Day Two of the 2015 NFL Draft is in the books and the Buffalo Bills, as they have throughout the whole offseason, kept things interesting. After reports surfaced that the team’s front office traveled to Texas to dine with Baylor QB Bryce Petty just days before the draft, it appeared that the team was set on bringing in legitimate competition for EJ Manuel. Instead, the Bills selected Ronald Darby, a cornerback out of Florida State. By selecting a cornerback, arguably the deepest position on a depth chart that features Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Corey Graham and Nickell Robey, along with 2014’s fourth-round pick Ross Cockrell, it’s clear that Doug Whaley stuck to the “Best Player Available” approach to the draft.
Darby played in 42 games, starting 23 over three seasons at Florida State, recording 79 tackles, 16 pass breakups, two interceptions and a forced fumble. Darby’s a raw prospect in terms of technique, but he has incredible speed (4.38 40-yard dash) and the explosiveness (41.5” vertical, 10’7” broad jump) to go with decent change-of-direction ability (4.14-second short shuttle). This speed and fluidity in pass coverage was clear when watching video of Darby in coverage.
In the following clip, Darby runs stride for stride with former Hurricanes receiver Phillip Dorsett, who ran a 4.28 40-yard dash at the combine, on a post route.
This speed and transition ability is displayed again when Darby is in coverage with Dorsett on a go route. He maintains inside leverage, and while the pass is ruled incomplete, Darby needs to do a better job of turning his head around to play the ball and prevent Dorsett, a smaller receiver, from having a chance to make a play.
Darby’s athleticism only helped him go so far, but his poor technique and failure to anticipate route concepts resulted in him getting burned quite a few times. Far too often Darby will let receivers get inside leverage and he struggles turning his hips quick enough to recover.
When playing in zone coverage, Darby does a good job following the quarterbacks eyes and will maintain good position to clog throwing lanes. This trait is displayed in the following clip against Oregon. Marcus Mariota rolls out of the pocket without an open receiver and Darby tracks him, before exploding across the field to deliver a hit and break up the pass.
Darby is a physical corner that isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty when defending the run, but his tackling technique is often dangerous and illegal, as he’ll lean with his head instead of properly wrapping up. This tendency shows up in the following clip against Virginia. Darby makes the tackle at the line of scrimmage, but leads with the crown of his helmet when doing so.
Ronald Darby is an impressive athlete that needs a substantial amount of coaching on technique before he can be trusted to play a significant role on defense. Thankfully, the Bills employ one of the best defensive back coaches in the league, Donnie Henderson, who’s played a big part in the development of quality players in Jairus Byrd, Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin and Aaron Williams since joining the team’s staff.
Darby has the athletic traits you look for at the cornerback position and with the depth the Bills have at cornerback, he won’t be forced into action prematurely. With Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks set to become unrestricted free agents following the 2015 season, this selection was likely made with the future in mind.