Bradley Roby became the fifth cornerback taken in the 2014 NFL draft, as the defending AFC champion Denver Broncos scooped him up just prior to the end of Round 1, at pick No. 31.
Roby is the second major addition to the Broncos' CB spot this offseason -- earlier, they signed Aqib Talib to replace Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. A suspension for Ohio State's 2013 opener and a horrendous game versus Wisconsin clouded Roby's outlook. The talent is there, though, and the Broncos are hoping that he can tap into all of it.
Strengths: Extremely physical player for his size (5-11, 194) who makes life particularly nightmarish for slot receivers. Uses a long wingspan and terrific timing to move in and bat the ball away just as his receiver is about to make the catch. That physicality extends to his tackling ability, which starts in the backfield — Roby heads to the running back like a missile and understands how to bring bigger players down. He would be an excellent option on cornerback blitzes from the slot because he times them perfectly, and his coverage abilities place him there very nicely. As a pure press cornerback, Roby excels because he can follow his receivers wherever they go, and he also reads the running game as he’s covering. Has the straight-line speed to catch up with just about any runner and make a stop.
Weaknesses: Roby needs work on his off-coverage — it could have been a product of scheme at Ohio State, but he allowed far too many easy completions underneath when in off-coverage by giving up too much of a cushion. Though he has legitimate sub-4.4 speed, Roby struggles with recovery quickness when he’s been beaten; he needs to learn to hit corners and angles with more acceleration. Doesn’t turn his hips as fluidly as he should when playing bail technique. Height disadvantage shows up when he’s playing trail coverage and tries to get vertical against bigger receivers — unless he times it perfectly, he’s going to get out-jumped. Occasionally tries to bat the ball away when he should stick and stay with the target.
I think I was higher on Roby throughout the draft process than a lot of people, often handing him to the Saints at No. 27 in mocks. Pretending that Roby suddenly lost all his athletic gifts or natural ability over the span of September 2013 was foolish. When he gets locked in, Roby is as devastating a DB as any other in this draft.
Can he flip the switch and keep it on? That's the question here. The upside is prevalent enough to justify this pick, deep in Round 1.