Each day leading up to the 2018 NFL draft, I’ll break down one of my top 50 prospects. In some cases, we had to make tough omissions because of injuries, poor pre-draft workouts or incomplete information. For more complete scouting reports on all the prospects, check out the Pro Football Weekly 2018 Draft Guide, which is available for order now.
Key stats: Intercepted five passes as a junior in 2016 but also was credited with allowing six TDs.
The skinny: Under-the-radar prep receiver and corner didn’t get widespread recruiting attention, but Louisville honed in on his ball skills and lured him to the program, where he enrolled early in 2015. As a freshman that season, he started 1-of-12 games, making 19 tackles and one interception. He suffered an ankle injury in the second half against Boston College and missed the following game against Wake Forest. Alexander also returned 23 punts for 223 yards (9.7 average), with five returns of 20 or more yards.
As a sophomore in 2016, Alexander led the team with five picks and was named second team All-ACC. He suffered a shoulder injury vs. Clemson but didn’t miss any games, starting all 13. Alexander returned 20 punts for 210 yards (10.5 average) with one TD and returned one kickoff for 14 yards.
In 2017, Alexander was named all-ACC honorable mention (one interception) despite being limited to six games, suffering a right knee sprain in the opener vs. Purdue, missing the following four games, before aggravating the injury prior to the Florida State game. He also missed the meeting with Wake Forest after suffering a broken hand but returned for the final three contests.
Alexander declared early for the 2018 NFL draft. He performed all the drills at the NFL scouting combine except for the 60-yard shuttle (choice).
Upside: Blinding speed — some inside the program believe he could beat Lamar Jackson in a footrace. Wasn’t tested a lot when he did play last season, but he cut way back on big plays allowed — almost never lets receivers get behind him and has outstanding makeup speed if they do. Didn’t allow a pass more than 20 yards downfield in 2017.
Returned for final three games of the season after missing extensive time with sprained knee and broken hand and played very well down the stretch. Tough and competitive. Not the strongest player but plays with an edge. Heady player. Eyes are always up, and he seems to read formations, routes and quarterbacks’ eyes very well. Good football IQ — understands passing-game concepts and will start moving to make a play before others do. Breaks on the ball quickly and times his contact up well.
Catches the ball cleanly — former prep receiver who has big hands for the position. Wants and attacks the ball. Picked Deshaun Watson twice in 2016, once in the end zone (on a ball thrown behind his receiver) and the second one in the fourth quarter of a tight game. Watch here as Alexander — at the top of your screen — sniffs out the fade route (film-study play?), runs the route better than WR Deon Cain, positions his body beautifully and picks off the pass like he’s the intended receiver on the play:
Also stripped Clemson TE Jordan Leggett after a catch in the red zone in that game — comes in like a thief to knock balls away late with active hands. Fearless, feisty player and noted trash talker. Feels he can get into the heads of receivers and use that against them.
Certainly looked to be in the head of Syracuse WR Steve Ishmael, who caught 105 passes in 12 games last season. Alexander had just returned from injuries the game prior and yet he made an acrobatic INT earlier in the game and helped hold Ishmael (who had 26-288-2 receiving in the two previous games) to one catch when covering him. Watch here as Alexander hesitates just a bit in coverage but closes fast and helps knock the ball away late:
Dangerous punt returner his first two seasons — took one back for a score against Florida State in 2016 and would have had another TD return in the game had he not cramped up at the end of the 61-yarder.
Downside: Small frame and little growth potential. Passable strength and so-so arm length. Injury history is notable — could always be one of those players who is stuck in the trainer’s room. Sprained knee hurt his 2017 effectiveness when he did play early in the season, and durability questions will hound him.
Will mistime jumps for balls in the air and initiate contact. Forgets to turn around and find the ball at times. Bit of a guesser and gambler who didn’t pay for his mistakes a lot, especially last season. Lets his feistiness get the best of him at times. Watch here in the 2017 opener against Purdue (before he got hurt) Alexander grabbing and pulling the receiver down 6-7 yards downfield in press-man coverage and getting flagged for the holding penalty:
Limited work in the slot, which is where some teams will project him because of size. Had some issues covering in the red zone in 2016. Missed tackles are a concern. Doesn’t have ideal strength to shed blocks and doesn’t expend great effort to try to do so.
Wasn’t asked to return punts much last season and questionable punt-return instincts — might need extra teaching on when best to field the ball, when to fair catch and when to let it go. Suffered knee injury vs. Purdue on blocked field-goal attempt he probably should have let go. Tries to do too much at times. Carried the ball loosely on a few INT returns.
Best-suited destination: We believe Alexander can fit in both zone and man schemes and could be tried inside as a nickel defender because of his skill set. He also could be earmarked for punt-return duty as well, although he could stand to hone that skill a bit. Among the teams that could be a fit for Alexander include the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings.
Quotable: “I’m a dog out there on the field, a savage. You turn on the film, you can see that yourself. I bring a lot of energy. I’m a competitor. I’m a motivator. … I assure [NFL teams] that you’re getting a versatile player, a guy who can lock everything down. Very rare that you see a pass getting caught on me. A pass getting caught on me, it’s almost history in the making.” — Alexander at the NFL scouting combine
Player comp: Janoris Jenkins
Expected draft range: Top 20
50. Oregon RB Royce Freeman
49. South Dakota State TE Dallas Goedert
48. LSU DE-LB Arden Key
47. Ohio State C Billy Price
46. Alabama S Ronnie Harrison
45. Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph
44. Texas A&M S Armani Watts
43. South Carolina TE Hayden Hurst
42. UCF CB Mike Hughes
41. USC RB Ronald Jones II
40. Maryland WR D.J. Moore
39. UTEP OG Will Hernandez
38. Stanford DT Harrison Phillips
37. Ohio State DE Sam Hubbard
36. Stanford S Justin Reid
35. Oregon OT Tyrell Crosby
34. SMU WR Courtland Sutton
33. Penn State TE Mike Gesicki
32. Colorado CB Isaiah Oliver
31. Georgia OL Isaiah Wynn
30. Texas A and M WR Christian Kirk
29. Alabama LB Rashaan Evans
28. Alabama WR Calvin Ridley
27. Michigan DT Maurice Hurst
26. Texas OT Connor Williams
25. Georgia RB Sony Michel
24. LSU RB Derrius Guice
23. Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch
22. Florida DT Taven Bryan
21. Wyoming QB Josh Allen
20. Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey
19. Iowa C-OG James Daniels
18. Alabama DL Da’Ron Payne
17. Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
16. Iowa CB Joshua Jackson