STRENGTHS - Alford is an excellent athlete with the speed to stay with most any receiver in space and the fluid pedal and hips to maintain in transition. He is physical with his jam in man coverage, which allows him to reroute his man and consistently win inside leverage. He is also an effective player in zone coverage, as he does a solid job of being physical with receivers through his area and disguising his coverage, which allows him to bait the QB into making dangerous throws. He has the closing burst needed to break off routes and when in position is able to consistently play the ball in the air. On runs to his side he does an excellent job of working outside in, and is competitive vs. blockers in space. He was also a dynamic returner at SE Louisiana, as his speed, vision and willingness to set up blockers allowed him to break multiple huge runs in games I evaluated.
WEAKNESSES - Although his physicality allowed him to dominate the POA against his level of competition, Alford will need to add another 10 lbs. of muscle in order to better compete with NFL WRs. At times in press coverage he will grab his man instead of punching him, leaving him susceptible to holding and pass interference penalties. While he is a willing player against the run, he tends to leave his feet and miss too many tackles he is in position to make. When blitzing he does not show elite explosion, and is often too tentative to make an impact in this capacity. Medical tests at the scouting combine showed that Alford suffers from Crohn's disease, which causes intestinal problems.
SUMMARY - Robert Alford is one of the top small school prospects in this draft class, as he was highly productive against his level of competition and clearly possesses the athleticism and instincts to play at the highest level. He is a smooth, fluid runner that can flip his hips efficiently and run with most any NFL receiver in space. Despite not having a huge frame he is a physical player at the POA and works hard to establish positioning and destroy his man's route integrity when in man coverage. He also displays a very good closing burst from off the ball, and the ball skills to consistently break up or intercept the ball when in position. He is also an aggressive player against the run that understands the importance of maintaining outside leverage, although he needs to do a better job of keeping his feet and driving through the ball carrier to finish more consistently. The discovery of his Crohn's disease at the combine will certainly be a concern for teams, but past players like David Garrard have been able to enjoy long NFL careers while fighting the same symptoms. Alford will need to add bulk to his frame, but clearly has the athleticism to start in the NFL, and would be particularly effective in a cover two scheme because of his instincts in zone and ability to play the run effectively.