The Best of the Best: Bradley Roby

We’re now six days away from the beginning of the 2013 college football season, which means it’s time for part three of my Best of the Best series.  This 10 article series will take a  look at my top 10 draft eligible players in college football.  For my rankings, I factored my Draft stock for each player, as well as their impact in the college game.  While I fully expect all of these players to be top 15 draft selections next year, there could always be fluctuation with a premium placed on positions like Quarterback and Offensive Tackle.  With that said, it’s time to look at my number six prospect, Ohio State Cornerback Bradley Roby.

Image

Tale of the Tape

5’11”

193 lbs

Career Numbers

110 Total Tackles

1 Sack

5 Interceptions

23 Passes Broken Up

A shutdown Corner is one of the biggest luxuries a defense can have.  Sure a tenacious pass rush can make your back four look a lot better then they are, but having that difference maker who can take away a teams best weapon in the passing game is something no Head Coach would turn down.  Enter Bradley Roby, perhaps the closest thing to a “lockdown” Corner in the draft eligible Cornerback prospects.  Roby flashed talent as early as the first game he played for the Buckeyes and never looked back, registering 47 total tackles and three interceptions in his Redshirt Freshman season.  In 2012 he improved significantly, with 63 total tackles, and 17 pass breakups (his 19 passes defended lead the nation), and while he only registered two interceptions last year, it certainly wasn’t for lack of ability.  So lets look at what makes Roby one of the Best of the Best.

Playing His Man

  • The first game I watched of Roby’s I made a quick observation.  The Corner doesn’t look for the football while in coverage much.  I chalked it up to just being one game and continued to watch.  By the time I started watching his play from a fifth game I came to a realization.  This guy doesn’t look for the football much.  While that sounds troubling, and it could be, he excels in coverage for one reason.  Roby has exceptional ability to play his man, and disrupt passes without locating the football.                                                                                                                                                           roby knock down 1
  • In this first image the Receiver has won the battle for positioning, and has also extended further to meet the ball before Roby.  We can also see that Roby’s head isn’t turned towards the football tracking it, instead he’s playing his man the entire way.                                  roby knock down 2
  • Another look at the play.  Again, you can clearly see the Receiver has the better positioning, and Roby is not tracking the football.                          roby knock down 3
  • Here’s where Roby wins the play though.  As the offensive player extends to make the catch you can see Roby hands go up with him.  Roby has read what his matchups body is doing and has now reacted accordingly putting himself in position to make the play despite having no clue where the football actually is.  roby knock down 4
  • Because of his ability to adjust to the Receivers actions, Roby is in excellent position to knock the ball away with his left hand by the time the ball actually reaches Penn State’s Kyle Carter .  He does just that, and the result of the play is an incompletion that takes points off the board on a play where Roby looked easily beat.                                                                                                                                                                                               roby breakup 1
  • Just two plays later we see almost a carbon copy of the play above, on the other side of the field.  On this play Roby is much further behind and has to make up ground he didn’t on the previous play.  At this point it looks like the play is over and the result will be a Penn State touchdown, however the ball hangs in the air and it gives Roby the chance to close.                                                                                                                                                                                                              roby breakup 2
  • As the ball hangs in the air Roby is able to close the distance, but still hasn’t located the football in the air.  The Penn State Receiver on the other hand is turned towards the football (marked by the red circle), and is tracking it ready to make the catch.                                                              roby breakup 3
  • As the ball gets into the area of the players the Penn State Receiver leaps to make the catch.  Roby still with his eyes locked on the Receiver reacts to the Penn State players movements, and leaps with his hand in the air to knock down the pass.  Not only is his hand in perfect position to bat the pass down, but Roby has timed his leap so well that any contact between the two players will be as the ball is arriving, and not called pass interference.                       roby breakup 4
  • Roby is able to use his body to prevent the Receiver from making a catch without drawing a flag.  The ball bounces off the Receivers pads, and falls harmlessly to the ground.

