Jaire Alexander burst onto the scene with his strong sophomore campaign in 2016. In that season Alexander intercepted five passes, forced a fumble and was named second-team All-ACC, sparking some 2017 hype. Unfortunately early in his season injuries struck. Alexander wound up playing in just six games throughout the year and finished with just one interception. Do the injury issues affect his draft stock, and could he be a gamble worth taking if he drops to the Pittsburgh Steelers?
Alexander is a great athlete who can move with anyone. He has sharp feet to glide with receivers down the field and has the athleticism to break on passes and make plays on the football. This really showed in his 2016 season. In the play below, a pass just a touch behind from DeShaun Watson becomes an easy interception for Jaire Alexander. Mike Williams had a step, but Alexander broke hard and erased that quickly, hauling in an interception. This is NFL competition he was facing.
Alexander also has great speed, which adds to his burst and ability to close. He also has been used as a punt returner for Louisville.
The drop off in play from 2016 to 2017 will definitely have to be kept in mind. Alexander played through some injuries in prior years, so whether he cannot get back to the same level, or whether or not these are longer-term questions will have to be addressed.
Aside from that Alexander can get caught grabby at times. There are situations where he is caught looking in the backfield and will give up a step deep or will settle for holding. Alexander is a very willing tackler, but it is not quite a strength of his game. While he likes to press, his size may not be ideal for his type of physicality in the NFL.
Adam Jones,Cincinnati Bengals
If Alexander is going to maintain his physical style and stick on the outside with his size, he can hit a ceiling like Adam Jones. Jones as a long-term starter with speed, footwork, and athleticism. He is a bit undersized but uses his surpassingly efficient physicality to impact routes.
Without considering any of the off of the field issues of Jones, Alexander has no background, as far as I know, the two do have a similar demeanor on the field. Alexander plays with that swagger and can be found chirping to let receivers know that they did not catch the ball. On top of that, Jones and Alexander bring that punt return value that has to be accounted for when considering drafting.
A fit for Pittsburgh Steelers
Given the signing of Joe Haden last season, and the emergence of Mike Hilton in the slot, it is safe to say that cornerback is not the pressing issue of the first round for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Still, with the unpredictability of the draft, and enough questions in terms of size, production, and health with Jaire Alexander, there is a chance the Steelers face the question of drafting him the second or even the third round.
At what point do the Steelers look at him as the best player on their board? Some may have him as a late first-round talent, some may be thinking he is in that third round range. If the Steelers passed on him in round one for a greater need, they could be intrigued by him being their best player available.
Given his injury issues and some of his flaws, the team would comfortably be able to give him a season behind Joe Haden and let him learn from the former All-Pro with the idea of unseating him in 2019. Haden is another slightly undersized, hyper-athletic outside cornerback who could easily help mold, Alexander.
This would also free up the idea of the team moving Brian Allen or Cameron Sutton to free safety, which has been speculated to happen over this offseason. While Alexander is not a round one fit, if the team is comfortable with him in the second round, he would be a welcome addition.