When Friday began, the buzz of Atlanta's first-round pick the previous night was still at a high. Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff was committed to drafting defense with his lone Friday draft selection and they sat tight at No. 60 in the second round and waited for a player they've liked since they met him at the Senior Bowl following the 2012 season.
That player was Robert Alford, cornerback from Southeastern Louisiana University.
"We were very targeted on a couple of different positions and one happened to be corner going into the second day as well," Dimitroff said. "Robert Alford was someone who is a very athletic individual. He's very fast. His ball skills are top notch. He had 20 passes broken up through his career and 10 interceptions."
The march to the second round of the draft for Alford began with an invitation to the Senior Bowl and the small-school product used it to his advantage to showcase his skills against the best of the best. Part of that included an 88-yard kickoff return in the game and that return combined with the week of practice showed Dimitroff and his staff what kind of player Alford could be.
"We were very fortunate to have him in a forum like he was in the Senior Bowl to see how he matched up, got up on, the individuals he was covering," Dimitroff said. "We could see how he'd be able to match, press, turn and run and make plays on the ball. That was very important for us to see how he was responding against these big, fast football players. We came away feeling very strongly about that."
Dimitroff said Alford "turned it up notches" while at the Combine and that helped the 5-foot-10, 186-pound corner to garner some first-round consideration. Many felt Alford was one of the biggest sleepers in the draft at corner and all that led Alford to believe he may go sooner than he did but when the Falcons came calling, he couldn't be more thrilled.
"I thought I would get (drafted) higher but I didn't," Alford said. "Once I got the call from the Atlanta Falcons, I was very excited. The Falcons are a team I've been following since I was a little boy because I always looked up to Deion Sanders. That was the first team that Deion every played for. It felt real good when Deion announced my name. It's like two things came together at once. I'm very excited about it."
Alford was a little surprised to hear from the Falcons, considering they selected cornerback Desmond Trufant in the first round, but Alford said he's going to come in and battle for a starting job with the Falcons as soon as he gets here.
In addition to the Senior Bowl meetings, the Falcons met with Alford at the Combine and he also hosted the Falcons for a private workout.
Alford can play inside or outside as a cornerback, but what makes him an interesting wildcard is his return ability. As a senior, he returned four kick offs for an average of 15.25 yards and brought back seven punts, averaging 14.14 yards per return with a 75-yard touchdown return.
"I'm a versatile cornerback," Alford said. "I'm able to play any phase of the special teams game."
The speed Alford possesses makes him equally dangerous as a returner and a corner. He was one of the fastest corners at the Combine, running a 4.39 40. Dimitroff said he becomes one of the fastest Falcons right away.
"He'll probably be one of if not the fastest guys on our football team," Dimitroff said.
Alford is the 19th player drafted by Dimitroff that was a team captain while in college.