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Packers draft reaction: Jaire Alexander’s ball skills, athleticism negate size concerns

Jaire Alexander marks a departure from the Packers’ preferences at corner, but his combination of skills and physical gifts make him a compelling prospect.

NFL: NFL Draft Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers entered the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft with a well-documented need at cornerback and addressed it with their first pick, taking Louisville cover man Jaire Alexander. The machinations involved make this result more complicated, however.

Both the rumors of the Green Bay Packers trading up and moving down proved accurate as the first day of the draft unfolded. After dealing down from their original No. 14 pick, they sent the 27th overall pick and a third-rounder to move back up to 18 and land the cornerback they coveted. In the aggregate, Green Bay received a 2019 first-round pick in order to move back four spots and part with a late Day 2 selection. That, combined with the ability to land their likely No. 2 corner in the class, makes the first day of the draft a success on paper. However, passing up on Florida State safety Derwin James -- available when the team originally came on the clock -- could come back to haunt Green Bay.

As for the pick, Alexander marks somewhat of a departure for the Packers. At just a shade over 5-foot-10, the first-round pick falls below the team’s traditional minimum height for a cornerback. However, Green Bay has made exceptions on height and athleticism for players with return ability. Alexander brought back punts for most of his college career, returning one for a score in 2016.

But the real appeal to Alexander lies in his playmaking skills and athleticism. Few defensive backs in the 2018 draft class combine his ability to close on the ball (15 career pass breakups and seven career interceptions) and all-around movement ability (91st percentile for his position by SPARQ). Alexander also has the ability to start on Day 1, a fact that likely convinced Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst to move back up to take him.

Along with the athletic and long Kevin King, the Packers now have a pair of young, gifted cornerbacks to potentially jumpstart the secondary. If Alexander pans out, Gutekunst will have done a more-than-commendable job managing the first day of his first draft as a GM.