The offseason is well into its most quiet period, as free agency and the draft are firmly behind us and OTAs quietly hum along. However, the offseason threw one final curveball this past weekend, as now former Virginia Tech cornerback Adonis Alexander was ruled academically ineligible for the 2018 season. The senior subsequently declared his intention to enter the 2018 NFL Supplemental Draft.
Alexander’s decision to return to Virginia Tech for his senior season came as a surprise to many, as the CB reportedly received a positive grade from the College Advisory Committee. Alexander released a statement shortly after his ineligibility was announced about how he “Decided to return to Virginia Tech to make a run at the National Championship with my brothers.”
At 6-foot-3 and 207 pounds, Alexander has the prototypical size that’s become increasingly sought after in the NFL. Expected to be one of the better cornerbacks in the 2019 NFL Draft, teams will now turn their attention to Alexander in the Supplemental Draft.
One of Alexander’s best traits is his ability to read and react to the football on deep routes. For years in Seattle, Richard Sherman took away deep routes and made plays on the ball more consistently than the receivers targeted on those patterns. At 6-foot-3, Alexander possesses the same ability to maintain inside position and negate a receiver downfield.
Here is a masterclass in defending the deep ball. Alexander is step-for-step downfield with the receiver, takes a quick look back and recognizes the ball is in the air. He then accelerates to negate the space between him and the receiver, turns back around, locates the ball a second time and makes a play on it.
Another terrifically defended deep ball, straight out of the Sherman playbook. Alexander consistently wins downfield with superior positioning, length and the ball skills to make a play when the ball arrives.
With such outstanding size and length, Alexander is best served at the line of scrimmage, where he’s able to immediately get his hands on the receiver and disrupt. Mirroring the receiver’s movements is just as important as the actual contact. Alexander does a good job staying on top of the receiver as he jab steps inside to attempt to get Alexander off him.
The area where Alexander needs the most work is defending in-breaking routes. He’s susceptible to giving up big plays off of slants, crossers or mesh concepts, without the burst to make up the ground he gives up. Getting Alexander to press and win at the line of scrimmage would be a sensible way to negate this flaw, especially with his size.
As frequently as Alexander’s beaten on in-breaking routes, it’s worth pointing out that if he’s able to keep within an arm’s length, he can negate the space with his length and break up passes with consistency.
A lot of Alexander’s flaws could be covered in a system that asks their cornerbacks to jam at the line of scrimmage consistently. He possesses great length and strength, able to re-direct wide receivers path and disrupt plays from the jump.
Alexander moves fluidly when mirroring receivers, but can appear out of control or frantic when doing it. His best role is as a press corner and if he ends up in a defense that molds him into one, his ability both jamming and mirroring will improve considerably, giving him the best chance to succeed. As it is, Alexander is raw in press, but consistently lands his strike and uses his length to stay engaged.
Whether it’s defending the run or coming up against a screen/quick hitter to a receiver, Alexander gets to the ball with good anticipation and burst. He maintains an angle and tackles ball carriers with good physicality and willingness.
In case there were doubts over Alexander’s willingness to play physically or with an edge, here he is burying a receiver who lazily attempts to cut him away from the play.
In 32 career games at Virginia Tech, Alexander recorded seven interceptions and 17 pass breakups, including a single-season high of four picks as a freshman. Alexander’s combination of positioning on intermediate and deep routes, as well as his length, enables him to make plays on the ball consistently. Even when he loses the body position battle, he’s able to negate the space by getting his arms into the receiver’s frame and disrupting the pass.
Overall, Alexander as a prospect is similar to two other high profile cornerbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft, Holton Hill and Tarvarus McFadden, who were viewed as mid-to-late round selections and ultimately went undrafted.
Alexander has the size and physical tools that make him an obvious target for the Seahawks. However, after John Schneider was left frustrated by the lack of selections in this year’s draft and already without next year’s third round pick, it may be difficult to imagine Alexander in Seattle. Anything above a 5th round selection should be too rich and even at a 5th round value, the Seahawks might not be comfortable using the capital necessary to acquire Alexander in July’s supplemental draft.