Tackling 

  • One thing I love to see in Corners is for them to be willing, and effective tacklers.  Robdy is not only willing, but he’s extremely effective, and perhaps even excellent.  He shows ability to seal the edge in run defense, and displays very good wrap up tackling technique in most instances.                          roby anderson tackle 1
  • In this play against Cal, Roby’s tackling is on display in an open field situation against the Bear’s elusive C.J. Anderson.                              roby anderson tackle 2
  • As he approaches the line of scrimmage Anderson (marked by the yellow arrow) makes the first Buckeye defender miss and is able to extend the play.      roby anderson tackle 3
  • Anderson is able to elude one more Buckeye on the run (Linebacker Ryan Shazier #10), and looks like he may make it to the edge.  Before he can though Roby is able to close and wraps up low on Anderson.  Roby shows great strength to drag Anderson to the ground for a very minimal gain.                        roby edge tackle
  • On this play against the Spartans, Roby shows his ability to seal the edge against the run effectively, and bring down one of the toughest and most physical backs in the Big Ten last year, Le’Veon Bell.  In the frame you can see that Roby is engaged by his blocker, and doesn’t look like much of a factor.           roby edge tackle 2
  • As Bell breaks for the edge you can see at the top of the frame that Roby has managed to turn his man, putting his body in between Bell and the field in front of him.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       roby edge tackle 3
  • Roby has now managed to fight off the Receiver, and completely shed his blocker.  He now is able to square his hips to Bell, and put himself in better position to make the play.                                                                                                                                                                                                               roby edge tackle 4
  • Bell who is known for his power, and toughness would be very difficult to bring down if Roby tried to wrap up high on him.  Instead, Roby goes low, and takes the backs legs out from under him stopping the play for a short gain.                                                                                       roby closing tackle 1
  • In this last play, Roby shows the ability to close on a Receiver in space, and bring him down on initial contact.  As the play develops the Penn State Quarterback finds no Receivers open.  As he feels pressure starting to get near him, he locks in on his check down, the Tight End underneath.                                  roby closing tackle 2
  • By the time Quarterback Matt McGloin is finishing his throwing motion and releasing the ball Roby has already changed direction and is closing in on the intended receiver.                                                                                                                                                                                                              roby closing tackle 3
  • As the ball reaches the Tight End, Roby has easily closed the gap between him and the Receiver and is now in position to make a play.                            roby closing tackle 4
  • Roby actually does a poor job of wrapping up compared to most of his tackles, but is able to show great strength to bring down the bigger Tight End despite poor form.  The play was a critical stop in the third quarter of a game that Ohio State was leading by just a touchdown at the time.  Instead of the drive extending and possibly resulting in a Penn State touchdown, Roby forces the Nittany Lions to settle for a Field Goal.

Speed

One of Roby’s greatest tools on the field is his tremendous range due to elite long speed, and good athleticism.  Roby has sub 4.4 speed that allows him to recover when beaten, and close on ball carriers.  Because of his recovery speed he’s hardly ever actually out of a play.  Even when the Wide Receiver gets by him he can close while the ball is in the air.  His speed also makes him a threat as a blitzer from the edge.                                                                                                        Roby closing speed 1

  • On this play against Miami of Ohio Roby demonstrates his elite speed to chase down a receiver who it appeared would walk into the endzone.  The Miami of Ohio Quarterback finds the Receiver in the middle of the field on the post route, and delivers a beautiful ball hitting him in stride.                             Roby closing speed 2
  • The Receiver is able to run past a diving tackler, and at this point Roby is barely visible in the frame (marked by the red diamond).                      Roby closing speed 3
  • At this point Roby actually has good positioning to make a potential play, but he will end up taking a somewhat poor angle to the Miami of Ohio player.           Roby closing speed 4
  • The angle results in Roby actually ending up slightly behind the receiver instead of on his hip ready to make the tackle.                         Roby closing speed 5
  • Despite the poor angle Roby is able to use his great long range speed to run down the Receiver and tackle him inside the 10 yard line.  Even against inferior competition this is a huge play in the first quarter of a scoreless game.                                                                                                               roby blitz sack 1
  • On this next play, we’ll look at how Roby’s speed is useful when utilized as an edge blitzer.                                                                         roby blitz sack 2
  • As the ball is about to be snapped Roby has already timed the blitz perfectly and already has his momentum moving forward as he moves towards the line of scrimmage.                                                                                                                                                                                  roby blitz sack 3
  • As the ball is snapped Roby has already gotten almost level with his teammates along the front line, and has already exploded to the edge.                               roby blitz sack 4
  • Roby shows good awareness taking a wide enough path to the Quarterback that the Tight End sliding to block him cannot engage.                       roby blitz sack 5
  • Roby is able to use his great speed and explosion to run around the Tight End unblocked.  He finishes the play by punishing the Quarterback on a blindside hit.

