At 5'8" and 168 pounds, Nickell Robey isn't the biggest cornerback prospect in the 2013 NFL draft. However, what Robey lacks in size he makes up in playmaking abilities, emotion and physicality.
The former USC cornerback didn't have as statistically sounds of a junior season as many expected, but he still managed to display his unique skills to NFL teams. Let's break down what makes Robey such an intriguing prospect heading into the draft.
Robey is one of the draft's premier athletes. Even though he ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, Robey has the speed to keep up with quicker receivers.
He's extremely light on his feet, is fluid throughout his hips and can easily turn and run with receivers. Robey also displays excellent balance and quickness.
His playmaking skills are also evident when you watch Robey on the field. He possesses above-average hands (seven interceptions in three years) and the ability to make plays after the catch.
Robey can also be a factor when blitzing from the cornerback position.
One look at Robey's smaller frame and you'll see his biggest weakness. He's always going to have trouble matching up with bigger receivers in the NFL due to his short stature.
Robey will also rely on this athleticism too often. This causes him to be out of position in both the run and pass game. There are times when he'll look to make a big hit only to completely overrun the ball-carrier.
Robey is surprisingly physical for a player his size and he isn't afraid of contact. His 4.53 40-yard dash and 4.09 short shuttle times aren't overly impressive for such an athletic player.
However, Robey's 37.5" vertical and 127" broad jump prove that he is athletic and will be able to
Robey started all 37 games of his career for one of the premier programs in the country. He was a verbal leader for USC, a reliable starter and emotionally invested in the game of football.
He'll be a high-character player for an NFL franchise.
Robey has experience playing both man and zone coverage during his college career. His size, as long as it's used correctly, won't hinder him playing in either system.
Playing the Ball
One of Robey's strongest abilities is playing the ball. He is able to adjust to throws while the ball is in the air.
Robey does a good job at turning his head and getting his feet under him. His leaping ability allows him to be a factor in jump balls.
Against the Run
Due to Robey's surprising physicality, he is actually quite effective against the run. He consistently wraps up running backs and makes the tackles.
However, Robey has a hard time shedding blockers and his instincts are simply average against the run.
Robey's size is the biggest factor when playing man coverage. While he has fluid hips and the ability to turn and run with receivers, bigger wideouts are simply too much for Robey to handle.
Robey does display good hand placement when jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Robey has a good understanding of zone coverage. He does a good job at reading a quarterback's eyes and can jump underneath routes to make a play.
He also displays a natural feel of whats behind him and in front of him while in zone coverage.
Despite his size, Robey is a rather physical cornerback. He consistently makes tackles in the open field against larger opponents.
He's got some pop to his hits, but this will sometimes get him into trouble as he'll overrun running backs and receivers. Other than that, Robey is fundamentally sound at tackling and wrapping up opponents.
Robey does a good job at keeping his body low when backpedaling. He rarely struggles with balance and consistently keeps his feet under him.
When Robey does get out of position, his athleticism has bailed him out. However, that won't fly in the NFL playing against top-flight receivers.
Future Role/Scheme Versatility
As the NFL becomes more of a passing league, teams are going to need reliable nickel/slotcornerbacks. That is an ideal position for a player lacking in size like Robey.
Robey's ball-skills and athleticism will have him fighting for playing time in the NFL as a rookie.
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