Embed from Getty Images
NAME: Alec Pierce
POSITION: Wide Receiver
WEIGHT: 213 pounds
Super Bowl: Climb The Ranks: Joe Burrow Continues To Ascend
A native of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, Alec Pierce attended Glenbard West High School. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school, where he played football, volleyball, basketball and also ran track. Pierce also comes from a highly athletic family. For example, his father played football at Northwestern. His mother played volleyball there as well. Meanwhile, his brother Justin played college basketball (three seasons at William and Mary, one season at North Carolina).
During his senior high school football season, Pierce recorded 25 receptions, 372 yards and five touchdowns on offense. He also added four interceptions and three sacks on defense. The receiver helped lead Glenbard West to a West Suburban Silver Conference Championship that year. To boot, Pierce earned a few accolades for 2017. This included being tabbed as an Illinois High School Football Coaches Association (IHSFCA) Class 8A selection, as well as receiving first team all-league selection.
247Sports rated Pierce as a three-star recruit. At the same time, that network ranked him as the 24th best player coming out of the state of Illinois. He reportedly received around 20 offers to play college football. Ultimately, Pierce chose Cincinnati over other offers like Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.
In 2018 as a true freshman, Pierce appeared in 11 games. He was mainly a special teams ace. The Cincinnati product recorded six tackles there. In 2019, Pierce saw a major increase in opportunities on offense. He appeared in 14 games, starting 13 of them. Pierce finished at or near the top of the Bearcats leaderboard in many receiving categories. His 652 receiving yards and 17.6 yards per reception both led the team. Moreover, Pierce was second on the team in receptions (37). He also added two touchdowns that season.
The COVID pandemic already had a grasp on the 2020 season. However, Pierce also suffered his own limitations that year. He only appeared in six games, due to injury. The Bearcat receiver was still able to produce 17 receptions, 315 yards and three touchdowns. Furthermore, his 18.5 yards per reception figure led the team once again.
Before the 2021 season even began, Pierce had joined new rarefied air. He was named to The Athletic’s prestigious annual “Freaks” List by Bruce Feldman, highlighting the exceptional athleticism of Pierce. It was a year in which the receiver reached new heights. For instance, he set new single season career highs in receptions (52), receiving yards (867) and receiving touchdowns (eight). Pierce also earned second team All-AAC honors for the first time.
From a team perspective, Cincinnati also reached new heights across the college football landscape. Cincinnati won their conference title game at home against Houston to move their record to 13-0. The Bearcats also secured two early season road victories in back to back weeks over Indiana and Notre Dame. This helped their case in what would lead to Cincinnati becoming the first Group of Five school to make the current iteration of the College Football Playoff. Cincinnati lost to Alabama in the semifinals 27-6, ending their season. Afterwards, Pierce went down to Mobile, Alabama and showcased his talents at the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Instead of listing positives and negatives for traits, this year we will be listing the best trait of each prospect and work our way down to the biggest area of improvement/absent trait(s), from top to bottom.
It did not take long to realize how much money Pierce makes in this area, so to speak. He is able to get around opposing defensive backs fairly easily. Pierce has also steadily improved when fighting through contact. For example, the way in which he alternates between using strength and speed when fighting through press coverage leaves defensive backs in panic or scramble mode.
A stuttered release is what he wins with most of the time. On top of that, Pierce does a good job of taking advantage of any leverage points that a defensive back affords him. And he picks up on it quickly. Pierce is highly deceptive and smooth when coming off of the line of scrimmage. Yet, he does not waste too much time with wasted movements at the snap or at the beginning of the play, however.
There is a solid mix of patience and efficiency when it comes to Pierce’s ability to time and attack the ball at the catch point. Elsewhere, he can make some of the more difficult catches look rather easy. This is due to a couple of reasons. First, Pierce adjusts and contorts his body very eloquently for a longer receiver.
