The Florida State Seminoles brought in 5-star corner Ronald Darby out of Maryland to jolt a secondary that wondered what life would be like when standout Xavier Rhodes joined the NFL. Darby entered the fold in 2012 and stood out instantly among the Noles faithful.
He earned the ACC Rookie of the Year award as a freshman, tallying 22 tackles and eight pass deflections. His strong performance covering wideouts against Jordan Lynch and the Northern Illinois Huskies in the 2013 Orange Bowl carried over to his sophomore campaign. Darby was part of a Seminoles defense ranked first in the nation in interceptions (26), and scoring defense (12.1 ppg.) for the national champions in 2013. Darby notched picks in back-to-back ACC games but the production wasn't substantial. That would come his junior season for the 'Noles.
The playmaking abilities of Darby fell through, but his tackle total rose to 43 making plays all over the field and in coverage. With a third consecutive ACC Title, Darby decided to make the jump to the next level.
The speedster displayed scintillating physical tools at the Combine as everyone took notice. Darby placed second among cornerbacks in the 40-yard dash as the former track athlete surged to a 4.38 second timing. Here's how Darby's performance compared to others looking to boost their stock Lucas Oil Stadium:
If Darby was a Marvel superhero, he'd be The Flash. He flashed the marvelous trait both at the Combine and in coverage during his career at FSU. The closing speed of Darby is elite in coverage recovery and defending short passes when playing off his man.
The jarring blows he initiates to opposing players are a common occurrence and tie into his agility to make plays all over the field.
Don't be fooled by Darby's lack of interceptions in his career. The playmaker was in prime position to make make various picks, but couldn't capitalize with the ball in the air. His instincts, along with mobility, allow Darby to seamlessly jump routes when engaged in a play. Once he gets to his man, Darby uses his 5'11, 195-pound physique to wrap up consistently.
The physicality shown by the corner projects to carry on to the next level and ties into his ranking as one of the vastly talented CB prospects in the nation.
If teams are willing to take a chance on Darby in either the first or second round, they have to gauge whether the FSU talent is worth their vital selection.
Darby displays average technique in man coverage and lacks leverage in his hips to adjust to the ball. Playing the ball, he seldom follows the pass in the air all the way through and relies on face guarding the man he's covering to nullify the lack of awareness.
Darby also lacks strength, which diffuses his ability to fight off blocks and match up with a bigger wideout on the outside. He's heavily reliant on speed in man coverage, evident by playing off and eliminating the deep route.
Ron Darby might not have the production that screams first round lock, but as a toolsy cornerback, he's an emerging talent.
Tennessee and Indianapolis, among others, have already worked out Darby and would be an ideal landing spot for the corner in next weeks draft. Indy currently has one of the top corners in the league in Vontae Davis and could offer a mentor to assist in Darby's early stages of his career.
A scenario that might also play out is Darby's transition to a slot role in his rookie season. He would ideally handle more elusive wideouts playing inside and wouldn't have to carry the burden of matching up against bigger targets out of the gate.
Overall, Darby has a copious amount of potential if he handles himself off the field and works on some of his flaws in the offseason. Similarly to P.J. Williams, the talent is there but his priorities have to remain with being a highly touted cover corner at the next level.