The pre-draft process is an intel-gathering mission on prospective employees. And although certain prospects tend to attract groupthink in the scouting community, others generate the varied opinions that come from 32 different franchises with 32 unique approaches to talent evaluation. Former NFL player and scout Bucky Brooks is taking a closer at some of the most notable -- and polarizing -- prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft, to determine draft range and team fits.
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What I like:
Alexander is a feisty cover corner with outstanding press-man skills and an ultra-aggressive temperament. He thrives on challenging receivers at every turn with a combination of physicality and athleticism that disrupts the timing of the passing game. Alexander mauls wideouts at the line with strong jams and jumps into their hip pockets to cut off short and intermediate routes. When employing "off" technique at Clemson, Alexander patiently sat around 8-10 yards from the receiver and jumped underneath routes in the Tigers' "catch" (trail man) coverage. With safety help over the top, Alexander is able to aggressively drive up on throws in his area without fear of the deep ball producing a big play.
In zone coverage, Alexander possesses solid instincts, awareness and movement skills utilizing a bail technique to see through the wide receiver to the quarterback. He maintains a soft cushion on the receiver, but flashes explosive short-area quickness breaking on the ball when it leaves the quarterback's hand. Although he failed to register a single interception as a two-year starter at Clemson, the former five-star recruit flashed ideal positioning and sticky coverage, which should put him in position to make a number of plays on the ball in the NFL. (Honestly, many college quarterbacks just avoided the stud corner altogether over the past two seasons.)
Why the range?
Despite Alexander's success suffocating receivers in bump-and-run coverage, he is a one-dimensional cover corner with limited experience employing a variety of techniques on the perimeter. He rarely plays with a cushion or utilizes a backpedal, which makes him a developmental prospect in some systems. Alexander will need to learn how to play with his feet (playing with a backpedal requires cornerbacks to master turns and transitions and multiple angle breaks), which could lead to some struggles as a young pro. Alexander also must master "pattern reading" (defenders recognize route concepts while backpedaling to get early breaks on balls thrown in their direction) and display consistent eye discipline as a zone defender to play for teams that utilize multiple coverage concepts in the back end.
Although it appears that Alexander shouldn't have a problem learning the nuances of pattern reading, based on his in-depth press conferences that revealed his scouting notes on players, I've heard from several sources that the Clemson standout didn't fare well in meetings at the NFL Scouting Combine when defensive coaches put him on the board and asked him to walk through various coverage concepts. Thus, Alexander must do a better job of explaining concepts in private workouts and individual meetings to convince coaches that he possesses the football IQ to play in a complex system.
Finally, Alexander must address concerns about his hands and ball skills by catching well in drills. Without a single interception on his college résumé, Alexander has to eliminate the doubts some coaches have following tape study.