When analyzing cornerbacks, one must pay attention to certain attributes in order to determine strengths, weaknesses, and the player’s predicted likelihood to succeed in their matchups at the next level. These attributes include, but are not limited to, physicality, patience, hip fluidity, burst, and awareness. There are countless other terms used to identify traits and explain them in scout jargon, but what truly makes Jaire Alexander so effective is his “twitch” ability.
What does that mean exactly? In the world of scouting, analysts typically describe athletes as twitchy when they’re referring to the player’s ability to react explosively and quickly. This a positive term; possessing a quick twitch allows defensive backs to easily undercut routes, disrupt run plays before blockers get set, and compete for the interception. Combine that with stellar footwork and/or natural cover skills and that’s a recipe for a complete corner. Cue Alexander.
Obviously, Alexander has other factors that make him one of the 2018’s top prospects at his position. The Louisville product performed exceptionally well at the NFL Combine in March, blazing through the forty-yard dash with a time of 4.38 seconds. He famously held Mike Williams (#7 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft) to zero catches against the wide receiver in a career game versus Clemson, while recording two interceptions and a forced fumble in the process. By the end of his sophomore year, Alexander had only allowed a 17.7 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks, clear proof of his shutdown capability.
Diving into his technique, Alexander utilizes his speed to his advantage, which allows him to run with the WR and recover quickly. He has well-rounded footwork and hardly allows himself to get dusted. While others at his position shrink from it, Alexander excels in isolation and is sticky in coverage. He’s no doubt the best man-cover corner in his class. Alexander is also very studious in the film room, which most likely contributes to his stellar situational awareness and competence to recognize offensive formations. His role as a competitive and vocal leader of the defense should have impressed teams in private interviews.
However, the greats always have one trait that separates them from the rest of the crowd. The league’s top cornerbacks (Jalen Ramsey, Richard Sherman, and Patrick Peterson as examples) all have their respective strengths. What makes Alexander unique is he blends his twitchy playmaking ability with reactionary instincts and an uncanny knack of reading the quarterback.
Does this remind you of anyone currently in the league? That player would be Giants’ stud Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins who possesses the same man-cover traits and explosiveness when he entered the NFL Draft back in 2012. His fluidity and intelligence (strengths of Alexander) were also factors that went into the Rams choosing to select him at no. 39 overall. His equally twitchy playstyle is no doubt an accurate reflection of his marquee nickname. Alexander, if he transitions well to playing pro-level ball, has a chance to become a clone of Jenkins and the next Jackrabbit, except only bigger, faster, and more versatile.
Alexander is a walking formula to be the league’s next big thing. He’s the no. 2 overall graded cornerback in my draft rankings and might have been no. 1 (yes, ahead of Denzel Ward) had a slew of injuries not cut his junior season to just three games. Alexander dealt with stingy knee and hand issues for pretty much all of 2017, causing questions and concerns about his durability to still remain days before the draft. His tackling could be cleaned up a bit and he easily bites on double-moves, leading him to latch onto his target to recover.
While there is uncertainty about Alexander’s ability to stay healthy, the talent is undeniable. Do you agree with my comparison? Tell me what you think on Twitter at @Snack_TimeFS or drop a comment on this article down below.
To view my rankings for this year’s defensive back class, click here. To view my take on the ongoing debate over whether Minkah Fitzpatrick or Derwin James is the top safety prospect, click here. To view my interview with Colorado safety Afolabi Laguda on his personal draft process and the Buffaloes’ defensive back program, click here. To view my case for Mike Hughes and DeShon Elliott, click here.
Cole Topham is the lead editor for snacktimefantasy.com and covers the MLB and NFL. He enjoys watching his opponents suffer as he defeats them week after week in his fantasy football/baseball leagues.