2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Jaire Alexander
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Sometimes NFL teams and analysts can come full circle on a prospect. That is the case with Alexander, who has been a roller coaster journey since the start of his final college football season. Two days after the 2017 NFL Draft, I had Alexander going in the top half of the first round for the 2018 NFL Draft. He then had an injury-riddled junior year, which led teams around the league to project him to the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft. But after a great spring of workouts, Alexander is back to being projected as a first-round pick in the NFL draft.
Alexander was a top recruit for Louisville and quickly put his special skill set on display. As a freshman, he had 19 tackles, two pass breakups and one interception, while averaging 9.7 yards per return. Alexander was then superb for Louisville in 2016 and was the team's best defensive player. He totaled five interceptions, 39 tackles, nine passes broken up, and 10.5 yards per punt return with a touchdown for the year. His sophomore year was highlighted a phenomenal game against Clemson in which he took advantage reputedly of Deshaun Watson and also was integral in a legendary blowout of Florida State.
As a junior, Alexander gutted through a tough year. Early in the year he missed four games because of a knee injury sustained at the beginning of the year. After returning to the field he suffered a broken hand that caused him to miss two more games. When on the field, Alexander played well with 19 tackles, four passes broken up and an interception.
Team sources told me before the combine they thought that Alexander was a first-round talent who probably would slip to the second day because of the durability and medical concerns. But then Alexander put on a phenomenal workout. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds and was great in the return skills. He was extremely fluid, loose-hipped, and silky smooth gliding around the field. Alexander had maybe the best combine workout of any prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft. After that showing, he is back in the first-round conversation.
It is easy to fall in love with Alexander as a cover corner. He is extremely fast, possessing the athleticism and agility to run the route and prevent separation. Alexander blankets receivers as he can flip his hips to run with them downfield. With his quick feet and explosion, Alexander breaks on the ball in a hurry to pick off or break up passes. He has good hands and strong ball skills, too. Alexander's physical talent allows him to have excellent recoverability, plus he is a willing tackler. He is a very instinctive corner with good route recognition. Alexander is very smart to look back at the quarterback and is the rare corner who doesn't lose foot speed when looking back for the ball.
Alexander is able to play off-man coverage or zone coverage, and could also handle some press-man coverage due to his compact build. He has the possibility to be a No. 1 corner for his pro team with Pro Bowl potential.
In the 2018 NFL Draft, Alexander looks poised to be a first-round pick and could go in the top 20.
Player Comparison: Joe Haden. In speaking with team sources, they felt that Alexander was similar to Haden. Alexander's skill set and playing style is reminiscent of Haden when he was coming out of Florida and during his good years with the Browns. Both are good cover corners who run the route to prevent separation, have good ball skills, and play bigger than their size. Haden has had durability issues in the NFL, and Alexander could have similar issues given his final season at Louisville.
NFL Matches: Oakland, San Francisco, Green Bay, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle, Dallas, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Atlanta, New Orleans, Minnesota, New England, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay
There are a lot of teams that could be a fit for Alexander in the 2018 NFL Draft. In the first round, the Raiders and 49ers both could use more cornerback help. One would have thought that going as a top-10 pick could be too high for Alexander, but it might not be. Oakland has shown a lot of interest in Alexander. The team has a huge need at cornerback, and Alexander could form a dynamite tandem with Gareon Conley. General manager Reggie McKenzie took cornerback D.J. Hayden high in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, despite Hayden coming off a serious injury. However, final say-so for the Raiders' pick is now determined by Jon Gruden, and he drafted generally durable players in the first round during his run in Tampa Bay.
Green Bay has used a lot of picks on cornerbacks, but it remains a position to potentially address for the Packers. Alexander could get consideration as a cover corner. In Los Angeles, the Chargers could use a cornerback to go with Casey Hayward. Jason Verrett is nearing the end of his contract and has had durability issues, but Alexander's size and injuries could scare off the Chargers after their experience with Verrett.
Seattle cut Richard Sherman and will need more corner talent for its defense. Alexander may not have the size to fit the Seahawks' system though. Dallas could use more cornerback talent, and Alexander could make sense for the organization in the second round.
In the 20s, there are a lot of options for Alexander. Buffalo could consider Alexander with its second first-round pick as the team has to find a replacement for Ronald Darby. The Vikings have to consider a replacement for Terrance Newman, while the Bengals could use a replacement for Adam Jones. Alexander could interest both Minnesota and Cincinnati. Atlanta could use a cornerback to replace Jalen Collins. The Saints have bigger needs, but they also might consider a corner if he's the best player available, which would also give them a partner for Marshon Lattimore.
The Patriots could consider taking Alexander with one of their first-round picks or their high second-round pick. Malcolm Butler left in free agency, while Stephon Gilmore was disappointing in his first year in Foxborough. Alexander' cover skills could make him a fit for New England. Philadelphia may not sign Darby to a long-term extension, and Alexander could be selected as a future replacement.
If Alexander were to slip to the second round, there are a lot of potential fits. The Browns have to upgrade their cornerback talent, and Alexander would make a lot of sense for one of their second-round picks, if he gets there. Tampa Bay could use more young cornerback talent to go with Vernon Hargreaves, and Alexander would make sense for the Bucs in the second round. The Colts need a young corner to go with Quincy Wilson and replace Vontae Davis.
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