2016 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander

Mackensie Alexander

As we delve into the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason, our attention has now shifted to the 2016 NFL Draft as it relates to the prospects. From now until the draft takes place, we hope to profile as many draft prospects as we possibly can for you. Most of these player profiles will be centered around prospects the Steelers are likely to have interest in.

Back to the secondary well with Clemson corner Mackensie Alexander.

#2 Mackensie Alexander/CB — Clemson, 5’11”, 195

The Good:

-Quickly diagnoses the play
-Reads receiver well and runs routes for them at times
-Fluid hips, quick feet
-Long strides allow him to cover ground quickly
-Rarely gets turned around off the line in man coverage
-Physical tackler that loves to lay booming hit
-Very strong in man-press coverage where he can mirror opposing receiver off of the line
-Solid one-on-one tackler in the open field
-Gets to top speed quickly when flipping hips to run with receiver
-Light feet allows him to stick with receiver in transition

The Bad:

-Doesn’t have great ball skills for cornerback
-Played a ton of bail technique in college, which could provide a bumpy transition to pros
-Struggles to stay in hip pocket off receiver in off-coverage, can get lost late in routes
-Gives up too much separation at top of stem
-Gets caught diving at ankles of running backs at times
-Punch at line in press is often a tad bit late and doesn’t have much power/authority behind it
-Lacks ideal size for corners at the next level


-Named to Bednarik and Thorpe Award preseason watch lists
-2014 first team Freshman All-American
-Played most snaps ever in school history for a freshman (766)
-First freshman corner to start all 13 games in a season for Tigers
-Redshirted in ’13 after preseason injury
-Was No. 4 overall prospect in country when he chose Clemson
-Went to same high school that produced Edgerrin James
-Will turn 23 this fall

Film Breakdown:

A lot of draftniks have Mackensie Alexander very high on their boards, but I’m just not seeing it with him.

Granted, a majority of that has to do with production, but there are other concerns that I have that could hinder him in the NFL.

Let’s start with his size. At 5’11”, 195 pounds,  Alexander is slightly undersized for a boundary corner in today’s NFL.  That being said, he makes up for his lack of size with plenty of confidence and a high motor that allows him to survive on an island as a corner.

As a member of the Tigers, Alexander was forced to play a ton of bail technique, which could give him major problems early on in the NFL.

Take a look at this clip from the North Carolina game this past season. Obviously Alexander is worried about getting beat over the top here.

At the snap, Alexander flips his hips and gets deep quickly, leaving him vulnerable to the curl route. Fortunately for Alexander, he’s able to change directions quickly, but he compounds the poor play by taking a bad angle to the receiver, allowing some extra yards after the catch.

For a physical cornerback Alexander sometimes tends to get soft when it comes to stopping a player in space. It’s rare, but it is an issue for me when he’s not physical at the point of contact consistently.

Fortunately, the Clemson corner makes up for it here on these next two plays while also displaying his impressive short-yardage closing speed.

The first clip is from the National Championship Game against Alabama. Alexander did have to lead that game early with a leg injury, but early on he was a factor against Calvin Ridley.

Alexander is in a shallow zone coverage here, but following the swing pass to Ridley, Alexander bursts forward and cuts down the shifty Ridley before he can get anything going.

I love the way Alexander is able to plant his back foot into the ground to push off and go. He gets up to top speed quickly to close the ground between him and Ridley and then breaks down to make the sound tackle at the line of scrimmage.

This one against North Carolina State might be better than the play against Alabama, and a ton of it has to do with film study.

Alexander is a smart cornerback who reads his keys well. Against South Carolina, Alexander starts to creep up towards the line before the snap. Once the ball is snapped, Alexander is able to knife through the two blockers to make the play on the bubble-screen receiver behind the line of scrimmage.

Not only does this play show his closing speed, but it also shows how diligent he is in studying film. He knows this play is coming before the offense is even ready to snap the ball.

I was so blown away by this play, and for good reason, but overall I wasn’t blown away or overly impressed by Alexander.

Yes, he’s a good athlete in space who has light, quick feet, fluid hips and an above-average ability to stick in coverage as a press-man cornerback, but there’s not much else there to work with.

Add into the mix the fact that he didn’t intercept a single pass in 27 games is highly concerning. On top of that, Alexander broke up just 10 passes in his career as a member of the Tigers.

Teams didn’t challenge him often, and when they did the throws weren’t always good enough for the receiver to even make a play on the ball.

As of right now I wouldn’t take Alexander in the first 32 picks, but I’m sure there will be a few teams that fall in love with him.

Projection:  Late-1st

Games Watched:  vs. North Carolina State (’15), vs. Florida State (’15), vs. North Carolina (’15), vs. Alabama (’15)

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