NFL players come from every size and level of College Football, including the biggest of the big (Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame), or from the FCS level. The only thing the small school guys have to do is prove they can play with the big school guys, and Robert Alford of Southeastern Louisiana is someone who got that chance and proved he's ready for the next level.
Alford started 30 of the 31 games he saw action in, which included a medical red-shirt year in 2010 for a shoulder injury. Last season was by far his best, earning him numerous awards, including 2nd team AP FCS All-American team honors and was named the FCS Defensive Player of the Year by the College Sports Journal. Along with his 39 tackles, five for loss, and four interceptions, he had four catches for 52 yards and a punt return for a TD, showing off his versatility. He most likely won't be asked to play on the Offensive side in the NFL, but shows how well he can catch the ball if he's in there on Offense.
Alford was invited to participate in the Senior Bowl, only the second player from SELU to be selected to play in Mobile, and did he take advantage of his opportunity. He almost took the opening kick back for a TD (88 yards), then at the end intercepted a two-point conversion attempt that basically sealed the game for the South. Along with his game highlights, everywhere I read says he was very impressive in practice, including being named an "All-Star" by the National Football Post. Any chance of him sneaking under the radar was now gone. He backed up his Senior Bowl performance with an impressive Combine day, finishing in the top 10 of DBs in the 40 (4.39), Bench Press, Broad Jump, and Vertical.
Projections for Alford are mostly in the third round, and if I had to guess they are most likely going up for him after his quality performances at the Senior Bowl and the Combine. He seems like he'd fit perfectly into the Chuck Pagano Defense, playing opposite Vontae Davis. At the start of draft season Alford probably would have been there for the Colts to take, and I hope he's there when they select in the third round, as he's a quality football player that can give you something on special teams as well, and isn't afraid to put the work in to succeed.
Possesses adequate height and sufficient upper-body strength to play outside in the NFL. Consistently competitive at the line in press coverage and downfield on jump balls, even against larger receivers. Has fluid hips and quick feet to open up and run down the sideline, as well as a smooth backpedal to maintain cushion.
Gives up size to outside receivers, is pushed backwards by aggressive players on run plays or when in press; he needs to get his hands up more quickly to get in the first shot in those situations.
Scouts been buzzing about Alford, a 6-0, 185-pound corner who moves better than his size would indicate. The Senior Bowl has historically unearthed a number of "diamonds in the rough" in the defensive backfield, so Alford has a strong precedent to follow.
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