NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope
It is rare for a redshirt sophomore to declare for the NFL Draft, but that may not stop Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby, who is believed to be considering entering the 2013 NFL draft.
It wouldn’t be a bad decision for Roby, who has already established himself as a first-round draft pick should he enter the draft with two years of eligibility remaining. If he does declare, expect the New England Patriots to take immediate interest in him.
Less than three weeks ago, I speculated on Bleacher Report that it would be “surprising” if Roby declared for the draft. However, as Roby continues to stand out as arguably college football’s best cornerback this year, buzz is starting to lean in the opposite direction.
On Tuesday, Tony Pauline of TFY Draft Insider wrote that Roby “will consider entering the draft if he receives first round consideration.” On Wednesday, Roby did not indicate whether he would return, but said he has discussed his potential decision with cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs, according to ESPN’s Austin Ward.
Ward also reported that Coombs said Roby is not ready for the NFL yet and that he expects to have him back for another season, but it seems that at this time, Roby is leaning toward at least inquiring with the NFL Draft Advisory Council about his draft stock, after which he could declare if he is projected to be a first-round selection.
If the advisory council has been paying attention to Roby’s play this season, a first-round projection is what he should be given.
Roby is a shutdown cornerback and a big playmaker. He has tremendous ball skills, which is why he leads the nation with 18 passes defended this season. And while he makes big plays, he rarely gets beat to allow them. When he does get beat, he has tremendous recovery speed that often gives him the ability to get back in the play and make a play on the football.
At 5’11’’ and 190 pounds, Roby is not a big corner, but the rest of his skill set helps him make up for it. He has tremendous athletic ability, including what is likely to be sub-4.4 speed and great leaping ability. He plays aggressively and physically, and is a sound tackler in addition to being terrific in pass coverage at any level.
While Roby can certainly continue to get even better in terms of consistency by returning for another season at OSU, his stock has been on the rise all season, and may not have a lot of room to improve in his junior season. He already stands as a top-three cornerback in this year’s draft class, along with Alabama’s Dee Milliner and Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks, should he declare.
If the Patriots had a chance to draft Roby in the first round this April, he would be a perfect pick. With newly-acquired Aqib Talib only signed for the remainder of the season, and Devin McCourty potentially making a long-term move to safety, the Patriots should be looking for a potential No. 1 cornerback with their first-round choice in 2013.
Even though Roby does not great size for a starting cornerback, his other skills make up for that and give him the ability to be a star cornerback in the NFL. The problem for the Patriots, however, is that they are unlikely to be selecting high enough to draft Roby even if he does declare.
Roby has the skill set to be worth a top-20 draft pick, so if the Patriots make a deep playoff run and are therefore low in the first-round draft order, they would likely have to trade up to select him.
Roby is a terrific man-to-man cornerback, but it is questionable how he would fit in the Patriots’ hybrid zone coverage scheme, if they keep the scheme they have been using the first nine games of this season.
Nonetheless, he is a player who could immediately step in as one of the Patriots’ two or three best defensive backs, and he could take advantage of a Patriots-OSU connection in the well-noted friendship between Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and OSU coach Urban Meyer.
It is unknown at this point whether Bradley Roby will become a member of the 2013 NFL draft class, but if he does, the Patriots shouldn’t let him pass them by if they end up in a position to select him. He would fill their biggest need going forward at the cornerback position, and add a much-needed playmaker to their secondary.