Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said his secondary will be “attacked” with talent via free agency and the NFL Draft. General manager Reggie McKenzie could look to draft a cornerback at No. 14 overall and help bolster a position in need of an upgrade.
It’s difficult to imagine Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves or Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey being available for the Raiders’ slotted pick.
If we use that logic and listen to Mackensie Alexander, the Raiders would still have a shot at the draft’s finest coverage talent. Clemson’s star cornerback didn’t participate in Monday’s defensive back drills at the NFL Scouting Combine – he’s dealing with hamstring issues -- but declaratively stated who should be atop the cornerback rankings.
“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,” Alexander said in a Saturday press conference. “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.”
Recognizing need and perceived availability in the first round, Alexander is the player most often linked to the Raiders in mock drafts.
Alexander is an excellent cover corner, but there’s concern over a few things. He’s listed at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, but could be smaller than that and is certainly under ideal size for NFL cornerbacks. He also didn’t have an interception in his last two seasons, though he isn’t targeted much.
The Raiders have positional needs that could be filled in the first round, safety and linebacker chief among them, but cornerback is a strong possibility at No. 14.
“I think Ramsey and Hargreaves will both be gone, so then you start to talk about Mackensie Alexander, who he's an interesting conversation right now,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said earlier this week in a conference call. “Zero interceptions in two years. You don't see corners get drafted with zero interceptions, let alone in the first round, but he's a talented kid. Eli Apple from Ohio State, would he be worth a pick that high?”
Apple had a pretty good Monday at the NFL Scouting Combine. He finished the 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds. He’s taller than Alexander at 6-foot-1 and 199 pounds. Draft profiles state he’s a physical presence who can cover bigger NFL receivers.
“That's something in the NFL that's really important, to be a physical guy at the line of scrimmage and be able to take receivers off their path,” Apple said. “And that's something I do better than anybody, in my opinion. My press technique is to me better than everybody out there. That's the main thing I do. I'm a physical guy and I get up on receivers and impact that.”