It’s not often you look at the 31st overall pick in the first round and think, “Man, this guy has a chance to be the defensive rookie of the year…”
Then again, why not?
Not all rookies are stepping into situations like Denver Broncos first round pick Bradley Roby, a cornerback out of Ohio State who is set to become a starter in what is expected to be one of the league’s most improved defensive units.
Combining physicality with athleticism, recklessness at times, and a nose for the football, Roby is the type of cornerback the Broncos have coveted in the John Elway era. A player who can fly to the ball, who plays with a bit of an edge, and one who is not afraid to take risks.
Elway may have a bit of a soft spot for those guys who play with a chip on their shoulder, and Roby is one of them. In his Ohio State career, there were some clear inconsistencies and there were times when you wondered if he had his head screwed on right. Then there were times when you wondered how this kid could possibly escape the top 10 or 15 picks of the draft.
His explosiveness to the football leads to turnovers for the defense, exactly what the Denver Broncos need.
So why would he be a candidate for rookie of the year, especially in a year when Jadeveon Clowney went first overall to play alongside J.J. Watt with the Houston Texans, or when the ultra-athletic and strong pass rusher Khalil Mack was drafted fifth overall by the Oakland Raiders?
I’m not here to tell you Roby is a better prospect than those guys, because I’d be lying if I said he ranked higher on my big board. However, the Defensive Rookie of the Year award or recognition is based off of plays made, not what pick you were drafted.
Heck, just look back to last year. Was Eddie Lacy a top 10 pick?
In Roby, the Broncos filled an immediate need, which is the starting cornerback slot opposite of Aqib Talib when the Broncos are in their nickel package, which happens more than 70 percent of the time.
With the volume of snaps Roby is expected to be part of, as well as his current standing with the coaches and on the depth chart, there’s no doubt he’s going to have his share of opportunities, especially if the Broncos can stay healthy. With the addition of DeMarcus Ware to the defensive line, as well as the return of Von Miller, the Broncos’ pass rush is expected to return to prominence and thus create opportunities for the secondary.
The other thing for Roby is, he could see a lot of balls thrown his way. With Aqib Talib on the other side, teams are likely going to target Roby as the best-case option for moving the ball through the air against the Broncos, at least in the early stages of his career. Seeing as many passes coming his way as we would expect, Roby will have a chance to capitalize and turn those targets into interceptions, forced fumbles, tackles, etc. He has an opportunity to fill up the stat sheet.
When you look at the circumstances surrounding him, it’s not out of the question to think Roby can become a rookie of the year candidate for the Broncos especially with his ability to make plays on special teams as well.
This could be a special year for the Broncos defense, and a really great situation for their newest rookie cornerback.