We are almost a week removed from the close of the 2016 NFL Combine, but we're still learning more about who the San Francisco 49ers visited throughout the week. Walter Football does solid work tracking visits, and they are reporting the 49ers met with Clemson cornerback Mackensie Alexander.
Alexander took part in the bench press at the Combine, but did no other drills due to a hamstring injury. He suffered the injury leading up to the national title game, and then aggravated it in the game. The Clemson Pro Day is set for March 10, which is this coming Thursday, so we'll see where his hamstring is at that point.
Alexander is not a big cornerback, standing 5'10, weighing 190 pounds with 31 3/8" arms. However, what he lacks in size, he more than makes up for in confidence. He spoke with the media during Combine week, and declared himself a lockdown corner who can do a little bit of everything.
Alexander did not have an interception in his career, and only had 11 pass break-ups, but he had a strong two seasons as a starter at Clemson. Teams simply did not target him all that often. According to Pro Football Focus, Alexander allowed 18 catches in 14 games this past season. He gave one reception for zero yards while playing 31 of 72 snaps in the title game before aggravating his hamstring injury.
Jalen Ramsey is the top defensive back in the draft, and Alexander is competing with Vernon Hargreaves III for the next defensive back off the board. Media projections have Hargreaves getting the edge, but it will be interesting to see if Alexander slips much further down.
Here's some of what Alexander had to say at the Combine (full transcript):
On how he answers coaches when they ask about not having any interceptions in college:
How do I answer that? I mean, I had some opportunities to come up with some picks in my career. I didn't come up with them at the end of the day. I'm taking it like a man, you know. But in a lot of situations, where I wasn't challenged very much. A lot of quarterbacks and teams stayed away from me. That was their game plan. That's it, really. That's how I answer that.
On how he would describe his game as far as strengths and weaknesses:
My strengths, I'm a lockdown corner, but I'm able to do a lot of things. As a corner, I can play zone, I can play man. We do a lot on our defense because our safeties and our corners are very multiple. We had a great D line. We had a great overall defense, so we could do things and match any other team and do anything. So I'm able to do a lot for my team.
On how time at Clemson prepared him for the NFL:
It prepared me a lot, you know what I mean? I'm definitely going to have some things I don't know in the league, but my D coordinator put a lot of emphasis in learning the game, know what to do, understand football, understand offenses, formations, personnels, the tendencies - stuff like that. Then I take I upon myself to learn more, because I'm super competitive and I want to be the best. Not just at the game day, every day at practice, no matter what I'm doing. It pushes me to be better. So I'm in after practices. Our staff has a staff meeting after practice every day. I'm in there with them, sitting down with them taking notes. I've got the game plan, nd then I've got the game plan within the game plan. In order to win, you've got to execute and take more time to do things. I thrive on competition. That's what I like to do. I want to be the guy every day, every play.
On where he stacks up in this year's cornerback class:
I'm a competitor, and they're all competitors, but at the end of the day I'm going to say it - and a lot of you guys will say it - I'm the best corner in this draft class. You know what I mean? If you look at stats, my numbers, who I am as a person, who I'm competing against - I went against the best receivers in the country. I went against more of the top receivers than anybody in this draft class, and I'm going step for step. I'm not just moving outside, I'm going inside. I'm playing zone, I'm able to blitz, I'm able to show my versatility, everything.
