Robert Alford Scouting Report: NFL Outlook for Southeastern Louisiana CB
Second Round, 60th Pick
A small-school corner whose stock has been on fire since the Senior Bowl, Alford fits the narrative we see every season of athletic corners at smaller schools lighting it up on the big stage. He isn't very big, but he's an electric special teams performer who would also make an ideal nickelback.
+ Good athlete with translatable skills for the position
+ Willing and aggressive tackler
+ Huge showing at Senior Bowl week against top competition
+ Excellent returner
+ Experience playing over the slot will help him contribute immediately and make him attractive to a wider range of teams
- Lack of strength shows against bigger wide receivers
- Can be out-of-control as a tackler
- Already 25 years old
Draft Projection: Mid-second to early-third round
Alford is a great athlete with impressive burst, click-and-close skills and closing/recovery speed. He has experience returning punts and kickoffs, showing good vision with the ball in his hands. He displays an impressive vertical jump when making plays on the ball in the air.
“Throughout the season, I just did anything I could to help my team win,” said Alford. “If it was returning punts, playing offense or at corner, I just did it for my team and the season turned out pretty good.”
At SLU, Alford primarily lined up at left cornerback and in the slot. He played a variety of coverages and was used often in blitzes. He’s at his most comfortable playing off-man, press-man, and cover two sink.
His lack of strength may limit his ability to start on the outside for a lot of teams, but his man and zone skills, willingness to tackle and recovery speed make him a fit for virtually any team as a nickel corner.
Playing the Ball (+)
Alford dispays excellent route combination awareness. His vertical jump allow him to make fantastic plays on the ball and contest wide receivers at the catch point. He finished with nine interceptions over his last two seasons, despite rarely being targeted.
Against the Run/Tackling (+)
Alford is an aggressive player against the run, willing to come up into the box to make tackles. His willingness to play the run aggressively can sometimes get the best of him, as he has a tendency to lunge or throw shoulders as opposed to making an under-control form tackle. He can get overwhelmed by bigger wide receivers when they run block or screen him and has a tendency to take too wide of angles coming off the edge as a blitzer.
Alford’s fantastic change-of-direction skills and recovery speed lend to potentially great man coverage ability. He needs to get stronger in order to be able to press bigger receivers on the outside, as bigger receivers can break his press easily. However, his ability to come in and play man coverage over slot receivers early in his career will appeal to teams.
A very disciplined zone player, Alford shows great route combination awareness and rarely chases receivers out of his area. He identifies receivers before they enter his area and shows a good burst to drive on the ball after it’s thrown. Good understanding of when to turn and hips and run when his cushion is threatened when playing deep zone coverages.
Alford is smooth in his backpedal transition in off-coverage, wasting no movement turning and running. He shows flashes of excellent mirror skills with perfect technique, but has a tendency to turn his hips and open the gate for receivers when in press. However, his recovery speed and burst allow him to get back in position and stay in-phase with the wide receiver through the route.
Future Role/Scheme Versatility
Alford’s ability to play in either man or zone heavy schemes, along with his versatility playing over the slot, blitzing, returning kicks and in run support will make him a highly valuable commodity who can help a team immediately.
He’s a bit older than most prospects and needs to fill out of his frame, but he has starting potential as an outside corner once he gets stronger.
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