ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --The NFL of 2014 is all about the pass -- and defending the pass. And until the Broncos drafted Bradley Roby, one of their most depth-shy positions was cornerback.
Even after signing Aqib Talib, the Broncos were thin after releasing Champ Bailey and letting Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie go in free agency. Kayvon Webster, a nickel back in November and December, returns, but as the Broncos learned last year, their depth can be compromised quickly.
Now, the Broncos can breathe easier. If Roby plays as he has in spurts at Ohio State, Denver has a potential lock-down cornerback for the long term. And they have someone who might have been available if he had not had an arrest for disorderly conduct last July and for operating a vehicle while impaired on April 20.
"There's no question. We thought he was a top-15 talent," Elway said. "If he hadn't had the couple issues that he's had, there's no way he would've been there for us at 31."
Elway expects the locker room to help keep Roby on the straight and narrow.
"We realize that he's a young guy that has made some mistakes. Obviously, we expect those things not to happen when he comes here," Elway said. "We believe that we've got a tremendous locker room, so I think he will get a lot of guidance there in the locker room."
Roby can help immediately; he's fast enough and big enough to line up on the outside. He is exceptionally athletic; he tested well at the Combine; among defensive backs, he had the fourth-best 40 time (4.39 seconds) and sixth-best short-shuttle and vertical-jump figures. His speed allows him to make up for average height (5-foot-11) and arm length (31.5 inches); that allows him a "reach score" -- a combination of speed and arm length -- of 105.4 (100 is average), sixth-best among 49 defensive backs who ran at the Combine.
He also fits in the general offseason infusion of "brutal nasty" of which DeMarcus Ware spoke. Roby is aggressive, more physical than his size would indicate and has shown persistence against some of the tougher wide receivers he faced.
"He's got all the measurables and he's got the mentality, Elway said. "He'll stick his nose in there in the run game and he'll tackle, and he'll fit right in with the defense we're putting together right now with 'Qib on the other side and T.J. Ward coming in and the mentality we want on that defense, he's going to fit in very well in that."
With Talib and Harris around, the Broncos will have time to smooth out the edges on his game. Roby won't necessarily be needed on every down; with Talib on one side and Harris Jr. returning from a torn ACL on the other, the Broncos can continue to use Harris as an inside/outside swing cornerback, and insert Roby in nickel packages.
Harris is the starting right cornerback, Elway said, adding that Roby will go into training camp working on the outside. The third cornerback is essentially a starter in terms of how many snaps he plays. With Roby's descent on the draft board the Broncos found a physical cornerback who completes the transformation of the secondary. The unit now blends speed and aggression better than it did last season.
"He was the top guy on our board," Elway said. "When we talked about immediate help and a talented guy like that, he's the guy that would have the biggest impact on us."