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)

Previous Player Profiles
Hunter HenryEli AppleLaquon TreadwellDadi NicolasKendall Fuller
Deion JonesJihad WardKevin PetersonVonn BellMichael Caputo
Andrew Billings

  • CP72

    He kind of reminds me of Desmond Trufant. That’s a compliment by the way. I like his fluidity. He moves easy. I think that’s a very underrated trait for a corner.

    He is a little undersized, but that doesn’t seem to bother the Steelers much. I will be interested to see what he runs. If you’re on the small side you better be quick.

  • falconsaftey43

    Not sure 5’11” 195 is “undersized” prototype is what? 6’0″ 200 lbs? I guess it is possible he measures in smaller, but if he really is 5’11”, then he’s plenty big. Arm length is more of a priority anyway. I like him, he moves really well and is physical. He needs to learn a lot of technique, but he can play right away as a press-man corner while he learns. If you take him in the first or second depends on whether your are confident he can learn zone well, and if you are willing to wait for it, because physically this guy has it all.

  • Phil Rippke

    He’s taller than all but two of our current CBs (Cockrell and Allen)!

  • PittsburghSports

    Yeah I don’t know about this guy, or any CB for that matter. I like Harlan Miller and that’s about it lol.

  • Big White

    He’s a gritty guy. Got a chance to watch him in depth down here in ACC land. I’ve heard personnel folks consider him a nickel back which brings up the conversation of Senquez. I am very high on Darryl Worley out of West Virginia and the Steelers could get him much later based on some projections.

  • Josh Carney

    It’s undersized for me, considering today’s NFL is transitioning towards bigger CBs.

  • WreckIess

    I like him. Not my 1st choice, but I wouldn’t be overly upset with the selection. When are you going to breakdown his teammate Shaq Lawson? I’m interested to see how you view him.

  • PaeperCup

    One of my favorite prospects. I know people get scared when they see he hasn’t had a pick his whole collegiate career, but also note that this is a guy that only allowed something like 13 catches all year and no TDs. I think he’s not allowed a TD for almost two years if I’m not mistaken. Shut Down corner, with stone hands…Ike Taylor anyone?

  • Josh Carney

    Patience. A long time until the draft. Myself, Luc, Dave or Alex will probably have him in the next few weeks. Haha

  • Josh Carney

    I wouldn’t call him Ike Taylor. A large portion of the throws his way were either poorly underthrown, dropped or pretty much thrown out of bounds into the first row of the stands. Believe QB ratings when thrown at him were the lowest in the country, per PFF. A lot of that wasn’t because of Alexander. Good prospect, but vastly overrated IMO.

  • PaeperCup

    that seems a bit coincidental. The only reason he hasn’t allowed a TD in over 20 games and only a handful of catches is because the other teams QB made off throws? Overrated, perhaps…but the guy was rarely if ever burnt. Say what you want about his physicality, size, instincts even but he didn’t seem to make many mistakes

  • Josh Carney

    I could show you a handful of plays where he was beat deep and the QB threw it out of bounds or had no touch on it and just launched it 5-10 yards past receiver. Happened in UNC game multiple times. Doesn’t make a ton of mistakes though. Just think he’s getting overhyped as a top 10-15 pick.

  • PaeperCup

    Oh yeah, I don’t see him as a top 15 pick. Got no flash. He doesn’t pop, which is actually why I think he’ll fall under the radar and turn out to be a solid CB. Very god chance he’s there at 25, I don’t know if I’d want him at 25 with the other needs we have. I did see one mock that had him going in the 2nd. I’d be all over that.

  • jconeoone C

    You wouldn’t take him with the first 32 picks? I would take him just for his game study and willingness to be great……….All of those QB “miss throws” you say are just coincidental? Maybe he throws the receivers off their routes and throws off their timing? A season of football and QB’s completed slightly less than 35% (iirc) and your saying it’s all bc of QB’s missing open receivers?……MAC must be the luckiest dude in the nation.

  • Biggie

    I like his support in run game but I see him strictly as a nickle/inside guy and with Golson and Gay (if resigned and he should be) we already have that covered, we need a guy, or two, who can play outside as solid cover guys.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I really like this kid! If we were in the business of drafting CBs in the first round this would be our pick, but I don’t see us drafting a CB until 2nd or 3rd. Maybe just maybe he could fall to the second and we trade up!?! Nah! I can dream tho!

  • Birdman

    Just because they haven’t taken a CB in round 1 in a long time doesn’t mean they won’t. They tried to trade up to draft Trae Waynes last year, and Justin Gilbert the year before. If they believe Alexander is worth #25 they’ll take him.

  • PaeperCup

    Dodged a bullet there with Gilbert

  • Douglas Andrews

    If we’re just looking at those numbers 5″11 195 on paper it does look small but what you have to take into consideration is his body type. It’s just my opinion but his frame is muscular and from watching him play he’s pretty physical. He’s got a few short comings as the article pointed out but if he’s selected with the 25th pick i’d say that’s a huge upgrade for our secondary.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I know! I believe if Peters was there when we picked last yr he would be a Steeler and Fuller the yr before that! I wouldn’t be surprised we do take him, but it depends who’s there to take and what we did in free agency.

  • LucasY59

    He seems like a traditional Steeler CB so there is definitely a chance they take him in the 1st, BPA is going to be hard to figure until the Draft happens, there is a real good chance someone falls to the 25th pick (that the team wasnt expecting to be available) and that guy is BPA, Alexander is a guy you can confidently mark as a possibility for the 1st pick (If a talented guy doesnt fall to them)

    He should be available, and has the Phyisical Skills, Talent, and Value at the pick (and he helps a position of need) he could be the guy that makes them pick a CB in the 1st (after passing on that postion early for such a long time) Apple and Fuller are two other guys that could definitely be considered as well (Alexander seems to be less of a reach) I am also interested in Maurice Canady from Virginia, He seems to have all the desired measurables, but I have not seen much on him so will have to dig deeper (right now is a guy I think they Target if they go with a different position in the 1st, guessing he will be available at the 2nd or maybe 3rd pick?)

  • Ike Evans

    Yea….i dont see it either….nothing to do with his size but i agree with all your other points….i dont get why ppl have he snd eli Apple rated so high

  • PaeperCup

    interestingly enough, what I like about the kid is what we don’t see. We don’t see him getting burned. We don’t see him allowing TDs. We barely see him allowing catches. 0TDs in the last 20+ games, I read somewhere that he only allowed 13 catches all season. He doesn’t have many passes defended, and zero INTs…but it seems as if he plays well enough football that QBs don’t often want to throw his way. Hard to analyze that and put a draft value on it, but to me there’s something there.

  • Gerald Brown

    I don’t get why you’re not a fan of this guy….”Physical, good hips, good athlete in space who has light quick feet and has above average ability to stick in coverage.” Sounds like half the battle to me. Also don’t think 5’11 195 counts as an undersize corner, even in today’s game. I swear the legion of boom has made people forget that a lot of the top corners in the league are 5’10 – 5’11 190 – 200 lbs…I would agree that the lack of INTs and pass breakups is concerning, but that has a lot to do with QBs not throwing to his side. The man allowed just a 29.6% completion rate and no touchdowns. I’ll take that all day.