He's the first UConn player drafted since 1994 when Paul Duckworth was chosen by the Green Bay Packers in the 6th round and the earliest selectee since 1946 when Walt Dropo went at No. 74 to the Chicago Bears. (For UConn's complete draft history, please click here).
"It is very exciting," Alfred Fincher said Saturday. "I was sitting here watching the draft and my heart started beating while I saw the other linebackers go. I felt like I can compete with those other linebackers as they kept going and I did not go. I was a
little nervous about it but now that I know I am going to be a Saint I am really excited about it."
Fincher was the third Big East player selected Saturday, trailing only corner back Adam “Pacman” Jones of West Virginia, selected sixth overall by the Tennessee Titans, and offensive tackle Adam Terry of Syracuse, chosen in the second round, 64th overall, by the Baltimore Ravens.
Huskies remaining on the board for Sunday's final rounds are wide receiver Keron Henry, defensive end Tyler King, outside linebacker Maurice Lloyd and quarterback Dan Orlovsky.
"I'm very proud of Al and very happy for him,” UConn head coach Randy Edsall said. “This is the highest that UConn has ever had a player selected (third round) and it is a well deserved honor for all of the time and effort that Alfred has invested in bettering himself. It is a situation where you are happy to see great things such as this happen for good people.
"This is a great reward for what he has done here, not only in terms of his own personal gains that he has made, but also for the gains that this program has made as a result of his hard work and dedication.
"The Saints organization has a lot of good people in it. I worked with a few of them in Jacksonville. Jim Haslett is an excellent coach and if they are willing to invest a third round pick in Al, then I am sure he is entering into a good situation in terms of his potential role on the team."
Fincher was a three-time letter-winner at Norwood (Mass.) High, where he played under Doug Flutie's prep coach, Tom Lamb, and earned All-Bay State League honors as a senior. He was also a member of the Boston Globe and Boston Herald All-Scholastic teams, and also the Gridiron Club of Massachusetts gave him all-state honors.
Fincher was a reserve as a UConn frosh and had 10 tackles (3 solo) in mostly special-teams action. He played in all 11 games in 2001, the Huskies last in Division I-AA.
He took over the middle-linebacker slot as a sophomore, ranking third on the team with 91 tackles (53 solo), including 1½ sacks, nine stops for losses, an interception and two fumble recoveries.
Fincher started every game in the middle in 2003, posting 113 tackles (67 solo) with 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception, earning All-Independent honors.
He capped off his career by garnering All-Big East Conference first-team accolades in 2004. He led the team with 140 tackles (56 solo), ranking fifth in the nation with an average of 11.91 hits per game. His five forced fumbles ranked second in the country to Texas' Derrick Johnson (six). He also had an interception and deflected seven passes.
Only John Dorsey (184 in 1983, 154 in 1982, 144 in 1981), Don Thompson (154 in 1974) and Vernon Hargreaves (149 in 1982) had more tackles in a season at UConn -- all compiled during the school's Division I-AA tenure.
In 47 games as a Husky, Fincher started 35 games. He recorded 355 tackles (183 solo) with five sacks for minus-34 yards and 33½ stops for losses of 110 yards. His 354 tackles rank fifth in school history and his 33½ stops for losses rank fourth. He also recovered five fumbles, caused six others, intercepted three passes for 61 return yards and deflected 12 balls.
NFL DFAFT ANALYSIS
4.76 in the 40-yard dash … 400-pound bench press … 545-pound squat … 329-pound power clean … 32-inch vertical jump … 9-foot-11 broad jump … 32 3/8-inch arm length … 9¾-inch hands.
"While Fincher seems to have 'flown under the radar' during his first three years at Connecticut, scouts took notice of his ability in 2004. This is an athlete with excellent body control and hand usage. He uses his compact frame with force and is very active with his hands to stun and jolt. He sees the ball immediately and gets to the point of attack with good urgency.
"Fincher has fluid hips and a smooth running motion to squeeze through trash and make negative-yardage tackles in the backfield. He has very good field vision, quickly making reads and reacting to the play. Fincher has the ability to distinguish between running and passing plays quickly and has the ability to sift through traffic to make the tackle.
"Fincher is very effective making plays on the move and has enough short-area burst to reach and explode into ball carriers on the corner. He gets good depth in his pass drops and can mirror and re-route tight ends in the short area, but does not have the sustained speed to stay with receivers on deep routes. His lateral range makes him appear faster than his timed speed. He has a good flow to the ball and displays the ability to squeeze through tight quarters and sift through trash to make the play.
"Fincher shows good zone awareness and can cover runners coming out of the backfield. He is a good take-on type who is very physical around the ball. He does a very good job of protecting his feet against cut blocks and can separate from offensive linemen with his hand punch. He is not used much as a pass rusher, but has good acceleration to collapse the pocket. He will generally stay low in his pads, and even when he gets high in his stance, he rarely struggles to disengage. His strong hand usage upon contact allows him to stun, jolt and stack at the point of attack.
"His tackling skills and lateral agility make him a very interesting prospect. While some teams project him as a mid-rounder, there are very few middle linebackers in this draft with his upside. He has very good body control in the open and excellent hip snap to explode into ball carriers. His quickness to the edge lets him force the action back inside and he shows good awareness, handling the switch-off in zone coverage. In a 3-4 defense, he could be just as effective as Pittsburgh's Kendrell Bell or Baltimore's Ed Hartwell, two players that quietly go about their job but make the players around them look better."
Scout.com pre-draft profile
CONNECTICUT IN NFL DRAFT
Information from Connecticut and NFL websites included in this story