He is also extremely unfazed by traffic or with opponents’ hands dangling all over him, when it comes to making tough catches in tight spaces. Finally, Pierce is advantageous in contested catch situations. This is because of his ability to highpoint the ball in a dominant, yet controlled demeanor.
The way in which Pierce uses his hands is extremely subtle. For instance, he is not too eager to extend his arms before it becomes necessary. Pierce remains stoic until the ball gets closer to his frame. Defenders have a more difficult time reading him, as a result.
Just before securing the catch, Pierce noticeably positions his body to where the ball becomes centered, closer to the middle of his frame. He then makes sure to keep the ball out of harm’s way when it is secured. Overall, Pierce possesses soft, natural hands. Teams will quickly realize that he won’t be overzealous or consistently out of control in this area.
Pierce routinely plays the game with a tenacious style and is strictly a high effort player. There are little nuances that the wide receiver uses in his game that may look simple. However, he is able to surprise and best opposing defensive backs with them time after time.
Pierce will sell breaks or double moves on routes in an extremely fierce way. On the other hand, he finds the soft spots or windows in pass coverage much more urgently now than he did at the beginning of his Cincinnati tenure. Pierce also serves as an effective blocker. He is quick to turn and move the defender north once the ball is in another playmaker’s hands.
Going back to a word we used in the release package category, Pierce is highly deceptive. This shows up more often with how directly he eats up an opponent’s cushion in coverage. His breaks are sharp. But, Pierce is still able to decelerate and stop on a dime in between zones. That already keeps an opposing defensive back off balance or on their heels. Pierce is routinely able to turn and find the football quickly though, sometimes before an opponent can even pick it up themselves.
Pierce is a clean mover when it comes to breaks within the route. Moreover, he sells moves with his eyes and feet descriptively. This allows him to create extra space to work with. During those moments, Pierce pushes hard when going vertically up the field. Do not discount his ability to transition fluidly while moving laterally, however.
Even with all of that, there is still some technical refinement that Pierce may need at the NFL level during his routes. Finishing routes fully can occasionally be hit or miss. Lastly, Pierce has moments where he is jagged or rounded at the top of the route.
Pierce does almost everything at 100 miles per hour. Nevertheless, he is still able to maintain solid body control. This is true for running routes, blocking, or even with attacking passes at the catch point.
He is able to find a second gear more instantly than some may expect. That can sometimes catch opponents off guard. Obviously, Pierce will not be known as a speed demon. He will still surprise with how rapidly he is able to cover ample ground in space.
Pierce won at Cincinnati both out wide and as a big slot. It was impressive to see him handle multiple tasks within the intermediate passing game. This includes possibly widening throwing lanes for his quarterback, or expanding his own cushion. Afterwards, it allows Pierce more chances to get on top of or behind the defensive back in the deep passing game.
Run After Catch Ability
It is not that he is unable to create ample yards after securing the catch. Though, we just never saw him do his damage by making people miss or by racing by everyone. Part of that could also be due to how Cincinnati used Pierce.
Overall, he made many catches in between defenders, in contested catch situations, or even on occasional designed, quick touches. How does Pierce create extra yards after the catch? Generally, he will work to overpower or attack an opponent with strength, in order to get around them.
Due to recent history, the Kansas City Chiefs would likely gravitate towards a skillset like that of Alec Pierce. He is not complete, in terms of technical refinement. Pierce will likely not need extra time to develop further though, compared to other recent Chiefs draft picks at the position. Simply put, there are plenty of items to work with early on, given the package that Pierce provides.
He can win at the line of scrimmage with suddenness and urgency. This allows him to gain separation early on in the rep. On the flip side, Pierce is proven to be comfortable in tight spaces when needing to make difficult catches. Sure, he has the quickness. That ability to win with strength and size in the intermediate to deep passing game could allow the Chiefs offense to grow farther and deeper, however. Adding that layer to the aerial attack after an up and down 2021 would likely help Patrick Mahomes regain more comfortability.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs draft prospect profiles throughout this winter and spring. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.
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