Oct 4, 2014; Boulder, CO, USA; Oregon State Beavers linebacker D.J. Alexander (4) celebrates his interception with safety Cyril Noland-Lewis (17) and safety Ryan Murphy (25) in the first quarter against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
The following clips are from Draftbreakdown videos for other players so Alexander won’t be the highlighted player. Again, watch for No. 4 lined up either as an inside or outside linebacker.
In this first GIF from draftbreakdown.com Alexander again shows problems in coverage. He is lined up as the outside linebacker at the bottom of the screen, he drops back after the snap and again allows the running back to run right by him. Mariota hits him in stride and it’s an Oregon touchdown.
From the same Oregon game Alexander shows his closing speed as he is lined up at the bottom of the screen like he is going to rush off the edge. After the snap he cuts inside and when he sees he has an open lane to Mariota he accelerates and gets the sack.
Here’s another example of Alexander’s game speed. He’s lined up as the outside linebacker at the bottom of the screen and after the snap he shoots into the backfield and gets a big tackle for loss.
This final GIF again shows Alexander’s ability to disengage from a blocker and then make the tackle.
So after watching all the tape I can find on D.J. Alexander here are my personal observations.
*He has NFL caliber game speed and athletic ability. His good timed speed shows up on tape. He looks good running sideline to sideline, shooting gaps, and chasing down ball carriers from behind. He has a closing speed that you don’t see in a lot of 5th round picks.
*He has a slender build and appears to need a good 10-15 pounds of muscle mass to be an effective every down inside linebacker at the NFL level.
*He is bad in coverage. When a player with his speed is regularly taken off the field on passing downs at the college level its a good indication that he won’t be able to play on third downs in the NFL.
*With his speed and slender build you would expect him to avoid contact with blockers, but I was impressed with his ability to disengage from lineman at the second level, push defenders into the backfield, and take on fullbacks head on.
*He doesn’t have great instincts. His speed sometimes works against him as he’ll bite on fakes and over pursue at times. This led to multiple times where the offense got big plays where Alexander should have been but he got sucked inside on fakes.
So what does that mean for D.J. Alexander’s future in Kansas City? Well, I have a little bit of a different take than many others do. Most assume that with his speed and slender build that Alexander should be developed to play Derrick Johnson’s spot in KC’s defense. However, with Alexander’s two greatest weaknesses being his coverage and instincts I don’t see him being a good starter at that spot. I actually like Alexander better at the other inside linebacker spot where his primary responsibility is the run game.
Maybe it’s the neck roll, but there were actually times when I was watching Alexander that I was reminded of the late Jovan Belcher. While Belcher’s life ended tragically he actually was very effective next to DJ in the run game. Belcher was also under sized for the position, listed at 6-foot-2 and 228 pounds (Alexander is listed at 6-foot-2 and 233 pounds). The biggest difference is that Alexander has much better straight line speed than Belcher did, but I see the same aggressive attacking style that Belcher had.
My opinion is that Alexander’s best chance to make the active roster as a rookie will be on special teams where I think he could be a real force for Dave Toub. However, if Alexander can benefit from the Chiefs strength and conditioning program and add muscle mass while learning the ins and outs of Bob Sutton’s defense I think he could compete for a starting spot in the 3-4 base defense as a run defender as early as his second season. While most focus on his speed (which is good) his willingness and ability to engage blockers could serve him well as an inside backer.
While I wasn’t a fan of the D.J. Alexander pick initially, feeling he was a huge reach, after watching his tape I really like his upside. You simply don’t find linebackers with his closing speed in the later rounds of the draft. If he can bulk up and get a little more dependable in his run lane assignments I think he could have a future in the NFL.
So what do you think Addicts? Are you a fan of the D.J. Alexander pick? Where do you see him playing at the NFL level (if at all)? Do you agree with my assessments of him and if not, what do you see differently? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!