When the Minnesota Vikings used a second-round pick on Mackensie Alexander in the 2016 NFL Draft, they did so knowing that they already had two fairly solid cornerbacks on the outside in Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes. With that being the case, many thought that the logical role for Alexander would be as a slot cornerback, dealing with smaller, quicker corners that he couldn’t jam off the line of scrimmage.
There was only one issue with that. . .it wasn’t a role that Alexander was particularly happy about undertaking.
Matthew Coller of 1500 ESPN put together a look at Alexander’s mental transition that now sees him embracing the opportunity to be the team’s nickel corner. He makes no bones about the fact that he didn’t want to be a slot guy when Minnesota drafted him.
“It was tough because it’s a new position, it was harder for me because I fight the situation so much. I didn’t want to do it,” Alexander said following Saturday’s practice at TCO Performance Center.
Now, however, he’s singing a much different tune.
“I’m loving it, I’m embracing the job,” he said. “I showed a splash of things I can do last year. I’m ready to be a top five guy at my position this year and take over my job and do what I can do. I have high expectations for myself, I’m ‘bout to be one of the best at my position this year, there’s no question about it. Fully confident, got everything down, it’s year three.”
Alexander is going to have some pretty stiff competition for the spot in the form of rookie first-round pick Mike Hughes. That could end up being one of the more interesting battles of Training Camp, but if Alexander can show the same sort of improvement that he showed from his disastrous rookie season to his second, he could very well meet his goal of being that Top 5 guy at the slot corner position.
One of the things that Alexander credits his change in attitude to is his willingness to finally take a few lessons from Terence Newman, a guy that’s been doing this at the NFL level for 16 years. Newman was the Vikings’ primary slot corner last year, and getting beaten out by a guy that was in the NFL while Alexander was still in grade school apparently had a bit of an effect on his attitude.
“Think about so many guys and so many pros at any level, they are in a situation where they have a mentor in front of them and they don’t capitalize and you realize this guy played for 16 years in the league… I want to be like ‘yeah, I came up under T-Newman.’”
In the National Football League, you can’t have too many solid cornerbacks with the pass-happy offenses that many teams employ. If Alexander has gotten over his unwillingness to spend most of his time as a slot cornerback and can display the abilities that made him a second-round selection, it’s going to make an already suffocating Minnesota defense that much tougher for opposing offenses to deal with.