This is the third of an eight-part series analyzing each Giants draft choice.

Jay Alford, Round 3 (81):

Like the Smith selection, this pick represents a refreshing departure in the Giants’ player evaluation philosophy, which seem to be giving a little more weight to performance over tools.

(Before we overemphasize this point, though, let’s remember that Osi Umenyiora was a raw, toolsy project when we drafted him in the second round; so was Brandon Jacobs, and so, to a certain extent, was Matthias Kiwanuka. This point – the “We’re looking for football players, not sprinters or bodybuilders” point – has become extremely fashionable among casual fans who like to rattle off the Zach Thomases of the world, but let’s remember that player evaluation is a balance of the two approaches. Yes, Zach Thomas slipped down to the fourth round because he was short and small, and that was stupid. But Osi Umenyiora vaulted himself from complete obscurity to the second round because he was freakishly athletic, and that was smart.)

Anyway, back to Alford, who isn’t physically imposing by DT standards, but is a quick, playmaking overachiever who hustles his way into the backfield to make plays.

In scoutspeak, he gets by on his outstanding first-step quickness, “suddenness” off the ball, lateral movement, excellent football instincts and general “coachability.” He is small, perhaps too small, but he is somewhat able to make up for his lack of bulk with his quickness – he beats the other man to the punch – as well as his strong hands (an extremely underrated asset in athletes, especially football players)

He also plays a position of need – getting another D-Tackle up in this piece allows us to put a merciful end to the William Joseph experiment. Alford will join a four-man tackle rotation comprised of the promising Barry Cofield, the resurgent Fred Robbins, and the under-the-radar free agent acquisition Marcus Bell, who was productive in Detroit last year filling in for an injured Shaun Rogers.

The concern here is that the Giants may have reached for the undersized Alford with the 81st pick. Alford played at well under 300 pounds during his college career – while he weighed in at 302 at the combine, it remains to be seen whether he can keep this newfound bulk without sacrificing his quickness. Even at 302, he may not have the “sand in his pants” necessary to hold it down against the run. And a D-Tackle who can’t anchor his position against the run, however quick he may be, is a pretty useless NFL player.

But the fact that the Giants reached for him – that they singled him out as a guy they liked in spite of the conventional projections – shows that maybe they saw something in this guy that others didn’t. Considering Alford’s productive track record at Penn State, I’m willing to give the G-Men the benefit of the doubt here.