Coverage Ability and Ball Skills

  • Roby has incredible physical tools, but none of that matters if you can’t actually cover your man.  Unfortunately for the opposition Roby is excellent in coverage.  His interception numbers may not jump out at you, and I would honestly like to see him finish a few more plays with ball hawking, but Roby’s ability to get to passes and disrupt at the catch point is one of the tops in the nation.  Not just that, but with his burst he can break on a ball and make a play in almost any situation.                                                                                                                                        roby allen breakup 1
  • On this play, Bryce Treggs runs a post route and appears open for a First down.  However Roby will show great reaction to make a diving deflection.              roby treggs breakup 2
  • As Treggs goes to make the catch, Roby is able to extend and get his hand in the catch window to disrupt the Freshman Wide Receiver.                    roby treggs breakup 3
  • Roby finishes the play, knocking the ball out of the reach of Treggs.                                                                                                                       Roby comeback breakup
  • Here, we see the Michigan State Receiver run a nice comeback route.  At this point in the play the ball has just been released, and the WR has created separation between himself and Roby.                                                                                                                   Roby comeback breakup 1
  • With the ball in flight, Roby is able to use his great closing speed to reduce the separation, and put himself in position to make the play.  Roby shows good coverage awareness to extend his arm into the Receivers catch window and deflect the pass.                                                                        Roby p6 1
  • On this play early in the game against Nebraska, Roby shows good ability to transition from his back pedal in order to stay with the Receiver when he makes his cut.                                                                                                                                                                                      Roby p6 2
  • As the ball (marked by the red circle) arrives to the players Roby is able to break on the ball, and establish position to make a play.                         Roby p6 3
  • Roby shows good hands to finish the play with an interception, and will win the footrace to the end zone.

Needs Work

While every single player in my Best of the Best series has traits to their game that in my opinion make them stand out, they all have things they need to improve too.  So let’s look at a couple of areas where I would like to see Sutton improve in 2013.

Grabs Down Field

  • One of the areas of concerns in Roby’s game is that he has a tendency to grab in coverage.  He’s an aggressive player who reacts to his matchups movements, and it can result in him being put out of position.  When he feels like he’s beat, he routinely grabs down field.                                                   Roby Grab 1
  • On this play Roby will read the Receiver and see that he’s going to break to the outside, and down field.  However Roby is off balance, and doesn’t show the best ability to flip his hips and turn to run with a receiver.                                                                                                          Roby Grab 2
  • Instead, Roby locks up his receiver impeding him in his route, and drawing the defensive penalty.  In this instance the play probably prevents a huge gain so it can be overlooked, however Roby can’t make a habit of this as he transitions to the next level.  Which he does.                                        roby grab psu 1
  • Again, we’ll see Roby grab down field to prevent a big play, except this time he’s in much better position.  Roby is in a great spot here, he’s got the sideline as a friend on the left, and if the Receiver cuts back inside he’s in better position to transition, and has a helper a few yards away.                              roby grab psu 2
  • Just like the play before though, Roby locks up his receiver and is called for the foul.  This play is much more concerning to me, because it’s very unlikely that the Receiver is able to get by him.

Transition Ability

  • As I’ve already touched on briefly above, Roby isn’t the best when it comes to flipping the hips.  This not only leads to situations where Roby feels like he needs to grab, but also situations where Receivers can create too much separation because he’s not able to transition and react to the Receiver’s breaks quick enough.  Roby will need to make some improvements in this if he’s going to be an elite cover Corner in the NFL.

Final Thoughts

Roby is a supremely talented athlete, who is by far the best Corner in the NCAA.  He uses great physical gifts to win matchups, and possesses a unique ability to make plays without finding the ball.  At times it seems like he’s got eyes in the back of his head, as he plays his man and goes up to knock the football away with his back turned to the ball.  Roby is a willing, and very good tackler.  He’s scrappy, and unafraid to stick his head in and knock Running Backs around.  I was having a back and forth with Eric Stoner from Draft Mecca on twitter about Roby, and I would like to borrow his words that he used to describe Roby in run support.  He called Roby a “Pit Bull”, and for me the comparison is perfect.  He’s tough, scrappy and aggressive, and while he may not be the biggest guy he’s tough to break free of when he wraps up.

Roby also shows great coverage ability to react to the pass and get in position to knock it down.  He’s got a good ability to get to the catch point and disrupt the Receiver, and his physicality makes every catch a chore for the opposition.  He also is a guy who makes plays on Special Teams, with several punt blocks in his career.  I would like to see him be a little less aggressive down the field in regards to initiating contact during the Receivers route.  Roby had shown that he’s somewhat susceptible to double moves, and the play fake, which goes back to his aggressiveness in coverage.  He also needs to transition better, and develop better “flip the hips” ability, but at this point in time it’s hard not to be extremely impressed with Roby when you watch him.  One thing to watch, is Roby has some off the field concerns.  In my opinion they aren’t serious enough for any team to remove him from their board, however it’s something to monitor going forward.

Thank you for reading, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next player in my Best of the Best series.  Also, please feel free to send me any comments/critique to danguy013@gmail.com or feel free to comment/follow me on twitter @danny_g13

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