Prospect: Robert Alford, CB, Southeastern Louisiana State
Height: 5’10 1/8″
Grade: 6.95 (Grading Scale)
Robert Alford is a top flight athlete bringing elite agility, speed and fluidity to the field. Played at a lower level of competition but his skills translate to the NFL level. Fluid midsection allow him to open his hips to transition out of his backpedal in any direction. Alford possesses good ball skills and is also asked to blitz from the edge at times. Flips his hips 90 degrees rapidly to run laterally and trail the receiver over the middle of the field. Can also open his hips all the way to run vertically and has the speed to keep up with any receiver. Has some of those quick-twitch movements that at vital when covering against quick WR at the next level. Alford has plenty of lower body explosions, shows impressive ability to plant and drive on comeback or underneath routes. Has a seamless back-peddle and can get out of it to explode downhill easily.
Has quick enough feet and movements to play inside at slot corner. Changes direction with ease, able to stay in the hip pocket of receivers or mirror movements in front of him. Best suited to play man coverage, lacks power, but will come to the line to get some sort of punch or strike on the receiver. Transitions effortlessly out of his press or press bail look to carry the receiver down the field. Gets his head turned to locate the ball and shows the play-making ability to finish the catch. Puts himself in a good play-making position to attack the ball while blanketing the receiver in coverage. Experienced returning kicks and showed at the Senior Bowl, he has an explosive element to his return ability. Alford takes aggressive routes to get to the runner in run defense. But, somehow he finds a way to square up the RB and make the tackle. Goes low to take the legs out of the runner.
Before we get into the on the field weaknesses, there are a few non-skill related concerns. First, Alford is already 24 years old and will be 25 sometime during his rookie year. He’s older than most in this draft class. He also has been diagnosed with Crohns disease. It’s not a life threatening disease and it can be played with (QB David Garrard), but it is a concern. Finally, his DC came out and questioned his ability to learn the most of the mental aspects of the game, including how to recognize route combinations, the width of his splits and how to learn some of the defensive formations. On top of that Alford lacks bulk to sustain heavy contact at the NFL level. Going from his level of competition to the NFL will be a huge jump.
If he struggled with the mental aspects of the game at his level, he will be lost in the NFL (at least at first). Alford is best in man coverage because he can rely on his natural athleticism. When he is asked to process, diagnose and decide he is a step slower. His overall technique in both coverage and run support is raw and needs time to be developed. Doesn’t love to tackle and won’t out-physical anyone when playing the run. Also, Alford has dealt with multiple stingers during his college career which forced him to miss one full season already.
Robert Alford is a gifted natural athlete, with the coverage ability that translates to the NFL level. There is no doubting his fluidity, agility or speed. He will be able to manage the physical side of the game. He has those quick twitch reaction skills which make it easy for him to break out of his peddle, attack the ball or mirror a receiver. He can run with any receiver, open his hips to transition and offers some versatility being able to play in the slot or outside. Alford can help on special teams, bringing a dynamic return ability.
Alford is not a clean prospect he brings many question marks to the table with him, but none is more damning than his former DC calling him out for his inability to handle the mental aspects of the game. That would seriously worry me. Nevertheless, Alford has enough ability and upside to warrant a day two selection.