In a semi-surprising move, the Atlanta Falcons selected their second consecutive cornerback with the #60 overall pick in Friday’s NFL Draft. Robert Alford, a 5-foot-10, 188-pound cornerback (and kick returner) from Southeast Louisiana was the pick, and frankly, I love the move.
Initially, picking back-to-back corners seems pretty “out-of-the-box”, but when remembering the departures of both Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes, coupled with the team being 23rd in the league against the pass in 2012, the move makes complete sense.
Alford is extremely fast (4.39 in the 40) and is a big-time athlete with natural cover skills. The competition level (FCS) is a bit of a concern, but he impressed wildly at the Senior Bowl and there were a couple of mock drafts that considered him as a late-1st/early-2nd round selection. Thomas Dimitroff was quoted (after the pick) as saying that Alford was a late-1st round selection on their board, and that the cornerback blew away the Falcons scouting department at the Senior Bowl.
There are some concerns as well with Alford, and the biggest one centers around run support and tackling. The competition level makes this harder to evaluate, but at the same time, he had a difficult time maintaining the boundary against smaller/slower opposition, and he’ll need to improve his tackling vastly at the next level.
The “Ace in the Hole” for Alford is his return skills. It is often difficult to project this skill at the next level, but with the Falcons finishing in the bottom five in the league in both kick and punt return yardage last season, it would be naive to think that his abilities in the return game weren’t considered in the pick.
Overall, I’m a big fan of the selection. Needs along the offensive and defensive lines haven’t been addressed yet for Atlanta, but the secondary was in massive need of an overhaul. With Asante Samuel and Robert McClain joining the two rookies (Alford and 1st-round pick Desmond Trufant), this could quickly become a strength for Atlanta, and that would be a major coup. All hail Thomas Dimitroff.