When the top of the cornerback class is mentioned, the names that come up are a select few. Most people you ask will say that Denzel Ward, Josh Jackson, or Mike Hughes are currently their top corner.
However, I offer a bit of an alternative view. None of those guys are the top corner in the 2018 class, because Louisville standout Jaire Alexander is that guy.
Why didn’t we hear about him as much in 2017? Well, for starters, Alexander missed about half of the 2017 campaign with hand and leg injuries. Also, he was on a team where the main attraction was quarterback Lamar Jackson, which is fair. To top it off, Louisville didn’t contend for the playoff like some of the others. But that’s okay, I’m here to tell you there’s plenty of time to join the Jaire Alexander bandwagon.
What He Does Well
When it comes to Alexander, his biggest fans say that you should throw out the 2017 tape. However, all things considered, it really wasn’t too bad, even with Alexander going through injuries. When you go to 2016, you see a true shutdown corner, and yeah, the proof is coming.
When it comes to coverage, Alexander can do it all. He works best when he plays near the line of scrimmage and gets his hands on receivers right away. He is physical enough to drive them off their routes early and disrupt timing between wideouts and quarterbacks. If he plays off, he still sticks right with receivers because of his iQ to recognize routes and his quickness to change direction.
There are many corners who play well in coverage in the short and intermediate area of the field, but lack the deep speed to stay with receivers down the field. Alexander’s 4.38, along with the tape to show, prove that he has that deep speed and can stay with anyone down the field.
Another thing Alexander brings to the table is his physicality and instincts along the line of scrimmage. He is an able and willing tackler, and he is very instinctive in attacking near the line of scrimmage. There are multiple instances on tape where Alexander blows a play up near the line of scrimmage because he sees it coming.
Let’s also not forget about the ball skills and how he plays at the catch point. Alexander’s best displays of ball skills show up in 2016, with one of the big highlights being his two interceptions of DeShaun Watson. One of those came against Mike Williams in coverage. Williams beat him initially, but Alexander had the recovery speed to close the gap and come up with the interception. Other than that game, you see a corner who aggressively attacks the catch point. He is relentless at getting the ball out.
Another thing that I am a big fan of. Alexander is a confident player, and sometimes his talking on the field makes him look arrogant. Richard Sherman plays the same way, and if you can back it up, do it. Even Jalen Ramsey plays this way.
Does He Have A Weakness?
Every prospect has flaws, as I have said before. With Alexander, it’s the aggressiveness. There are several instances of Alexander being too aggressive too early at the catch point, resulting in easy penalty calls. That’s something that Alexander will need to clean up. Another issue is the 5’11” frame that Alexander brings. There are times where bigger receivers will get the best of him. That issue does rear its head. While Alexander is very good in coverage, he does get too aggressive underneath, which results in him having to recover deep.
Where Do You Play Him?
There will be a debate as to where Alexander ends up playing. Most will favor the slot for him because of his size. He will be very good in that area, but why limit such a good talent to the slot. He continually shows he can play on the boundary, so why not both? Someone who can play on the boundary and in the slot is very valuable (I’m looking at Chris Harris and Casey Hayward).
By now, you know Alexander is my top cornerback, so he will receive a round one grade from me. However, not many mocks have him going in the first round. I think Alexander can end up going round one, but right now it seems like round two is more likely. Things can still change, but for now, that’s where he stands.