Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer opened yesterday’s press conference with a simple question: “You all thought we were going defense, didn’t you?” The Vikings didn’t, selecting Laquon Treadwell in the first round, but Rick Spielman granted Zimmer’s wish on Friday night.
With the 54th-overall pick in the second round, the Vikings drafted Clemson cornerback Mackensie Alexander. The 5’10”, 190-pound redshirt sophomore finished his collegiate career with 52 tackles, four tackles for loss, and 12 pass breakups in 27 total games.
According to Pro Football Focus, Alexander allowed just 33 percent of passes into his coverage to be caught in 2015, which was best among all cornerbacks in the class. On a conference call with Minnesota media earlier tonight, the self-proclaimed “best cornerback in the draft” exuded confidence:
“I was asked to follow the best receivers every week and eliminate them from their game plan every week and win those matchups. I was asked to play inside and play zone. Whatever the Vikings want me to do, I’m ready for it and I’m just going to be open to anything they ask me to do.”
Alexander projects to be a Nickel corner with the Vikings, but he did play multiple positions for the Tigers. That versatility made him an attractive pick for Minnesota in the second round, and Alexander is eager to join a team led by cornerback guru Mike Zimmer.
“You know, Coach Zimmer is familiar with the cornerback position and I’m extremely excited about that,” he said. “I’m really eager to learn from him. I’m very coachable and I’m just excited right now.”
Pro Football Focus praised Alexander for his abilities in man coverage and his aggressiveness against the run, and Dane Brugler of CBS Sports called Alexander a “brash competitor” who plays with swagger. When asked about one of his “knocks” — zero career interceptions — Alexander shrugged off the criticism.
“It’s not on tape, but everyone was at my pro day,” he said. “I had a phenomenal pro day. I caught the ball well. I can catch, I’ve got the ball skills. I can do all of the good things that defensive backs do.” What Alexander doesn’t have in size or production, he more than makes up for with his confidence; he was proud that teams chose not to throw at him last season.
Now, Alexander enters a roster loaded with talent at cornerback. Ahead of him are Xavier Rhodes, Terence Newman, Captain Munnerlyn, and Trae Waynes; starting-caliber players at the top of the depth chart. Regardless, Alexander is looking forward to the competition and wouldn’t necessarily like to sit in 2016.
“I’ve got high expectations,” he said. “I wouldn’t necessarily be cool with it, but they’re bringing me up here to play and to do a job. I’m up for it and I’m going to be tuned-in as possible and sit behind the coaching staff, sit behind Newman, sit behind guys who have played and know what to do and to expect, and just try to make it the best rookie year I can have.”
So where does Alexander’s confidence and inspiration come from? In short, his family, who immigrated to the United States from Haiti. “This is bigger than me,” he said. “This is for my town, my community, my Haitian folks, my Mexican folks watching this on TV.” When he was just 10 years old, Mackensie helped his family pick fruit in the fields of Immokalee, Florida, a small town populated mostly by Mexican and Haitian immigrants. Alexander believes that’s where he learned the value of hard work.
“For me, I grew up around people who just worked, worked, worked,” he said. “It was important for my family to bring me here and to have me here so I can do better for myself and eventually help them out.”
Though he doesn’t necessarily know how he’ll begin his career with the Vikings, Alexander does know he’s open to anything Zimmer decides. “Wherever they ask me to be and whatever they ask me to do, that’s what I’ll be doing.” Zimmer has plenty of options, as the Vikings likely drafted one of this year’s most talented, most versatile, and most confident cornerback prospects.