It has been a great weekend in Indianapolis at the 2016 NFL Combine. We saw the running backs, offensive lineman, special teamers, quarterbacks, tight ends, wide receivers, defensive lineman and linebackers all hit the field Friday through Saturday. Today, the defensive backs will show what they have to offer on the last day of the combine. I come to you with a scouting report on four players, plus a list of name you should look out for.
Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson - 5'11", 195 lbs. *DB01
Strengths: To say the least, Mackensie Alexander is a true lockdown corner. I base the excellence of a CB not by the number of interceptions they have, but by how much the ball is tossed their way. Considering Alexander tracks the most elite receiver on the field, and has zero career INT's, it shows me the more than solid job he's doing. His greatness doesn't show up on the stat sheet, but rather the island he puts these dominant receivers on. His man coverage is some of the best in the business at the collegiate level. He extends his arms out in their entirety, rerouting receivers very smoothly. Alexander looks the part, he is one of the most gifted and natural corners at it right now.
Weakness: His negatives don't include too many facets of his game. One thing he really needs to improve on is being more under control when flying up to make a tackle. At times, Alexander tries to blast the ball carrier rather than just wrapping up and securing the tackle. His zone coverage skills also need brushing up, but it's nothing a DB coach at the next level can't develop.
Draft Projection: 1st
William Jackson III, CB, Houston - 6'2", 195 lbs. *DB27
Strengths: For starters, Jackson has extremely impressive instincts at the cornerback position. He is able to diagnose run or pass easily and then use his athletic ability to plant his foot and make a play on the ball. Jackson stays low in his back pedal, has great change of direction skills and explosion. Jackson also showcases good man coverage mirroring the receiver while staying in his hip pocket. His tracking skills are some of the best I have personally seen. He is almost never caught peeking in the backfield and rarely gets burnt by quicker pass-catchers.
Weaknesses: Jackson's man coverage is phenomenal, but he needs to use his hands more at the line of scrimmage to derail opponents off their routes. He can also help his case a ton by stopping to lunge at the receiver after they make their first move. Moreover, despite showing awesome aggression in the run-game, he needs to clean up his open-field tackling and stay more under control.
Draft Projection: 2nd
Karl Joseph, Safety, West Virginia - 5'10", 195 lbs. *DB30
Strengths: To say the least, Joseph plays with extraordinary heart for being one of the smallest players on the field. The man is a heat seeking missile looking to lay someone out every single down. Joseph showcases excellent form when coming down field to make a tackle (one of the best open field tacklers in the country). He supports the run well in or outside of the box. Joseph can also be utilized in the nickel package, covering the slot receiver man-to-man. Overall, Joseph has tons of experience (4-year starter) playing against elite competition.
Weaknesses: Joseph's limited size is his biggest weakness. While it may not affect his production at the next level due to his desire and physicality, his thin frame may leave him vulnerable to injury. His inability to play in the back-end of the defense is also a negative. Despite being small and looking like he can play some free-safety, the former-Mountaineer often takes bad angles to ball. He is also not the most natural read-and-react to the ball type of player. In the NFL, he looks to be a box-safety more than anything.
Draft Projection: 3rd
Jayron Kearse, Safety, Clemson - 6'4", 210 lbs. *DB31
Strengths: Let's start with obvious, he possesses an outstanding frame, perfect for matching up with monster tight ends. Kearse is so athletically gifted, he has all the tangibles you look for in a safety, and more. He is an absolute ball-hawk in the back end of the defense, so range is no question. The ability to come up and render vicious blows leads you to wonder if he will move forward and play inside the box, much like former first-round selection Deone Bucannon of the Arizona Cardinals.
Weaknesses: Speed is not what Kearse is known for. However, difference-makers like himself find ways to get it done day in and day out. I mentioned the jarring hits he delivers at times, this is also a negative. Considering the athletes in the NFL are much bigger, faster and stronger, hitting an opponent with your shoulder and not expecting them to bounce off of it is absurd to say in pro football.
Draft Projection: 3rd