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Klee: Broncos take leap of faith with Bradley Roby character concerns

By Paul Klee Updated: May 12, 2014 at 4:08 pm

DENVER - Bradley Roby might develop into a Pro Bowl cornerback for the Broncos. Or he might be a first-round bust.

If, as Roby suggested, he was the best cornerback in this NFL draft, folks will wonder how the Ohio State product dropped to the Broncos in the second-to-last pick of the first round. If he simply drops down the Denver depth chart, folks will wonder what in the Alphonso Smith the Broncos were thinking.

Either one will have the same answer: character concerns.

So let's get this out in the open. Before the "character concerns" linked to Roby turn into some sort of urban legend where reputation trumps reality, here's his rap sheet.

(File it away when one of those two things happens.)

The first incident: Last summer, Roby was involved in an altercation at a bar near the campus of Indiana University. A misdemeanor battery charge later was dropped.

The second: A few weeks ago, Roby was cited for OVI (operating a vehicle while intoxicated) when he was found asleep at the wheel. He later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

This isn't to say he's a good guy or a bad guy; I have no idea and neither do you. It's simply explaining where the character concerns stem from.

"I think guys try to put me in a category, because of the things I got myself into," Roby said when he arrived at the Broncos' headquarters. "I think I made some bad decisions in the past. But at the end of the day that doesn't make me a bad guy.

"Ask anybody who knows me, anybody who's coached me. I'm a great guy."

At Roby's request, I did. A phone call to his position coach at Ohio State, Kerry Coombs, included the most important question of Denver's 2014 draft class:

Should the Broncos be worried about Roby's recent history outside football?

"I don't think anybody is excused when guys get in trouble off the field. I don't think that's the issue here," Coombs told me. "But I would not tell you that is part of his typical nature. I don't think it is."

Only time will tell if the character concerns were a red flag or not.

"I think he's embarrassed by it. He is, by no stretch of the imagination, a bad kid. He's not," Coombs said. "At the same time, he's got to prove that to people. I think he realizes that. I think he looks forward to proving that he's a good person who made a mistake."

In the same month as his 22nd birthday, Roby said he was bothered by the questions about his character.

"Some of the things I was hearing - Is he a good teammate? Does he get along with his teammates? - I was like, 'These guys don't know me at all,'" Roby said.

He's right. We don't know, and blind assumption is a dangerous guide.

But after free agency and the draft, we do know something about the Broncos' approach to building a better defense: character concerns were not enough of a concern to scare them away from gifted players.

The Broncos gave $26 million in guaranteed money to cornerback Aqib Talib, whose alarming history includes multiple arrest and NFL suspensions. They picked up the fifth-year option on linebacker Von Miller, whose off-field problems were dumb, not malicious, but still a problem. They drafted a cornerback whose mistakes, no matter how severe, were enough to drop him to the second-to-last pick in the first round.

This isn't to compare their circumstances. They're not the same.

But the Broncos better hope their defense has the same kind of leadership they have on offense. They also better hope those incidents aren't signs of a risky pattern outside football.

"We believe that we've got a tremendous locker room," general manager John Elway said. "So I think he (Roby) will get a lot of guidance there in the locker room."

Character concerns. Sounds ominous. Sounds like a '70s punk band.

Sounds like the Broncos aren't too concerned about it.

"I think I was the best guy at my position this year, honestly," Roby said. "I'm not taking anything away from the other guys, but I think I was the best."

Is Denver's approach unusual? No, it's doing business in the NFL.

In a game where violence, aggression and sometimes a lack of common sense is rewarded with big money, character concerns are often part of the deal.

-

Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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