There was some stirring debate over on the Robert Alford signing thread that got me thinking: Could Alford start over Trufant if Alford was better? The quick answer is simply no.
But the reason for that isn't as cut and dry as you might think. Barring an injury, this shouldn't even be a discussion. Trufant is more pro-ready than Alford, if only because he has the family pedigree and certainly has the advice of his professional brothers on his side. In any case, here's a list of reasons why he'll start over Alford.
1) His family has NFL experience. I just mentioned that. He's more likely to bounce back from troubles because he knows people personally who have had ups and downs in the NFL
2) He was drafted higher. Before you tell me every example of a low round player turning into a Hall of Famer, I offer you this: First round players are not drafted to sit, with the extremely rare exception. Alford may turn into a wonderful DB for us, but until he proves he's the exception rather than the rule, he'll be second behind Trufant.
Even if Alford is slightly better than Trufant, I think Trufant will still start. Alford would have to be considerably better than Trufant to pass him on the depth chart. The Falcons have shown a very strong commitment to their high draft picks, even when things have gone awry (see Peria Jerry).
3) He's getting paid more. I don't know how much more, but I can assure you he is (or will be) getting paid more money. If there's any shining example of how this has affected the team before, I point you in the direction of former Falcons Dunta Robinson and Michael Turner, but especially Turner. The Burner is still without a team, and Robinson, if I'm not mistaken, took a huge pay cut to play with the Chiefs, but yet the Falcons continued to trot those two out there even if they weren't necessarily our best options.
You see this a lot in sports. You're paying a guy a ton of money and you keep playing him, even if he isn't producing. Perhaps the people in charge of those decisions feel obligated to the owner or someone to give a player playing time if he's being paid a huge sum of money.
But this applies to Trufant and Alford because you're not giving a guy a first-round contract to sit. The second round contract should be a good bit lower than the first round, as well.
4) Trufant is more likely to leave once his contract is up.
If both Alford and Trufant get equal playing time and each play up to their expectations, Trufant will be more likely to leave because he'll be the high profile guy seeking the big contract elsewhere because he didn't get enough playing time while he was here. We all know the Falcons like to take care of their own, but if the guy or his camp is unhappy, he's not staying. (See Grimes)
Alford, to my knowledge, is not a high profile guy. He went to a small school and, unless you were really into the draft this year, you probably didn't know much about him. He's more likely to be alright with not playing as much initially. Then, once Asante retires or gets shipped off somewhere, Alford steps into that role and we have two happy DBs playing on the outside for the next 5-8 years.
Doing it this way also lowers the risk of having to pay two massive DB contracts at the same time. If Alford starts for two years and has one very good year, his contract will be less than Trufant's, who would have been starting for four years with at least two very good years. Keeping them both (if they're worth keeping) would be significantly less than if the reverse happened, since first round picks can still get fat contracts after their first one unless they just totally fall off the board.
But all of that is just my opinion. Unless Alford plays at an absurd level and Trufant just tanks it, I don't see Alford starting over Trufant initially even if Alford is "better", which could mean one of many things.