Ohio State redshirt sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby still has two years of college football eligibility left, but he has already established himself as one of the nation’s most dominant cornerbacks. He is also eligible to declare for the 2013 NFL draft, and should he do so, he will rank as one of the draft class’ top cornerbacks.
Roby has had an outstanding sophomore season. He leads the nation with 18 passes defended, according to CFBStats.com. And while the Buckeyes defense has given up many big passing plays as a whole this season, Roby has almost never been responsible for any of them, although he makes many big plays of his own.
Roby makes it very difficult for opposing wide receivers to get open and make catches. He has the speed and hip flexibility to stay with any receiver on any route, and when he occasionally does get beat or misreads a route, he often uses his recovery speed to get back in position and make a play on the ball.
At 5’11’’ and 190 pounds, Roby is not a big corner, but he plays bigger than his size. He is a physical defensive back who is not afraid to play aggressively, excels in man-to-man coverage and is a very solid tackler.
Roby has tremendous ball skills, which have led him to leading the nation in passes defended.
He has also shown this year that he can make plays if the ball ends up in his hands. He has scored three touchdowns this season: one on an interception, one on a fumble return and one on a punt block.
Roby still needs to work on his consistency, but he has made great strides as a redshirt sophomore. While mistakes can be a result of his aggressive play, the amount of plays he makes greatly outnumber them. Less than ideal size could keep him from becoming an elite prospect, but he can play on all three downs in the NFL, and has the potential to be a No. 1 shutdown cornerback on a defense.
Whether Roby is a member of the 2013, 2014 or 2015 draft class, he should be a first-round draft pick barring a setback.
He's already an All-American candidate as one of college football’s best cornerbacks, and is emerging as a top prospect at his position. My expectation would be, however, that Roby will return for his redshirt junior season at OSU to be part of a championship pursuit, then declare for the 2014 NFL draft.
Considering the great strides that Roby has made from an impressive redshirt freshman year to a starring role on OSU’s defense, he has the potential to establish himself as the top cornerback prospect for the 2014 NFL draft if he continues to progress.
With the Buckeyes likely to be thrust into the national spotlight off of a strong 2012 season and removed from a bowl ban, Roby would likely have plenty of opportunities to continue making a name for himself next season.
Top competition for Roby if he becomes part of the 2014 draft class could include Alabama’s Dee Milliner, North Carolina State’s David Amerson (should either return for their senior season) or Texas’ Quandre Diggs, who is the top cornerback prospect among true sophomores.
If Roby were to make a surprising declaration for the 2013 draft, it would be tough to blame him. He has already established himself as a talent caliber of a first-round selection, and would have a chance to make big money as an early draft pick.
Should Roby declare, expect him to draw interest from cornerback-needy teams likely to be picking in the latter half of the first round of the 2013 draft, including the Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots.
Roby currently ranks as my No. 3 cornerback prospect among players eligible for the 2013 draft, behind Milliner and Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks.
Dan Hope is an NFL Draft Featured Columnist and the New England Patriots game-day correspondent for Bleacher Report. He is also a senior reporter for The Lantern, Ohio State’s student newspaper. Follow Dan on Twitter @Dan_Hope.