability to take on and shed blocks, demonstrating the willingness to go straight on with receivers and simply outmuscle those who are just hoping being in the way is enough. He has also demonstrated the ability to use his hands to keep spacing and defeat blocks going around them.
Occasionally, Roby will get too cute with trying to get around blocks and end up taking himself out of plays and trying to go around blocks he should simply go through. This happened more this year. The other issue Roby runs into is that he comes downhill so hard that at times he will play out of control and whiff on plays he should break down to make. He will lunge and dive at the runner’s legs at times and in doing so, will lose outside contain in the process. Last season, he made more plays than he will missed and make a few great plays along the way, but this season has had far too many misses. Roby needs to learn to collect himself and make the smart play at times in order to be more consistent. He has the ability to be an outstanding asset as a run defender on the strong side if he just decides that he wants to be.
Roby absolutely has the physical tools and ability to be a tremendous man cover corner but there are a number of small mistakes that he needs to iron out for the NFL. Roby has good feet, acceleration, raw speed, and the hips to blanket receivers. He has demonstrated he can play in press and seems to revel in the ability to go up and jolt receivers at the line. Roby can do a tremendous job of mirroring receiver routes and shows at times the ability to run the route for them or get to the ball faster than they do. His explosion out of his breaks is fantastic, but he is not overwhelmingly comfortable in this area, but this is a matter of just getting more reps at it and doing it more. The one area that needs to be addressed is when Roby plays off coverage and has a nonchalant stance. He stands tall, like he is waiting for a bus rather than getting ready to defend a football play. It may not seem like much, but he ends up playing half a beat slower than he does when lined up on the receiver and down, ready to play in a football stance.
Roby possesses the natural athleticism to the point where he can cover almost any receiver in college football, make mistakes and still have the time and raw speed to make up for it. He has been able to make up ground and prevent plays where it appeared as though he was beaten. That has not worked out as well this year and more of those plays have connected.
His backpedal is too high and his steps generally do not cover much ground as perhaps they could when he pedals backward. If he can get lower and get more distance in his steps, he can stay in it longer, react more quickly and as a result, have more opportunities to make plays on the football.
Roby needs to do a better job of tracking down the ball on passes going down the field. He does a good job of reading the receiver’s eyes and hands as to when the ball is coming in and times when to knock the ball out or throw his arms up to deflect passes. If he can also track down the receiver, turn his head and locate the football to create more opportunities for interceptions, it can make a huge difference in his ability to cause turnovers and shut down opponents. Roby is not a guy who gives up much in terms of yards after catch and can bring down opponents quickly after they make a catch.
This is where Roby is at his best because he is far more comfortable with his eyes on the quarterback and being able to come forward. He does a good job following the quarterback’s eyes, knowing his limits on how much space he can give and breaks on the ball extremely well. He has the long arms to get his hands on the ball, the ball skills to catch interceptions, and the power and fearless approach to separate the receiver from the ball or make a good tackle. Roby’s acceleration is remarkable and it allows him to cover a lot of ground and get places in a hurry making him a fantastic fit in zone coverage and even shows the ability to jump off of coverage from one receiver to another and make a play on the ball.
Roby has demonstrated that is a threat to get interceptions. He has natural hands and is not afraid to go for the ball and make a big play. As long as he can find the ball, he can make a play on it and can make the quick adjustment to find and catch passes when he flips around in man coverage. Roby will and has dropped passes he should not and needs to be more consistent taking advantage of opportunities when he gets them, but he is a threat opposing quarterbacks have to be aware or he will make them pay.
Because of his incredible athleticism and experience returning kicks, Roby is not uncomfortable or remotely nervous with the ball in his hands after he gets a turnover and is definitely a threat to score.
Blitzing off the Edge
Roby can fly off the edge and can absolutely level a quarterback. His acceleration is so impressive and his top end speed combined with his power and momentum not only make him a threat to get to the quarterback but hit them hard enough to knock the ball out as well as knock them out of the game. What makes him scary is he has the quickness and speed that he can disguise the blitz or have a slight delay and still make it with little problem. It should not take long before quarterbacks make sure they locate Roby and make sure he is not coming on the blitz.
Roby has done some returning during his career for the Buckeyes and given his remarkable athleticism and strength, he can probably be a good on little more than instinct. His bigger value has been as a gunner on special teams. Not only is he a guy who can run down the field with anybody but he shown the ability to get into the backfield and block punts. He also recovered one for a touchdown. This is just one more area where Roby can contribute for a team.
Right now, Roby’s best fit is in a zone system that allows him to keep his eyes in the backfield and on the quarterback with the ability to break on the ball and cause turnovers. He is just more natural and more comfortable there. Roby has shown that he has the tools to play in off man as well as the potential to be a great press corner, but he needs to continue developing to hit the level he is currently playing, especially when it comes to turning and running with a receiver and how to find the ball in that area. One team that jumps out right now is what Green Bay is running with their secondary which has zone and some off man concepts. The Chicago Bears are another team that might really like Roby.
There are a few players that could work here such as former Buckeye Antoine Winfield with his hitting power and ability to clamp down on the run, but ultimately the best comparison seems to be Joe Haden, formerly of the Florida Gators and is now with the Cleveland Browns. They have similar size and stature if the listed stats are legitimate on Roby. Haden and Roby are both guys who are willing to go up and hit someone as well as attack the run. They are also guys who show good ball skills but really show a knack for being able to poke the ball away from receivers, even when they are from behind. Both left college as extremely talented prospects but not polished ones. Haden is a terrific player, but still gets beat from time to time on plays he should not much like Roby can.
Bradley Roby has a world of talent and while he did not quite play to the level he did as a sophomore where he was arguably the best corner in the nation, he has not been anywhere as bad as some have painted to be. There are flaws that need to be addressed and he needs to get out of some bad habits with tackling and playing too high, but his talent is impressive and he still has a good amount of potential in the NFL. Roby projects as a first round pick, provided a team still sees the overall talent had displayed as a sophomore and he still could end up going higher than some expect.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com