Vikings select Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander in 2nd round of NFL Draft
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The "Cornerback Whisperer" just got another pupil to mentor.
The Minnesota Vikings drafted Clemson defensive back Mackensie Alexander with the 54th overall pick in the second round on Friday, giving coach Mike Zimmer another young player in the secondary to mold into an impact player.
Zimmer has long had a reputation for developing defensive backs, and the Vikings could use some depth there with 37-year-old Terence Newman set to be the oldest defensive player in the NFL next season and Trae Waynes coming off of a rookie season in which he spent most of his time on special teams.
"I’m extremely excited about that. I’m really eager to learn from him," Alexander said of Zimmer. "I’m just eager to be around him and willing to learn. I’m very coachable and I’m just excited right now."
The 5-foot-10 Alexander doesn’t fit the profile that Zimmer normally prefers in his cornerbacks. Zimmer has placed an emphasis on bringing in big cornerbacks to help defend some the big receivers in the NFC North. But Alexander was a highly touted player coming out of his Miami high school in 2013, and he turned pro after his redshirt sophomore year with the Tigers.
"Just love the kid’s confidence and love his savvy for the game," Vikings GM Rick Spielman said. "I said, `Coach Zim, does me meet the minimum criteria for you height-wise?’ He said, `He’s right at it. We’re good with it.’"
The Vikings also had the 86th overall pick in the third round, but traded it to Miami for the Dolphins’ sixth rounder — 186th overall — and their third and fourth-round picks in next year’s draft. If the Dolphins received a compensatory pick in the fourth round next year, the Vikings will get that one. If not, the Vikings will get Miami’s original fourth-rounder.
Spielman said there were a few players available in the third round that the team liked, but he felt there was enough depth going into the final day on Saturday that he couldn’t pass up Miami’s significant offer.
"In essence, I got potentially three players for the price of one," Spielman said.
Alexander had 12 pass breakups and no interceptions in his two seasons at Clemson as opponents avoided throwing to his side of the field. He had eight tackles for loss last season to help the Tigers reach the national championship game.
"I was asked to follow the best receivers every week and eliminate them from the game plan and just win those matchups," Alexander said. "Whatever the Vikings want me to do, I’m ready for it."
Spielman said they believe Alexander can play inside and outside.
"The one thing I hear Zim preach to our players out at practice is don’t let your man catch the ball," Spielman said. "And that criteria, he checks the box in."
He was a third-team All-American last season and could eventually succeed veteran Captain Munnerlyn as the Vikings’ nickel cornerback. Alexander compared himself to Darrelle Revis and Jason Verrett, two of the top cornerbacks in the NFL.
"Just having a sick work ethic. My parents instilled that in me and that’s where my confidence comes from," Alexander said. "My talent has molded me to be that guy."
The Vikings have gone cornerback heavy at the top of the draft in the last three years. They chose Xavier Rhodes in the first round two years ago and went with Waynes with the 11th overall pick last season.
Alexander joins Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell in the Vikings rookie draft class. Treadwell was the 23rd overall pick in the first round on Thursday.