Every year there always seems to be one or two small-school players that make noise leading up to the NFL Draft by soaring up draft boards. This year, there is a handful of them. That includes Central Arkansas cornerback Robert Rochell. The cornerback class in the 2021 draft is a deep one, and rumors are swirling that Rochell could be taken a lot earlier than expected.
Name: Robert Rochell
School: Central Arkansas
Class: Redshirt Senior
Weight: 195 lbs
Man Coverage (8.25/10)
Rochell’s specialty is press-man coverage. He is uber-aggressive at the line of scrimmage and is a defender that will hand-fight at any moment. Rochell’s grabbiness could get him into some trouble at the next level, but there is a bigger concern here. Rochell shouldn’t line in the slot. Some teams may have him as a safety on their boards due to his physicality and ball skills, but Rochell shouldn’t play in the slot. Against both Kadarius Toney and Amari Rodgers in Senior Bowl practices, Rochell looked lost. There will be more on this later, but Rochell should align on the outside against taller receivers that don’t have as much twitch to them.
Zone Coverage (7.5/10)
Rochell is a much better man coverage cornerback than zone. He is still learning the position after not playing it until college. Rochell does a good job of keeping his eyes on the quarterback and reading where he is looking and making a move on the ball.
Change of Direction (6.25/10)
Rochell is very grabby and impatient. That is why he struggles so much against the twitchier slot receivers like Rodgers and Toney. His tall frame and physicality impact him enough that once the receiver gets to the top of their route, Rochell flips his hips and the receivers exposed him because of it.
Ball Skills (9.5/10)
Rochell is a former wide receiver. During his collegiate career, he had 38 pass breakups and ten interceptions. When Rochell sees the ball, he goes and gets it. In one-on-one situations, Rochell almost always won the battle.
Similar to his change of direction, Rochell’s fluidity is a bit concerning. He doesn’t flip his hips as quickly as many would like, which is why the transition to safety has been mentioned a few times. From the snap of the ball, Rochell immediately stands tall, and it hurts him a ton at the top of the receiver’s route.
Run Support (8.25/10)
Rochell is by no means afraid to tackle. Even when he is engaged in a block, Rochell is looking to the backfield to see if the running back is near him. Rochell disengages from blocks easily and looks to make a hit on the ball-carrier. There are some occasions where Rochell is so focused on covering his receiver that he doesn’t notice the ball-carrier is running close to him.
He isn’t afraid to lay someone out. There is no hesitation when Rochell attempts to make a tackle. He keeps his receiver lined up and forces him to the inside to create some disturbance for the runner on the inside.
Route Recognition (6.5/10)
Route recognition is by no means his specialty. Rochell won’t read the receiver as much as some others in the class and instead tries to out-physical receivers at the line of scrimmage and the top of the route. In zone coverage, he doesn’t have much of a feel for where the receivers are and instead relies on reading the quarterback.
Rochell’s inability to stay with slot receivers is very concerning heading into the next level. His physicality might not be enough if the slot receivers use their technicality to get by him off the line of scrimmage. Rochell is a bit clunky in his change of direction, and he immediately stands upright off the line of scrimmage instead of staying on his toes.
After watching Senior Bowl practices, there were a few cases where Rochell got a bit upset when he lets a pass get by him in one-on-one with a receiver. It is also the same case when he gets flagged. It isn’t too obvious, but it is something to worry about.
Rochell suffered a torn ACL in his senior year in high school and had an injury during the 2020 season that was unknown.
Rochell is a heavy press-man cornerback that some teams will try to move to safety. He is a very physical man at the line of scrimmage that will make life miserable for receivers off the line of scrimmage. Rochell has elite ball skills with his background as a former wide receiver and is still learning the cornerback position. Rochell will in no way back down in the run game, and that is an added plus to go along with his great ball skills and man coverage. His athletic ability and change of direction are very concerning, especially against twitchier slot cornerbacks.
Final Grade (78.50/100): Mid Third Round