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- Position: Cornerback (CB)
- Class: Junior
- College: Florida State
- Ht/Wt: 5'11", 193 pounds
Ronald Darby is one of two well-regarded cornerbacks to enter the draft from Florida State this year (the other being P.J. Williams). Darby is slightly smaller, the better athlete, and was targeted less frequently than Williams. He spent the vast majority of his snaps as a boundary corner in Florida State's defense, often going up against the top receiver on the other side of the field.
Darby moves well around the field with excellent closing speed. He can plant and drive to attack screen plays, defend the run, and he does a good job of keeping his eyes on a quarterback. Darby can get tunnel vision when he plays, to a certain extent. When watching the quarterback in zone coverage, he sometimes loses sight of the players leaving his zone, and can give them too much room as they move to the next level. When watching a receiver in man coverage, he can focus so intently on the receiver that he can't locate the football every time, and if the ball goes elsewhere, he might be taken out of the play continuing his coverage.
Darby's hand-fighting in press man is good, and he has enough physicality to stick with the bigger, tougher receivers. One area where his technique could improve is his footwork in off-man coverage. He takes too many steps and can open his hips too early, which allow quicker receivers to get open underneath. Darby also sometimes gives up inside position on his man coverage when there was no safety patrolling midfield, which is a no-no. His overall technique was developed enough that he can continue improving his game under Donnie Henderson.
Darby's hands aren't good. He'll break up passes, but he's not a natural receiver. Expect him to be more of a one- or two-interception-per-year kind of guy.
Don't pigeonhole Darby as a nickel corner, because he played the vast majority of his snaps on the perimeter of the field. He has enough length to stick on the outside, and the athleticism to handle that as well. In Buffalo, he is usable as a general-purpose backup in the secondary. I think the team keeps him at cornerback to reduce the learning curve, and he could even slot in as either the nickel or dime corner, depending on how the team wants to use Corey Graham and Nickell Robey. Down the line, Darby profiles as a future starter on the outside, either as a replacement for Leodis McKelvin or in a few years if Stephon Gilmore doesn't re-sign with the team. The team wanted to go with the best player available, and there's no denying that they got a talented one with Darby.