Tomorrow the NFL Draft officially gets underway and chances are very good that over the next 3 days quite a few Auburn Tigers will hear their name called. One of those players could be Stephen Roberts.
Once an Alabama commit, the former 4* cornerback prospect signed with the Tigers in 2014. He played sparingly his first two seasons only appearing in 10 games. He came on strong late in his junior year before pairing up with Tray Matthews this past season to give the Tigers one of the best safety duos in the conference. Roberts saw his overall tackle numbers dip to 50 in 2017 from 57 in 2016 but raised his TFL from 1.5 to 6.0. He also defended 5 more passes in 2017 than he did in 2016.
What I loved about Roberts in 2017 was his combination of speed and ability to take great angles to the football. He consistently came up with big stops in either short yardage or 3rd down situations and did a really good job of tackling talented athletes in space.
Roberts is so good in open space. Closes fast and makes a great open field tackle pic.twitter.com/He4QchKcRw— AUNerd (@AUSportsNerd) September 13, 2017
In coverage, Roberts seemed to excel as a zone defender, reading and reacting to quarterbacks. His ability to quickly accelerate to top speed is something that I am sure a lot of NFL scouts will like to see on tape.
The biggest knock against Roberts is his size. He doesn’t really have the bulk nor the length coveted by NFL GMs. However, given the fact that NFL is becoming more and more pass heavy everyday, chances are good he could find a role as a nickel or dime defender at the next level.
Another concern is Roberts has a tendency to get handsy in man coverage, something that could get him dinged in the NFL more than it did in college. This is actually a similar concern teams have with Carlton Davis as Auburn’s secondary was very physical in 2017, as Gary Danielson loved to bemoan. Roberts also struggled at times shedding bigger blockers which he will have to do more of in the NFL. But both of these issues are fixable with coaching and strength training.
The consensus appears to be Roberts will land somewhere in the 6th-7th rounds. I wouldn’t be shocked if someone took a chance on him a bit earlier in the 5th but he should hear his name called at some point Sunday. I have seen both the New York Giants and Tennessee Titans as teams interested in the Opelika native. Roberts skillset as a tremendous athlete, sound tackler and special teams weapon should allow him to contribute to whichever team is smart enough to pick him in the coming days.