FIRST ROUND

Packer Plus - - News - Ryan Wood

Pack­ers make deals and then grab Jaire Alexan­der

Green Bay — With a lit­tle shuf­fle through the first round, Green Bay Pack­ers gen­eral man­ager Brian Gutekunst opened his ten­ure se­lect­ing Louisville cor­ner­back Jaire Alexan­der.

The Pack­ers drafted Alexan­der with the 18th pick fol­low­ing their sec­ond trade in Thurs­day night’s open­ing round.

Ini­tially set to draft No. 14, the Pack­ers swapped with the Saints for their pick at No. 27 and also ac­quired New Or­leans’ fifth-round pick (147) and a 2019 first-rounder.

The Pack­ers then traded up from No. 27 to pick Alexan­der, also ac­quir­ing the No. 248 pick (sev­enth round) from the Seahawks. Seattle re­ceived pick Nos. 27, 76 (third round) and 186 (sixth).

In Alexan­der, the Pack­ers de­vi­ated from a long-held Ron Wolf scout­ing prin­ci­ple. Since the Pack­ers drafted Ter­rell Buck­ley fifth over­all in 1992, they have long held a min­i­mum height re­quire­ment of 5-101⁄ for cor­ner­backs. Jon Eric-Sul­li­van, the Pack­ers col­lege scout­ing di­rec­tor, said the team de­cided Alexan­der’s height of 5-10 wouldn’t be a detri­ment.

“I’m a big be­liever in heart over height,” Alexan­der said. “If you look back at the film, I only gave up five passes, and I played against big­ger re­ceivers who were 6-5. It doesn’t re­ally mat­ter.

“My men­tal­ity is I’m go­ing to beat the man in front of me, and that’s just part of be­ing a stu­dent of the game. I don’t pay at­ten­tion to size or any­thing like that.”

What Alexan­der might lack in height, he com­pen­sates with blaz­ing speed. Alexan­der ran a 4.38-sec­ond 40 at the NFL scout­ing com­bine, sev­enth fastest among de­fen­sive backs. By the stop­watch, Alexan­der would be the fastest player on the Pack­ers ros­ter.

Eric-Sul­li­van said Alexan­der’s speed re­minded him of for­mer Pack­ers corner Sam Shields, the last true No. 1 cover man they’ve had.

“Very few corners, when they play the game when the ball’s in the air, can you feel them close space. He’s one,” Eric-Sul­li­van said. “When you watch him play, you can feel him close space when the ball’s in the air, both play­ing for­ward and back­ward. The kid can run. On top of that, he’s quick and he can change di­rec­tions and do those things.

“We’re just ex­cited about the skill set as a whole. We think he has the make up to be a high-cal­iber player.”

Alexan­der was re­cruited to Louisville as a re­ceiver. He quickly crossed over to de­fense, where he played 12 games as a fresh­man in 2015.

As a sopho­more, Alexan­der flashed his ball skills with five in­ter­cep­tions. He tied for sec­ond in the ACC that sea­son.

“I pretty much can play wher­ever,” Alexan­der said. “Wher­ever best fits. In my opin­ion, I feel com­fort­able at corner and in the slot.”

Alexan­der played only six games last sea­son, miss­ing more than half the sea­son with in­juries. He had a bone bruise on a knee in Louisville’s opener against Purdue and missed the next four games. Alexan­der re­turned in Oc­to­ber but suf- fered a hand in­jury two weeks later and only played three games af­ter that.

Eric-Sul­li­van said he doesn’t ex­pect Alexan­der’s in­jury his­tory to linger into the NFL.

“He was nicked up,” Eric-Sul­li­van said. “That hap­pens. ... We feel good about him, dura­bil­ity over­all. He did miss some time this year, but we thought that given the process this spring and watched his work­out in In­di­anapo­lis, the guy was back to 100 per­cent, and we feel re­ally good about him.”

The Pack­ers no doubt were pleased to get a cor­ner­back they tar­geted be­fore the draft while pick­ing up a first-round pick for next year, but Gutekunst’s de­ci­sion will be closely mon­i­tored.

Be­fore their ini­tial trade, it ap­peared the Pack­ers have an un­ex­pected shot at a top-tier de­fen­sive prospect. Still avail­able were Vir­ginia Tech line­backer Tre­maine Ed­munds and Florida State de­fen­sive back Der­win James, a pair of pre­mium prospects.

The Pack­ers had eval­u­ated Ed­munds and James ex­ten­sively through the pre­draft process. They in­vited both for pri­vate work­outs in Green Bay and had for­mal in­ter­views at the NFL scout­ing com­bine. One NFL scout was adamant this week that of all the play­ers in the draft, the 6-41⁄ 2, 253-pound Ed­munds would be most ideal for the Pack­ers.

The Buf­falo Bills traded up in the first round to select Ed­munds with the 16th pick. James was drafted one pick later, No. 17 by the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers.

Alexan­der, the sec­ond pure cor­ner­back drafted, wasn’t con­sid­ered in the top tier of prospects by most draft an­a­lysts, but he no doubt has im­pres­sive mea­sur­ables.

“Small but fast,” one source fa­mil­iar with the 2018 cor­ner­back class said of Alexan­der. “Great re­turner.”

That the Pack­ers traded back in the first round wasn’t en­tirely sur­pris­ing. One NFL source said the Pack­ers ran through mul­ti­ple sce­nar­ios with the 14th pick in the weeks lead­ing up to the draft, and one was mov­ing down to the late first round.

Four quar­ter­backs were drafted in the top 10, the first time since the 1970 merger that had hap­pened. When the San Fran­cisco 49ers drafted of­fen­sive tackle Mike McGlinchey at No. 9, it was ap­par­ent the Pack­ers would get a chance to select one of the six unan­i­mous top de­fen­sive prospects in the draft.

In­stead, Gutekunst stayed pa­tient, col­lected re­sources and drafted a player the Pack­ers de­sired through­out the pre­draft process.

“Jaire is a guy that we tar­geted all along,” Eric-Sul­li­van said. “We liked him from the out­set. He’s a good foot­ball player.

“He’s just a guy we thought brought a lot to the ta­ble as a player and a per­son. So we took him.”

GETTY IMAGES

The Pack­ers moved down and then back up in the first round to select Louisville cor­ner­back Jaire Alexan­der. Alexan­der runs a 4.38 40-yard dash, but his height could be an is­sue in cov­er­age against taller re­ceivers.

JAMIE RHODES / USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Jaire Alexan­der played only six games last sea­son, miss­ing more than half the sea­son with in­juries.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.