Offense was the prevailing theme of the Buffalo Bills’ free-agency and trade activity.
But when it came to the NFL Draft, Rex Ryan’s defensive roots took over – at least with the Bills’ first choice.
Needing the tightest coverage possible to implement his aggressive, blitz-oriented defense, Ryan clearly got his way when the Bills used the 50th overall pick in Friday night’s second round to select Florida State cornerback Ronald Darby.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Darby fits the profile of the type of players Ryan wants in his secondary. He does not shy from contact and he is fast enough and athletic enough to hold his own in the single coverage he will be frequently asked to play.
“Physical, not only with the ball, against ball-carriers, and as a press” coverage “guy,” General Manager Doug Whaley said. “Rex is a big press guy. His physical attributes – height, weight, and obviously blazing speed.”
During last February’s NFL Scouting Combine, Darby ran a 4.38-second 40-yard dash. His vertical jump was an impressive 41.5 inches. He also is a world-class sprinter, winning a gold medal on the US medley relay team in the 2011 World Youth Championships in France.
During the Seminoles’ 2013 national championship season, Darby was credited with allowing only nine completions and no touchdowns on 27 targets. In 14 starts last season, Darby had a career-high 43 tackles, four pass breakups and a forced fumble.
In his collegiate career, he only had two interceptions, both in 2013, but was targeted once every 10.1 snaps in three seasons at Florida State, the fewest of any cornerback in the draft.
“The production wasn’t that high this year, but he also wasn’t challenged that much this year,” Whaley said. “So we think this guy’s got an upside and the benefit of coming in and learning behind some quality cornerback is going to help this guy.”
Said Darby, “I wasn’t even targeted more than two, three times a game. It was really difficult to make as many plays as I wanted to and sometimes when the ball does get near me for the first time in a week or so, I get so anxious so I overthink things. But if I were weak or something like that, I’d be attacked a lot more.”
Darby was a college roommate of quarterback Jameis Winston. Darby and another FSU teammate, Chris Casher, signed an affidavit saying they witnessed Winston having consensual sex on the night of an incident that led to the quarterback being accused of rape. Winston wasn’t charged and Darby and Casher also were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.
Darby also was a passenger in a car driven by another Florida State cornerback, P.J. Williams, during a hit-and-run accident. Darby was also cleared of any wrongdoing in that case.
“I’m just ready to get out there, develop more as a player, show what I can do as a player, and just get better and make plays for the Bills,” Darby said. “I’m going to bring, of course, speed. But I’m going to be someone who just goes out there and just completes and makes sure my receiver doesn’t score on me, doesn’t make huge plays.”
Darby gives the Bills nine cornerbacks, although one, Corey Graham, could be moved to safety. The other corners are Leodis McKelvin, Stephon Gilmore, Nickell Robey, Ross Cockrell, Ron Brooks, Mario Butler, and Rod Sweeting.