Scouting: Mackensie Alexander – CB, Clemson
Year: RS Sophomore
HT/WT: 5’10.5″/190 lbs
Expected draft position: Early to middle first round
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This week, I scout a new face among the top corners in the upcoming NFL draft. Redshirt sophomore, Mackensie Alexander, declared after the National Championship game. It was a game he ended up with a hamstring injury in, limiting his time to shine on the game’s brightest stage. Had he made it through the game unscathed, maybe Nick Saban is still sitting with four titles instead of five. The Clemson secondary was picked apart without Mackensie on the field. He was a presence in run defense as well.
Alexander was highly touted coming out of high school, passing up offers from Alabama, Ohio State, USC, and Notre Dame to play at Clemson. He played more snaps as a freshman than any other Tiger in history (766). 2015 First-team All-ACC. Bednarik and Thorpe Award watch lists. He was the star of a defense that played for the title, and ranked fifth nationally in pass defense at 166.9 passing YPG. Alexander allowed 18 completions all season, and zero touchdowns. QB’s only completed 32.1 percent of passes thrown in his direction. That is the second lowest rate in the nation. He limited Notre Dame’s star wideout, Will Fuller, to just 37 yards in their meeting. Against Oklahoma’s All-American, Sterling Shepard, he caught zero of three balls thrown his way when Alexander blanketed him during the Orange Bowl. Let’s go to some tape.
This is the ACC title game against North Carolina. On this play, Alexander (#2, at the very bottom of the screen) is playing off-man. He does a great job of keeping up step for step with his receiver streaking downfield. Even with safety help behind him, he doesn’t pass off coverage which he shouldn’t in man anyway. But sometimes players do things that make us scratch our heads. Position here is also important as he keeps the receiver between himself and the sideline. The QB has no where to go.
On a blocked kick against NC State, Alexander shows some talent with the ball in his hands. He reverses field, cuts back, finds holes, sees blocks. Sure he was eventually caught, the play amounted to nothing, but this tells me he’s a threat to make an opponents mistake turn into six points the other way at any time with that vision and athletic ability. I’m not going to compare him to Ed Reed because that’s not fair. But we have seen similar ability, agility with the ball in his hands here before.
The real question, is Alexander fast? Check this out, versus Florida State. Here he is in press man in the nickel against Kermit Whitfield (Parents must be big fans of The Muppets). Whitfield might be one of the fastest players in college football. He was clocked at 4.37 in the 40-yard dash coming out of high school. Have to think he’s at least a few ticks faster as a junior at FSU now. As a freshman you may remember he ran back a kickoff for 100 yards and a score in the BCS title game. He totaled 818 all-purpose yards on just 25 touches. An astounding 32.8 yards per touch. As a sophomore he made the Paul Hornung watch list as the nation’s most versatile player. At 5’8” he doesn’t possess great WR size. No doubt, Whitfield is fast. Alexander from the first step keeps up with him. Fluid hip turn on two breaks. The wheel route is one of the toughest to defend. Alexander is right in his hip pocket. On top of the impressiveness of keeping up with a burner in a track meet, he gets his head around to look for the ball too. A better throw, and we might have gotten to see him actually defend the pass, leaping ability, etc…
- In-game speed
- QBs don’t often throw his way
- Fluid hips
- Understands positioning
- Only Two years of NCAA experience (though 22 years old)
- Communicating (maybe?)
- Injury prone (both hamstrings in his last two games)
Summary: It’s no surprise after watching the tape why Mackensie Alexander appears among the top CBs to enter the NFL Draft after he declared just a few days ago. CBSsports.com listed him number two overall at the position, between the often discussed Vernon Hargreaves (#3, Florida) and Jalen Ramsey (#1, Florida State). The weaknesses I pointed out are a stretch. I bring up communication because there are more than a few times he is making calls, or relaying info to teammates as the ball is snapped, not enough time to process the call or properly adjust. Maybe that’s a problem, maybe it’s not. Maybe recognizing any tendency is a positive. Hamstring injuries can be a red flag, but he wasn’t not going to play in the title game after tweaking his right hammy against Oklahoma two weeks 12 days before. A testament to his toughness, and classiness, as he limped onto the field with a pulled right hammy, post-game to congratulate the winners, the Crimson Tide.
He’s got the speed to keep up with track stars, and I can’t wait to see him run the 40 at the combine. If he blows away Hargreaves and Ramsey, he might jump to the top of the list. He plays outside, nickel, on the line as a rusher. He excels in man and zone, can step up in run defense. Watching the tape on his game against rival South Carolina, and Alabama in his two quarters of action, there was very little going on in his direction. QBs don’t want to test him.
Alexander looked good. The play of him keeping up with FSU’s Whitfield on the wheel route puts him over the top, and in the conversation for the Ravens at pick #6. This guy declaring could be a blessing for the Ravens, with talk that both Hargreaves and Ramsey could be off the board by the time #6 comes up. I can’t see three corners being gone in the first five picks.
Mel Kiper has Alexander going off at pick #21 to the Redskins. Seems low given that CBSsports.com and their gang of experts put him in top ten pick range (#11 on their big board). If he lands somewhere in the middle, Baltimore could certainly trade back a few spots, stockpile more picks, and nab a clear stud of a shutdown corner in Alexander.
Game film courtesy of Draft Breakdown. I will update with more clips should they upload more film on him. Have a feeling they will given how he declared just days ago.
Check out another CB scouting report on Tre’Davious White – LSU
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]