One thing that stands out about the Green Bay Packers’ comments about the team’s first-round draft pick, cornerback Jaire Alexander, is his speed.
Jon-Eric Sullivan, the Packers’ director of college scouting, spoke to the media about the selection of Alexander on Thursday evening and sounded very excited about the new Packer. “Very few corners, when the ball’s in the air, you can feel them close space,” Sullivan said. “The kid can run, and on top of that, he’s quick. He can change direction.”
One of the first things that pops about Alexander when researching him are his results from the 2018 NFL Combine. His 4.37-second 40-yard dash was among the top five cornerbacks in Indianapolis, and he was one of only two who ran the shuttle run in less than four seconds (3.98). Clearly, he was back to full strength in Indy after suffering a knee injury early in the 2017 season.
Combined with Alexander’s speed is an edgy attitude on the field that the Packers like from their cornerbacks. “He’s aggressive...he’s scrappy,” Sullivan said. “Is he as tall as some others, he’s not, but when you watch the tape he doesn’t play like a little guy.” His height will be dissected for some time, however, as Brian Gutekunst broke the mold with the 5-foot-10 1⁄4 corner. He came in 3/8-inch short of the team’s typical cutoff, so they clearly see something special about him.
One of those qualities is his return ability as well. Alexander was a very good punt returner at Louisville, a trait that the Packers seem to be excited about: “He’s a playmaker when he gets his hands on the ball, that’s a different element that he brings,” Sullivan said. Although Trevor Davis was the Packers’ punt returner a year ago, it’s not hard to imagine a competition setting up in training camp. “Trevor did a nice job for us last year. (Jaire) will have to come in and compete.”
Again, it comes back to speed for Alexander, however, and Sullivan compares him to a recent Packer in terms of that quality. “Sam Shields could run ... I would say Sam comes to mind. When you’re talking about sheer speed. They’re in the same category.”
As for Alexander’s role on defense, it’s clear that the Packers see him as a cornerback who is able to play multiple roles. Sullivan said multiple times that he can play both outside and in the slot. One of the reasons for that is his quick hips: “When he’s up close to the line of scrimmage, he knows he can run, he’s got quick hands ... he’s a guy that can stay square on guys at the line of scrimmage and he can flip and run with guys.”
Although the Packers did move back quite a ways in round one and then back up to get him, it seems that he was one of the players they liked for some time. Stay tuned on Friday night to see what the Packers end up doing with pick number 45.