We continue Trevor Sikkema's previews of Florida's 2014 NFL Draft prospects with corner Marcus Roberson.
Marcus Roberson is two years younger than I am. (MAN, I’M OLD.) He is a high school state champion from St. Thomas Aquinas and was recruited — and flipped — by Travaris Robinson to Florida, over Auburn and Texas Tech. In his spare time, he enjoys juggling. (I don’t know if that’s actually true, but I hope it is.)
A Florida-grown Florida Gator, Roberson chose to stay in-state, and was perhaps the first player to do so because of the allure of playing in or a Will Muschamp defense. At a minimum, Roberson was Muschamp’s first major flip in recruiting.
As a true freshman, Roberson started in his first 10 games, and got a taste of the Florida-Georgia rivalry, grabbing his first career interception against the Dawgs, before being sidelined for the final three games of the season due to a neck injury.
As a sophomore he appeared in all 13 games, but started in just four of them. That didn’t seem to slow his production down however as Roberson lead the SEC with 14 passes defended, tied a school record with Joe Haden for the most passes broken up with 12 and was named to the SEC All-Second team for 2012. The stat sheets were plenty in his true sophomore season and that is where his draft stock began.
Entering what would be his final season as a Gator, Roberson was hearing rumors of the second and third round before the year even began. But all preseason hype has to turn into production in order to remain valid, and unfortunately for Roberson, his largest step back came in his last season at the University of Florida.
Injuries plagued Roberson all season, as he was only able to appear in seven games, and suspension would likely have kept him out of a couple other games even if he had been healthy. His production ultimately suffered, as he went his first year without an interception or a tackle for loss.
His decision to declare came as a bit of a surprise, given such limited time on the field, but the NFL Draft Advisory Board most likely gave him the word of a second- to third-round pick, so he took his chances and ran with them.
"I'm very thankful of everyone at Florida that helped me get to this point in my career... It's been a great experience and now that it is over I can truly appreciate everything that is in place here for players to be successful and have an opportunity to play at the next level."
The NFL is enamored with size. Scouts and GMs seem to believe height and length have more stock than game film. I, personally, think that’s a load of garbage, especially when groups like the NFL Advisory Counsel tell players they’re thought of in higher regard than what’s actually true.
Marcus Roberson is a talented cornerback with the body type to start consistently at the next level, but not right now. Timing is everything, and the window of opportunity for some of these young players is forced smaller than it should be; I think that's definitely true of Roberson's.
Roberson’s abilities to move in coverage are very fluid; he has quick hips with smooth changes in speed and direction, but he doesn’t have the quick instincts or acceleration to keep up with top-notch route runners in the NFL.
His tackling skills lack a good amount as well. At 6’0” 190 lbs, he presents the same problem Purifoy does with his lack of ability to take strong hits and bring bigger backs down when asked to. If players are liabilities tackling, why should they get playing time? (Hint: they don’t.)
Roberson has more natural ability as a cornerback than say Purifoy does, and for that, I think he will be selected before Purifoy, but that’s not to say much of the same problems are there with both. They both don’t have straight-line speed and their first step acceleration isn’t quick enough to live off their limited coverage knowledge.
With the right teaching and willingness to improve in man and zone – though Roberson is more of a man-to-man corner right now – Roberson has the length and smooth movement to reach a point of success in the NFL. All of those passes defended and deflected didn’t come by luck and I’m not trying to take that away from him, but the NFL is a different beast. Do I think he’s Pro Bowl caliber? Eh, no. But could he be a starter someday, yes.
Just not now.
So far the only team I’ve seen focus in on Roberson is the Lions who had him in for a private interview at the Combine.
His 40-times at Florida’s Pro Day didn’t really improve on his 4.61 time at the Combine and for that, I think the third round is his best case, realistically I’d predict him as a fourth rounder.