As soon as the college football season comes to a close and players begin contemplating the decision on whether or not to declare for the NFL Draft, analysts begin to compile their “grades,” rankings, and projections for those players. Some, like Jadeveon Clowney, are quickly pegged as “lock” Top 5 selections in the NFL Draft. However, others are not so fortunate, and watching their stock rise and fall all the way up until they hear their name called at Radio City Music Hall.
In some unique cases, that drop in stock can be devastatingly large. Such is the case with University of Florida cornerback, Marcus Roberson. Initial grades slotted the technically sound defensive back among the Top 5 prospects at his position, setting his “floor value” at the end of Day 2 in the Draft. Most analysts highlight Roberson’s excellent length, nearly unparalleled anticipation skills, and his ferocity in coverage.
COMPARES TO: Alterraun Verner, CB, Tennessee Titans – Like Verner, Roberson isn’t the biggest or fastest, but they both use their length well and use foot quickness and instincts to be effective. –Dane Brugle
So, how did an arguable Day 2 prospect finish seven rounds without hearing his name called?
Aside from a handful of non-football related suspensions, including one following an underage drinking arrest and several smaller suspensions where the “violation” was kept locked within the Gators inner sanctum, Roberson does have a semi- substantial injury history. At the start of his career in Gainesville, the stud defensive back saw his freshman year come to an abrupt end after a significant neck injury sustained against South Carolina. Even after recovering from the neck issue with no apparent side effects, Roberson was forced to miss some time during offseason workouts and a number of regular season games due to lingering ankle and knee injuries, including five games last season.
We would need Mike Silver-level access to properly assess why a player projected to go in the opening three rounds as early as last week fell out of the Draft completely. Mary Kay Cabot, a Cleveland Browns insider and sports columnist for the Plain Dealer, projected Roberson to the Browns with the No.35 overall selection just five days ago. Medical concerns? Off-the-field concerns? Regardless of the reasoning, he is a member of the St. Louis Rams… for now.
So, what did the Rams get?
Well, according to Nolan Nawrocki, the tough-nosed scout made famous for his negative remarks against Cam Newton, Roberson is…
Lean, athletic, finesse cornerback who is best deployed in off-man or zone coverage, and has potential to develop into a No. 2 or No. 3 corner if he regains his sophomore form. However, he lacks desirable instincts and tackling ability, and did not elevate his game in 2013 when injuries, suspension and inconsistency marred his junior season.
Roberson’s lackluster Combine performance may have also dropped him on some boards, including single-digit bench reps and a 4.6 40-time. However, according to most scouting reports, the former Gator projects well as a future No.2 corner in the NFL, who can contribute on special teams and in sub packages immediately; assuming he can get his act together.
With NFL comparisons to stud corners, like Jonathan Joseph and Alterraun Verner, and pre-Draft grading that suggested he would be a Day 2 steal, the St. Louis Rams certainly may have found their diamond in the rough in their 2014 undrafted free agent class. Assuming Roberson’s body can hold up to the pounding in the NFL, he could certainly fight with draftees EJ Gaines and Lamarcus Joyner for snaps at nickelback. Either way, looks like there will be plenty of competition in the secondary this offseason; something that the Rams have not had in the past.