Robert Alford I Southeastern Louisiana I CB I 5097 I 186 I Senior
40 Time (E): 4.45
Overview: It’s likely that if you didn’t hear of Robert Alford before the Senior Bowl that you are well aware that this small school prospect is a big time prospect. He’s a natural athlete with the man to man coverage skills to be selected early on day two of the draft. He played mostly on the outside (left corner) but moved inside against four receiver looks. With limited access to tape (Northwestern State, McNeese St) its difficult to get a good feel for overall game but we saw enough after his time in Mobile to comprise this scouting report. He will be a 25-year old rookie which is a little old for a first year player but it shouldn’t be a major deterrent for taking Alford early in the draft.
Man Coverage: Excels in off-man coverage and with his back to the ball. Very loose hips as evidenced by his ability to flip his hips and run with speed. Solid backpedal with pad level and hips maintaining balance. Plays on the balls of feet and won’t catch him flat footed. Quick twitch athlete as evidenced by his ability to break on inside or outside routes. When the ball is in the air, Alford excels as he is a former WR. It’s evident with his ability to track the ball with his eyes and natural hands. In press coverage, he has solid jam technique with strong hands, good pop, and the ability to recover quickly.
Zone Coverage: Alford is probably going to be best suited in a heavy man coverage scheme. He played mostly in man at SE Louisiana with 2012 being the first season that they varied coverages on a frequent basis. There’s no doubt that Alford has the skill set and instincts to excel in zone coverage but lack of experience may keep him away from teams primarily playing zone coverage. Like his upside in press zone coverage with strong hands and shows ability to easily re-route receivers. Played some cover-2 against McNeese and he showed a good feel for the flat and excellent eyes. I think there’s enough upside to feel confident saying he could play in man or zone coverage at the next, which he will have to do.
Run Support: He’s a willing tackler but that doesn’t make him great at it from a technique standpoint. I didn’t see him shying away from contact which is a good sign but he often drops his head on contact and missed a few tackles in the open field. He’s instinctual in the run game as he sniffed out misdirection plays in both tapes I watched. Excellent job against Northwestern State sniffing out a screen play, avoiding blockers and making the tackle. He’s not allergic to contact which is a good thing since he’s going to make his living in coverage so it’s an added bonus that he’s willing to get in on the action.
Size/Strength/Athleticism: Not great size at under 5-foot-10 and could stand to add some weight, mass to his lower body. He makes up for his lack of size with his speed and athleticism. I wouldn’t be surprised if Alford runs a low-4.4 40 time at the Combine. Along with great straight line speed, Alford possesses great change of direction skills with loose hips and naturally coordinated and balanced feet. He’s an elite movement athlete that needs to add some weight to his frame. If he could land in the 190 range without losing speed, I think he has the ability to play early at the next level.
Bottom Line: I always like at least three game tapes on a player before I feel comfortable with a scouting report but after the Senior Bowl, Alford answered many of my questions with the tape. This is an elite athlete that carries a ton of upside to his game. Dwight Bentley was the hot small school corner last year. Bentley carried a high grade for me as I had him slotted in the late second round. Alford will match or best that ranking with ease. I think he will excel in a heavy man coverage scheme with the upside to play outside or in the slot early in his career. I can’t envision a scenario that this guy lasts until round three of April’s draft.