Marcus Peters, Ronald Darby

Less than five minutes into his first game, cornerback Marcus Peters picked off Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer, and the Chiefs scored a touchdown two plays later, giving them a lead they would not relinquish. The next week he intercepted Peyton Manning and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown.

"He has very good instincts," said Hall of Famer and Chiefs defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas. "And he has impeccable ball skills."

Marcus Peters

Quickly recognizing the talent of another instinctive rookie cornerback, Bills head coach Rex Ryan gave Ronald Darby the same treatment as Darrelle Revis when he coached him. He put Darby on an island early in training camp, forcing him to cover the team's best receivers one on one and knowing that he would get burned.

"It's how you come back and respond, and I could see the competitiveness in Ronald Darby right away," Ryan said. "I knew he was going to be an outstanding corner."

The two cornerbacks, who have starred from Day One and started every contest, are two of the leading contenders for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Entering Week 13, Darby (5-11, 193 pounds) led all NFL players with 19 passes defended. Peters ranked fifth with 16, and his interception total was third highest in the league.

"Both of those guys are playing at a high level," Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor said. "They're definitely very similar as far as athletic ability, breaking on passes, aggressive and confident in their ability to go out there and make plays."

Asked about that disposition in Darby, Ryan joked: “All of us would probably have a little more confidence if we could run a 4.3 (in the 40)."

Ronald Darby

Peters has confidence in spades as well. He baits quarterbacks to throw his way. When DeSean Jackson visited his high school as part of an anti-bullying campaign, the precocious Peters barked at the NFL wide receiver that he could lock him down defensively.

Now 6-0 and 197 pounds, Peters uses his strength to disrupt receivers via press coverage and knock them off their route. But it's the ball recognition ability of Peters, who has five interceptions, that is his calling card.

"He has some innate skills that are really good," Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. "And he's highly competitive."

The two talented rookies also play in similar schemes. Before becoming Kansas City's defensive coordinator, Sutton was Ryan's linebackers coach with the Jets from 2009 to 2012 and he employs the same kind of blitz-heavy concepts featuring a 3-4 front with aggressive play from its cornerbacks.

Peters and Darby can handle that kind of single coverage.

"These are the two best corners in the draft," Ryan said.

But they slipped in the 2015 NFL draft for scandalous reasons.


Along with Florida State football player Chris Casher, Darby was Jameis Winston's off-campus roommate.

Ronald Darby

Darby was not only at Potbelly’s bar on Dec. 7, 2012 when Winston met the woman who later accused of him rape, but he also witnessed the sexual encounter later that evening, according to police documents. (Casher videotaped the encounter.)

Florida State charged Darby with violating the school’s code of conduct in the incident but later declared he was not responsible for the two violations -- intimidating/hostile conduct and acts that invade the privacy of another person.

On October 5, 2014, at 2:37 a.m., he was a passenger in the car driven by fellow FSU cornerback P.J. Williams, who the Saints drafted a round after the Bills selected Darby.

Williams' car collided with a SUV that had the right of the way and then fled the scene with his passengers, but he was not charged with a hit-and-run.

Seemingly always at the scene, though never directly involved or found guilty for these incidents, that track record negatively affected the stock of Darby, who was selected in the second round (50th overall) of the 2015 NFL draft.

Ryan vouched for Darby and said he never had to instruct him to clean up his act.

Marcus Peters

"No, we didn't have to tell him anything," Ryan said. "The kid’s a great kid. If you spend more than five minutes with him, you guys would see that. He really is a tremendous kid."

Widely considered the most talented cornerback in the 2015 NFL draft, Peters also fell -- to the Chiefs at No. 18 in the first round -- for character reasons.

In 2013 Peters, whose father is a high school coach, was suspended for Washington's bowl game for an academic issue. During the second week of the 2014 season, he head-butted an Eastern Washington receiver and threw a sideline temper tantrum. After several arguments with the coaching staff in November and a missed practice, Huskies head coach Chris Petersen had seen enough and kicked his star cornerback off the team.

"It's never one thing. We're not going to dismiss a guy because it's one thing," Petersen told The Seattle Times. "But when you feel like it just can't work, you gotta do what you've gotta do."

Marcus Peters

Chiefs safety Eric Berry, however, has praised Peters' work habits, film study and attention to detail, saying he relies on that instead of his impressive athleticism.

"That's very rare, especially for a rookie," Berry said.

And when asked to break down Peters' skills, Sutton first lauded Peters' diligence in improving his coverage technique.

"He's been good," Sutton said. "He's taking coaching. He's got a thirst to learn."


The Chiefs' best cornerback from the 2014 season, Sean Smith, missed the first three games of the 2015 season after pleading guilty to an April DUI charge. And another stalwart in the secondary, Berry, was still rounding into form, following his remarkable comeback from cancer and the subsequent chemotherapy.

So Peters was thrust into action, starting at cornerback in Week 1 and carrying a heavy burden in the Chiefs' defensive backfield.

Ronald Darby

"I'm proud of him, man. He's holding it down out there," said Smith early in the season. "He shows a lot of confidence in himself physically and mentally."

Just as Smith has counseled Peters, Darby has learned from Stephon Gilmore, the 10th overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, on how to stay patient at the line of scrimmage, get his hands on the receiver and avoid giving too much ground.

Darby -- like Peters -- has started every game at left cornerback, though he has great versatility, covering the slot and even shadowing Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski at times.

When the Bills faced the defending Super Bowl champions in Week 2, quarterback Tom Brady targeted Darby nine times, but he only allowed three catches for 48 yards.

Darby's best game, though, may have been the Thursday Night Football contest against the Jets in Week 10. New York threw Darby's way five times, and he broke up two passes and allowed just one catch -- for a loss of two yards.

Marcus Peters

When Darby and Peters' respective teams faced off in Week 12, the latter came out on top. The Chiefs, victors of six games in a row, not only won against Buffalo 30-22, but Darby also surrendered a touchdown to Jeremy Maclin, the first he had allowed all season.

Whoever wins the individual Rookie of the Year honors remains up in the air, but they both are poised for promising careers.

"It's pretty obvious these two guys got a great future in this league," Ryan said.

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