Who will the Pittsburgh Steelers take in the first round of the NFL Draft?
With the NFL Draft next week, the Steelers are in the midst of preparing their draft board. Like many teams, the Black & Gold are weighing their options, especially with the first round pick.
The obvious choice at this pick would be an upgrade to the secondary. Weeks ago, I mocked the Steelers taking William Jackson III with their first round pick. Though I still think Jackson could be a Steeler, I went with a different corner this time around, and one the team has should a lot of interest in.
Mackensie Alexander out of Clemson is my choice for this mock draft. The redshirt sophomore became a star in 2015 as the Tigers contended for a National Championshp. A former 5-star recruit, Alexander become a starter in 2014. That season he named honorable mention All-ACC and was a Freshmen All-American. In 2015, Alexander was named All-ACC first team and earned third team All-American status.
What stands out about Alexander is the brashness he plays with. He is not afraid to challenge opposing receivers, trash talking when he gets the better of them. Some might think it’s cockiness, but Alexander has backed up it up, shutting down the best receivers in college.
In the National Championship, the Alabama tight end OJ Howard exploded for a career-high 208 receiving yards. Howard had not even come close to a 100 yard receiving day in 2015. How did this happen? You can thank Alexander. Freshmen All-American Calvin Ridley was put on lock down by Alexander. Ridley caught 6 balls on 14 yards after coming off a 138 yard 2 touchdown game against Michigan State.
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One thing that is misleading about Alexander is his lack of stats in college. While at Clemson, he had 11 pass break ups and 0 picks. Here’s what matters about Alexander, he allowed only 29.6% of passes thrown this way and 0 touchdowns. College quarterbacks would not test him. Alexander may be small, but plays a lot bigger than most guys 5-11 195 lb.
Alexander may need some seasoning before he makes an impact on a defense, possibly a season or two to adjust to the NFL style. Alexander is great from a man coverage standpoint, but is still getting comfortable in zone coverage. His mechanics may also need improving in a new NFL scheme.
Though there are a handful of cornerbacks the Steelers could take a 25, I would be totally fine with the team taking Alexander with this pick. The Black & Gold need a brash young corner in their secondary. Alexander fits that bill perfectly.