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Vikings draft prospect microscope: Louisville CB Jaire Alexander

By Matthew Coller

As we lead up to the NFL Draft here at 1500ESPN, we will take a closer look at the prospects who could end up as Minnesota Vikings. For this edition, we focus on Louisville corner Jaire Alexander…

Why the Vikings could draft Jaire Alexander:

Vikings fans might not be thrilled of they selected a cornerback in the first round, but there are a couple factors at play that could make Alexander a good pick. For starters, Alexander projects as a nickel corner. The value of nickel corners is ever increasing in a league where nickel package defense is used on 70 percent of plays. Also, Trae Waynes’ future is unclear. The Vikings will likely pick up his fifth-year option, but beyond 2019 he may decide to hit the market. Plus Mackensie Alexander hasn’t developed into the nickel corner the Vikings were looking for.

Jaire Alexander has terrific athleticism and put together a terrific career at Louisville. He could be the next Mike Zimmer project.

What draft experts are saying:

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein has the Vikings taking Alexander in his most recent mock draft. He wrote:

“Alexander would give the Vikings a game-ready nickel cornerback with the foot quickness and speed to match up with inside or outside receivers.”

NFL.com draft profile:

“Twitchy and quick, Alexander is an instinctive cornerback with the ability to anticipate routes and the quickness to close on throws and make plays on the ball. He tape in 2017 was uneven due to issues with a sprained knee which could raise concerns over his durability considering his slender build. When healthy, he has the potential to become a second cornerback, but teams may view him as a full time nickel cornerback who is able to avoid the rigors of excessive run support.”

Mel Kiper has him 20th on his big board. Kiper wrote:

“This cornerback class was jumbled at the top, and that’s why the combine was so important. This is the position where 40 times matter most — corners are often in dead sprints throughout games. Speed matters. Alexander has that — he ran a 4.38 40. And his testing in the broad jump, three-cone and 20-yard shuttle ranked near the top of his class. Alexander played only six games in 2017 because of injuries, but he starred in 2016, picking off five passes. He’s also a great punt returner. At 5-foot-10, 196 pounds, Alexander is small, no doubt. But as teams are more regularly playing the nickel, that’s not a big deal. Every team needs three competent corners, and versatility is important. That’s why Alexander is rising into the discussion to be a Day 1 pick.”

Pro Football Focus:

“Has the athletic measurables teams will want, and looks to have the skills to play inside or out at the next level. Frame and injury history may give some teams pause for concern, but the ceiling is high.”

What the numbers say:

Throws in Alexander’s direction: 95 targets over three years

Results: 43 catches (45.3% completion percentage) seven touchdowns, seven interceptions, 54.3 quarterback rating

Last year Alexander missed time due to a knee injury, but in 19 throws his way, he either intercepted or broke up six of those passes while only allowing five catches.

Here’s how PFF graded him in each area:

His size could be an issue with run defense and tackling. Every other area is very impressive.

Here are his Combine percentiles via Mockdraftable:

As Kiper wrote, Alexander’s stock jumped when he performed exceptionally well in key areas. Per Mockdraftable, his measurables compared most to Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore.

Bottom line:

Few would consider cornerback a top need for the Vikings, but they might have an opportunity to select a player who could fit into Zimmer’s nickel defense next season and potentially become an outside corner in several years. With uncertainty around Waynes’ future in Minnesota and Mackensie Alexander’s growth, Jaire Alexander becomes an interesting prospect for the Vikings. And since shutting down the pass is the No. 1 priority of top NFL defenses, it’s rarely a bad idea to invest in corners.

Watch Jaire Alexander:

The post Vikings draft prospect microscope: Louisville CB Jaire Alexander appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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