I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can. Find all the profiles here.
Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State - 5'11, 193 - Junior - 4.38 40
It is always fun to compare and contrast two guys who played the exact same position in the exact same system at the exact same school at the exact same time. We have that opportunity with Darby and yesterday's subject, PJ Williams. Although we should never treat mock drafts and big boards as some sort of unimpeachable truth, it is worth noting that most see Williams as a much higher prospect than Darby. Well, after spending the weekend watching enough Florida State defensive snaps to last me for a while, I am going to beg to differ with those findings and tell you that for Darby, I looked hard at the Louisville, Oklahoma State, Oregon, and Notre Dame games. It should also be noted that he was caught up in the Winston case and therefore does come with the dreaded red flag for off field considerations.
What I liked: Darby has insane amounts of physical tools. He runs the 40, vertical jumps, broad jumps, and the 10 near the top 5 percentile in his position group. That means he will always have an extra gear that most guys who do what he does won't be able to handle. He is very fast and very quick and can recover with ease. The good news is that he doesn't have to recover that often. He has very impressive press-man and off-man technique that puts him in the pocket of his man on a regular basis. He so often is running hip-to-hip down the field with his receiver and therefore doesn't see a ton of action because his guy is not even close to open. When he has to, he does have make-up speed and also has the ability to hit. His 2014 tape was much more impressive than his 2013 tape from a standpoint of him understanding that the guys on Sunday are going to want to see some more physicality. He provided that reasonably well. He competes at a very high level of intensity and again appears to possess that competitor make-up you want to see from NFL corners.
What I did not like: Two things do come quickly to mind. Williams is much better at heading north and making a play behind the line of scrimmage. If you want a corner who is going to play in the backfield and QB blitz, it appears that Florida State thought Williams was an option and Darby isn't based on what the two did. That might be because they valued Darby's cover skills more highly - I sure did - but we should at least make note of what type of guy Darby is and isn't. He also will get a little lazy because of his speed and play flawed technique which will get him into trouble. He appears to guess from time to time on routes and that will make him look silly (vs Miami) tracking a player to the end zone. However, it is fair to say that he is not letting that happen very often. Below, he was called for pass interference for using his back hand to liberally.
Summary: I like this player a lot. And then, when seeing what the consensus is on him - Day 2, mostly - I really like him for that value. There aren't many candidates to play corner on an island without safety help over the top (Marcus Peters), but Florida State was more than happy to allow Darby this freedom, and I thought he generally passed the test so well. Judging corners is never an exact science because the good ones don't see a ton of action when they are on. There were games where it looked like he was being avoided. The Notre Dame game was one where he got lots of action and there he showed several attributes that translate nicely to Sundays. It all starts with his speed and if he can stay healthy he can rise up and be one of the very best corners in this draft when he develops. He just turned 21 years old. If you want a man corner who can really turn on the jets, I think you should really look hard at Darby.