The Philadelphia Eagles signed Auburn safety Stephen Roberts in undrafted free agency following the 2018 NFL Draft. In order to learn more about the new Eagles defender, I reached out to SB Nation’s Auburn blog: College And Magnolia. Tigers writer James was kind enough to answer my questions.
1) Can you sum up what his college career was like?
Stephen was a highly regarded cornerback recruit out of nearby Opelika, AL. He flipped his commitment from Alabama to Auburn in 2013 during the week between the “Miracle at Jordan-Hare” win over Georgia and the “Kick Six” win over Alabama. After arriving on campus, he was eventually moved to safety. After playing on special teams and rotating into the secondary, Stephen cracked the starting lineup late in his sophomore season and never gave up the job. He really came into his own in his junior season in Kevin Steele’s defensive scheme that assigns safeties to portions of the field rather than the traditional “strong/free” designation. Despite his size, Stephen became a pretty good run-stuffing safety. His speed allows him to close quickly, and he makes some sure tackles. I mean, take a look at this play.
Bo Scarborough in the open field on a 3rd and short, and Stephen took him down for a 3-and-out right after an Auburn score. Auburn would score on the ensuing possession and wouldn’t trail for the rest of the game.
He was also the primary punt returner his senior year after splitting time his junior year, so he’s experienced with the ball in his hands.
2) What are his strengths?
Closing speed and open-field tackling. I can’t think of a time he was caught out of position either. “Rangy” is probably the best word to describe him.
3) What are his weaknesses?
He’s too skinny to be an elite safety prospect, and he’s not quite quick enough to play corner at the highest level. While he was great at run-support in college, I don’t know for sure that it will translate.
4) Are you surprised he went undrafted?
A little. Auburn’s safeties were counted on to align the defense last year, and the unit certainly played well (the best Auburn defense since the Tuberville days by far). With both Roberts and his partner Tray Matthews going undrafted, maybe they didn’t show enough on tape? He also didn’t have an interception last season, and he only had 2 his entire career.
5) How do you see his NFL career playing out?
He has special teams written all over him, at least for the early portion of his career. His speed and open-field tackling ability should allow him to shine. His weaknesses would be minimized. I could see him eventually settle into a role as a third safety or even a starting free safety in the right system.
6) Anything to know about him off the field?
He really came into his own in his junior season after an arrest for eluding the police. He lost his biological father at just 2 years old, and his best friend from his recruiting class in an off-campus shooting. I think the arrest and one-game suspension set him straight. He’s been a model citizen since then, as far as I know.