Under head coach Nick Saban, the Alabama football program has been a factory for NFL talent.
This year's class is no exception, and safety Robert Lester looks like a Day 3 prospect capable of making an early impact. Lester was a three-year starter for the Crimson Tide, playing alongside 2012 first-round pick Mark Barron for a couple of seasons.
While not the athlete that Barron is, Lester was consistent on the back end of the defense. He figures to be drafted somewhere in the fourth or fifth round and could be one of the hidden gems of this year's draft.
Like the rest of the Alabama defense, Lester is undoubtedly a physical player. He's good against the run and solid in zone coverage, which will give him a chance to see the field early in his NFL career.
Although not a burner, Lester possesses great closing speed. He trusts his eyes and doesn't think twice before attacking the football.
Lester's length is perhaps his biggest asset as a player. At over 6'1" with long arms, Lester can cover a lot of ground on the back end despite not having elite speed.
In man coverage, Lester can be exposed. When the ball is in the air he sometimes struggles to locate the football and make a play if a receiver is near.
Lester also tends to grab as an open-field tackler, which can cause him to miss some plays.
He's somewhat stiff in pass coverage, as his hips aren't as fluid as NFL teams would prefer. And when he's caught out of position, Lester's straight-line speed prevents him from recovering.
At 6'1", 220 pounds, Lester has a prototypical build for a strong safety. He has solid speed (4.62 in the 40-yard dash) but it's slightly surprising that he failed to put up more than seven reps on the 225-pound bench press.
There are no known concerns regarding Lester's character.
In college, Lester was used all over Alabama's defense. While he primarily lined up as a deep safety, he also occasionally played near the line of scrimmage as an extra run defender.
Lester also bumped up to play slot cornerback on occasion. He likely won't be asked to move around much early in his NFL career, but versatility is certainly a large part of Lester's game.
Playing the Ball
Having produced 14 interceptions in three seasons as the starter, Lester possesses adequate ball skills. Catching the ball over his shoulder and away from his body isn't a problem for Lester, which was especially evident during his 8-interception sophomore season.
Against the Run
Lester holds his ground against oncoming offensive lineman and is physical against the run. Sometimes he tends to overrun plays, but he's physical at the point of attack.
Alabama moves their safeties around, and Lester clearly had the coaching staff's trust to play man coverage. He once covered Cordarrelle Patterson one-on-one in the slot, and Lester stuck with him down the field. Man coverage is not the strength of Lester's game, but it's certainly an added dimension.
Lester did a great job in zone coverage. Although he may have benefited from playing on such a talented defense, Lester understood his role and did what he was asked to do.
Lester is an aggressive tackler with the build to take down bigger players. Sometimes he has a tendency to lower his shoulder and not wrap up, but generally, he does a good job of form tackling.
Future Role/Scheme Versatility
Early in his professional career, Lester will likely be primarily a special teams player. But considering how much the Alabama coaching staff moved him around the formation, Lester could develop into a starter several years down the line.
On a team with a strong secondary, Lester could find the field as strictly an in-the-box safety as a rookie.
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