Continuing the countdown of the top 40 players on the Atlanta Falcons, let’s break down the 14th best player in cornerback Robert Alford.
To read about the methodology in how these rankings came about, you can click here.
Total Score: 62/100
Last year’s rank: 20th
Player Grade: 58/100
Teams he is starter: 16 out of 32
Teams he is best position player: 5 out of 32
Teams he is role player: 31 out of 32
Peak-Year Bonus: +3
Positional Bonus: +4
The Falcons surprised many back in the 2013 draft when they selected another cornerback in Alford in the second round after trading up in the first to select Desmond Trufant.
Well that decision is now expected to finally pay off. Alford had his first true test as a starter last year and it resulted in a mixed bag, with some strong performances and others that were considerably less so. Alford and the team are hoping that the introduction a new coaching staff and defensive scheme will help iron out some kinks to his game.
There’s never been a doubt that Alford was an athletically gifted corner with a good combo of size and speed. Despite being only 5’10”, Alford does possess very good arm length (32 inches), effectively making him a longer player that fits the bill of Dan Quinn looks for in his press-heavy scheme.
Alford was flagged for a considerable number of penalties last year and that is something that will need to be cleaned up to a certain extent. But Quinn’s defenses in Seattle have dealt with that issues before, as Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner and Byron Maxwell were all known to draw a high number of flags from time to time.
The key for Alford will be refining that physicality that led to a few too many penalties and honing it into making him more effective at the line of scrimmage. So the new staff will have to find a balancing act to lower the mistakes, but not tamper with Alford’s aggressive style.
The Falcons also hope that Alford in his second season as a full-time starter will be able to clean up some of the sloppy technique and questionable awareness that marred his first. If he can, then he’ll be well on his way to becoming one of the better starting corners in the NFL.
Alford won’t get too many more opportunities to prove himself if he cannot this year. With rookie Jalen Collins peering over his shoulder and the fact that he’s only signed through the 2016 season, Alford really needs to make the leap this year.
Teaming with Trufant and an improved pass rush helmed by rookie Vic Beasley, Alford’s progression could be pivotal as the Falcons hope to see a significant improvement in their pass defense that ranked dead last in 2014.