NFL Draft Scouting Report: Ronald Darby

Ronald Darby had a quiet career at FSU—and that's generally a good thing for a cornerback.

Ronald Darby is one of those players who winds up more popular among scouts and coaches than the media, as his collegiate numbers (two career interceptions) belie the outstanding coverage shown once you turn on the tape.

Darby was the better of the two Florida State corners in this draft over the past two years, and just how imposing he was in coverage is evidenced by the fact that teams routinely chose to target P.J. Williams (an outstanding player in his own right) rather than test Darby over the past two seasons.

Darby didn’t make many big plays (though he had few opportunities), but he didn’t give up many plays at all. All told, that’s not a bad thing at a position where a quiet outing is sometimes the best compliment of all.

Production

Darby was a two-year starter at FSU after arriving as a five-star CB overall prospect in the 2012 recruiting class. Dropped numerous interceptions in his college career, several of which could have gone for significant returns, if not touchdowns, but his ability to close on the football kept teams from throwing his direction after the early stages of the 2013 season. That combination of dropped interceptions and few targets led to a quiet stat line, but Darby was only targeted 47 times in 2014, with teams preferring to attack P.J. Williams on the boundary side.

Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2012 DB 18 4 22 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 8 0 0 0 1
2013 DB 14 11 3 14 0.0 0.0 2 16 8.0 0 4 0 0 0 0
*2014 DB 14 28 15 43 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 4 0 0 0 1
Career 57 22 79 1.0 0.0 2 16 8.0 0 16 0 0 0 2
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CFB: View Original Table
Generated 4/29/2015.

Scouting Report

Strengths

Explosive athlete with close to world-class speed. Elite recovery speed and shows the ability to undercut short routes. Good length and shows ability to cover bigger receivers. Opens hips fluidly and can turn and run at speed. Scheme versatile and can excel in either zone or man. Outstanding in press-man coverage and shows natural footwork to mirror and shadow. Stays “in phase” (on the hip of the WR) with little effort and can recover if initially beaten. Played in a pattern-match scheme that demanded pro-level route diagnosis so should be better prepared for NFL coverage techniques. Can make the early break against underneath throws while still being able to recover vs. double moves. Flashes ability to come off his man and overlap in match or zone concepts. Excellent timing to disrupt catch against vertical throws. Has the short-area quickness and instincts to be an excellent slot corner. Played through injuries with little noticeable drop off.

Room for Improvement

Not especially physical against the run and does not always get off blocks on the edge. Poor hands and appears to lose concentration on INT opportunities, often running before he catches it. Sometimes clearly coasting on athletic ability, particularly on 2014 film. Plays too cautious and doesn’t trust his instincts enough—needs to cut loose and trust that he can recover with his speed. That caution made him susceptible to comebacks (he has the speed to run on the back side of the hip but gets too high on the route) and in-breaking routes, against which he frequently false-steps (apparently anxious about double moves). Like most college press-man CBs, will need to get less handsy at the next level. Battled hamstring injuries throughout FSU career, particularly in the first half of 2014, and will likely need to be monitored in that regard at the next level.

Combine/Pro Day Results

Combine/Pro Day Results

Ht

Wt

Arm

Hd

40y

20y

10y

Bench

Vert

Broad

Shuttle

3Cone

5’11

193

31 3/8

8 5/8

4.38

1.47

15*

41.5

10’9

4.14

6.94

Darby’s athletic numbers are excellent, with the 41.5” vertical and 10’9 broad jump especially showcasing his burst and explosiveness. The short shuttle is especially important for cornerbacks, and his time there is above average, though not quite as good as one might expect given his film and straight speed.

Caught almost everything both at the combine and during his pro day workout, which is baffling given the hands of stone he shows on tape. That suggests his difficulties catching in live action are the result of concentration lapses and may be able to be improved.

Showed outstanding feet and hips in position drills, though he was not quite as quick to sink his hips and drive back to the football as ideal on some reps. His foot quickness is off the charts, however, and compensates for any hip stiffness he shows. (I’d put his hip flexibility and bend in about the 80th percentile for NFL CBs and foot quickness well into the 90s.)

The three-rep improvement on the bench between the Combine and pro day suggests that he recognizes the knock on him as a less physical cornerback and that he is willing to aggressively attack perceived weaknesses.

Floor/Ceiling

In terms of ceiling, Darby has the tools to be a top-shelf NFL cornerback with the capacity to single cover most receivers in the league without safety help over the top.

In terms of floor, Darby would still project as a quality third corner, where his weakness against the run would matter less.

Overall

Darby may be the best pure cover corner in this draft class and grades out as a mid first round prospect and instant starter.

Grade: 6.99 (Rookie starter).

Compares To

Rod Sweeting

Overview and Draft Prediction

Range: Picks 15–40

Darby is one of the higher variance players in this draft, with some teams having him as high as second on their board and others with him outside their top five. The question is whether one of the teams that ranks him more highly decides to pull the trigger sooner in the draft, which will be somewhat determined by whether there is a run on the position. Given the rise of several players at other positions and the likelihood of runs at WR and Edge positions, it’s not a guarantee that Darby sneaks into the first round at this point. If he does, the most likely destinations appear to be Pittsburgh and Carolina, but Pittsburgh may prefer to wait until the second round, where they may be able to pick up P.J. Williams or Jalen Collins and Carolina may go with an offensive lineman.

In any case, I would be surprised to see Darby slide beyond the top forty picks in the draft, and he would be a high value pick for any team selecting in the 20–40 range.

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