Bigger wide receivers:
You've just got to know who they are. You've got to know their skillset. If I'm going against Treadwell - which I've studied, I know who he is, I haven't played against him - my game plan, OK, he's a big guy. He knows how to use his body real well. Another guy we have at Clemson, Mike Williams, same personnel. Not very fast, but you know they're going to give you what they've got. They're very aggressive, they're very physical, they snatch the ball in the air. I'm taking what they do best. I'm taking those jump balls away. I'm doing stuff like that. I'm making them catch shorter balls. Their yards come from, we call them YAC yards, which means they get big-time plays. They're averaging 18 to 17 yards per catch. my job is to take those balls away, and make their offensive coordinator change their route plan and go somewhere else with it. That's how you win, you know what I mean? It's the same thing if I'm covering Will Fuller. I know he's the deep, vertical guy. He just ran 4.3. I'm proud of him. You know he's a fast guy, I'm fast too. You know what I mean? I know he's a vertical guy. If I take his vertical game away, I wouldn't say he sucks, but he's not that good. Then you force (Brian) Kelly to make him go in the screen game, which they did against us a lot just to get him touches. Feed him some kind of way. You want your playmakers getting the ball some kind of way. The game is short, and you can only do so much. A guy like me who can understand the game and can break it down to you guys in front of you like this, it shows you my preparation and who I am as a man. This means a lot to me. This ain't just me coming out here and speaking to you guys. I'm 22, but I'm ready, and I'm ready to compete with anybody. There's nobody more dedicated than me, who's put more time and who's more of a competitor than me. I don't care, you can line up a safety. We can break down film, we can break down anything. I'm here prepared, and I'm telling you I'm the best corner in this draft class.
On his confidence:
I mean, this is me. This is me. Imagine me on game day. (On importance of getting into WRs heads on the field) You know, like I said before, my job is not to get in your head, but if I get in your head, then that's on you. My job is to eliminate you, and make you go elsewhere, make you do different stuff. I'm a very patient guy. I don't really, I get the memo that I talk a lot of trash. I don't really talk trash, I speak facts. I just tell you what it is, and what you're not going to do. If you get one, good. I gave you that. You didn't beat me. So stuff like that. I just do my job. If they're frustrated, that's on them.
On which NFL CBs he compares to:
I like Darrelle Revis. I think my game is similar to his game, but then I can also compare my game to Jason Verrett because of his grittiness, his size. He's able to move around. his explosion, his quickness, and stuff like that. So I'm able to match that. Revis is good, but there's stuff in Jason Verrertt's game that Revis just ain't got, you know what I mean? He's more flashier and plays and stuff like that.
On patience as a corner:
I mean, you've just got to practice that. You've got to go in there and practice, understand how a guy's going to beat you. I always go to every game, and after every game I get off the bus - whether it's home or away - and I'm watching film that same night. A lot of times, Coach Swinney will tell you, I don't take showers. I get to it. I know what I've got to do. If I saw something in the game, if a guy caught a ball and he caught a comeback, all right, there's only two things that happen next week. The offensive coordinator is thinking, ‘Wow, the guy, they tried him a couple times, but we only got the comeback on him.' The offensive coordinator is automatically going to think (that). I go back and watch at the formation, and the formations of how they caught that ball. Alabama tried to do the same thing this year in the national championship game. They looked at where I caught that ball. My thought process has been, ‘OK, let me break that down.' I understand I gave that ball up, right? He caught that ball, he never beat me. That's my mindset. He never beat me. I gave that up. Now, if he runs it again, I know I'm going to grab that. From a comeback point, if he runs a comeback, now there's only two things. He's going to run a comeback against that same formation next week coming out of the offensive coordinator, he's planning to put that in the playbook, because it worked. Football is easy. Everybody copies each other. If a run play works, and it worked on us last week, that team will come back and use it again. So we have to prepare as a defense. So as a corner, I've got to prepare too to win against that. So if they run a comeback, now off that they're going to run a comeback and go because they got me last week. Stuff like that, you can help yourself and practice that. Practice that so if it does happen, a lot of times I practice that stuff so when they do that route or something happens, I've prepared my body to understanding how to defend that route.
On any comparison to Chris Harris:
Yeah, good corner. He's a good corner.
On if he can play inside:
Oh, definitely. Definitely. I'm just here to show them not just I can play corner, I can play whatever they want me to play. That's my job to show them I can do that. Not talk about it, it's my job to show them I can do it.