A day-by-day Broncos player breakdown is something we've been doing since our days at BroncoTalk nearly a decade ago. This year the tradition continues as we look at the Denver Broncos roster heading into the 2015 season in our 90-in-90 series.
Name: Bradley Roby
Height: 5'11 Weight: 194
Age: 23 Experience: 2
College: Ohio State
If there was one large change in identity on the Denver Broncos defense that occurred in the 2014 offseason, the revamping of the secondary would be certainly be it.
The team signed T.J Ward and Aqib Talib to significant contracts to bolster the unit, and concern regarding Chris Harris, Jr. loomed into the early part of the offseason as he was recovering from an ACL injury he suffered in January against the San Diego Chargers. The overall make-up of the Broncos was changed. Champ Bailey and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were no longer with the team, and the organizational brass felt there was enough of a need at the position to warrant further investment.
The proliferation of the NFL's passing game has led to a change in defensive philosophy and landscape over the past decade. While it was always essential to have a shut down corner on your roster, the need for a handful of versatile defensive backs who are able to play in a variety of schemes has become pinnacle in the game's modern era.The maxim continuously uttered by scouts, general managers and personnel executives across the league is, "You can never have enough corners." and it was certainly the though of those heading the Broncos organization as the 2014 NFL Draft approached.
Low and behold, the team used their first-round selection in 2014 on a highly talented cornerback out of Ohio State by the name of Bradley Roby. Roby earned himself a handful of accolades, including All-Big Ten conference selections in 2012 and 2013. In his sophomore season, he led all of college football with 19 passes defended and was the only player in the nation to score touchdowns in three different ways: an interception, fumble return and blocked punt. He had success in his junior year, where he intercepted three passes, defended 16 passes and also recorded a whopping 69 tackles.
Even with such pedigree, Roby didn't come without risk. Former Wisconsin Badger and current Green Bay Packer receiver Jared Abbrederis beat him like a rented mule when the squared off as a junior and amassed 10 catches and 207 yards. It was easily the worst game Roby had ever played in his life and became a focal point for talent evaluators trying to formulate an overall grade on the Buckeye defensive back. The highly touted prospect also had character concerns that reigned over his draft status. He had been suspended for the season opener against Buffalo in 2013 after being charged with misdemeanor battery, which was later lessened to disorderly conduct. Just days before the draft, Roby was cited for a DUI that brought his off the field decision making ability and professionalism under more scrutiny.
Nevertheless, the team was confident in his play-making ability. While his selection was a gamble to some, the risk was very worth the reward in the eyes of John Elway, who had this to say upon his selection.
"We also looked at the positive things about Bradley, and there are a lot of positive things there. We realize that he’s a young guy that has made some mistakes. Obviously, we expect those things not to happen when he comes here. We believe that we’ve got a tremendous locker room, so I think he will get a lot of guidance there in the locker room. So, we knew those things were there. But again, him sitting there on the board—he was the guy that helped us the most. So we were thrilled he was still sitting there."
Roby went on to have a successful debt rookie season with the Broncos. He saw action in all 16 regular-season games and had two starts and produced an impressive stat line of 64 tackles, two interceptions, 13 passes defended, one sack, and two forced fumbles and fumble recoveries. Those numbers were among the best of any corner drafted in his class, but they weren't good enough for Roby -- who believed he had much to improve upon entering his second season in the NFL. Here is a deeper look at the Broncos third listed cornerback on their depth chart.
The good: Roby has excellent on the field and timed speed, clocking in the 4.35 to 4.4 range. He is a quick-twitch athlete with elite athleticism and agility. Has good size and uses it to his advantage, offering physicality in pass coverage and run defense. Confident player who has the swagger of an elite cornerback. Is at his best in press man and off-man coverage schemes. Additionally he possess great transition and change of direction skills. Roby has the ultimate knack for coming up with the big play and is a true ballhawk. In college was regarded as a special teams demon, who registered several big plays and touchdowns on blocked kicks and punts and even saw time as a gunner.
The bad: Extraordinarily inconsistent as a junior at Ohio State and even had issues with fundamentals and the mental aspect of the game in his first year with the Broncos. Struggles against precise route runners and needs to play more disciplined. Streaky player whose gambling mentality can hurt a defense just as much as it can help it. Last but not least, he is susceptible to double moves and often gets caught peeking, demonstrating a need to improve his eye movement and awareness.
Quotable: "I want to be perfect. I don't want to just be another player who just comes into the league, plays a few years and then you don't hear from them. I want to be one of the top guys. That's my goal. That's what I'm working to. Until I get to that, you won't hear any A-plusses or As from me." — Roby on his goals and aspirations for 2015 and beyond
Status: Roby has all the tools necessary to become a premier corner in the NFL and is in a perfect situation to learn and mature under two Pro-Bowl corners in Talib and Harris, Jr. He is a lock for the teams third cornerback and will see duties at nickel corner and also on the boundary on any given Sunday. Above all else, he looks to have turned the corner in regard to his past disciplinary issues and approaches the game with the desire to be the best.
The Broncos struck gold with the selection of Roby at the end of the first-round in 2014 and there is no doubt it will pay big dividends for the franchise this season and many seasons thereafter.