The last time a player was taken in the NFL Supplemental Draft, the Rams were still in St. Louis, Golden State had just won their first NBA Championship in over forty years, and IHOB was still IHOP.
Looking through the history of the NFL Supplemental Draft, the roll of the dice has been somewhat of a mixed bag for teams who are often desperate to add that final missing roster piece before charging full steam ahead into training camp. For every Josh Gordon (2nd round pick for Cleveland in 2012), there are a handful of Isaiah Battles, Harvey Ungas and Jeremy Jarmons. There has never been more than two players selected in the same supplemental draft, and we’ve only seen three players selected in the last seven years.
So what if I told you that there is a strong possibility that not one, not two, but possibly three players could be selected in this year’s edition of the Supplemental Draft? Due to some recent academic shortcomings for a few talented players, it could happen. So who are these players?
VIRGINIA TECH CB ADONIS ALEXANDER (6’3” 207 LBs)
Adonis Alexander is a long CB who was expected by most within the Hokies organization to declare for the 2018 Draft with fellow teammates Tremaine Edmunds, Terrell Edmunds, and Tim Settle, but surprisingly decided to return to Blacksburg for his senior campaign. That campaign proved to be short-lived, however, with Alexander recently being ruled academically ineligible to play and as a result dismissed by Head Coach Justin Fuente. Joe Marino of NDT Scouting tweeted that he was around those at the program twice last fall and the consensus around Alexander was that he was a “knucklehead,” and Fuente didn’t seem too shaken up in losing Alexander.
Alexander has started 15 of 34 career games totaling 125 tackles, 1 sack, 7 interceptions, and 17 passes defended lining up mostly at LCB. While those numbers are respectable on the surface, 4 of Alexander’s 7 interceptions came during his freshman year in 2015, and he only had one pick in 2017. Looking at the film, Alexander’s size and length immediately stands out. His long arms help him in run support in wrangling up ball carriers in open-field situations, but this is also somewhat of a curse as Alexander will occasionally lead with an arm tackle rather than a form tackle against stronger ball carriers.
While Alexander lines up predominantly on the LOS, he seldom jams and instead shows nice hip flip and ability to turn and run with a receiver, which is curious for a player with his size. Alexander does not trust his length when in man coverage on an island and has a tendency to panic on deep routes and draw interference penalties. He is much more comfortable in Press alignment over Off coverage with ample cushion, where his ability to anchor and drive back downfield on short routes is just average. When Alexander can track the ball and doesn’t focus on the man, he does display nice ball skills.
Overall, Alexander is probably a 2nd round talent due to measurables, athletic ability, and hip fluidity for his size, but his "knucklehead" personality may relegate him to the 3rd round in the supplemental draft. I would expect the Seahawks, who have failed to adequately replace Richard Sherman at the LCB spot, take a long look at Alexander and be absolutely enamored with his length and athletic profile.
WESTERN MICHIGAN CB SAM BEAL (6’0” 185 LBs)
Similar to Alexander, an academics snafu has forced Beal’s hand and left him little to no choice but to enter the Supplemental Draft. Sam Beal is a few inches shorter than Alexander and slightly more sleight in frame. While a lot of draftniks have Beal entrenched in their early top five 2019 CB rankings, I don’t see it.
In terms of production, Beal has not realized as much success as Alexander. In 32 career games with Western Michigan, Phillips has 92 tackles, 0 sacks, 19 passes defended and only 2 interceptions; both of which came in the 2017 season. In checking the tape, Beal actually plays a lot more bump and run than Alexander at the RCB position. Although he is spirited in his press technique and plays with a lot more inherent physicality than Alexander, he has a tendency to rock forward or backwards before the snap, tipping off his coverage plan and allowing the WR to use his leaning momentum against him and release into his route stem.
Of course, this is an easily-remedied technical issue, but it does occasionally cause him to get beat by outside release where he doesn’t have the requisite foot speed to catch up. What Beal does have is a lot more vigor and enthusiasm in playing the position than Alexander does, and you can see that in this play against Buffalo.
While the amount of separation the WR gets from Beal is awful at first glance, he really turns on the jets to atone for the play where a lot of players would have thrown in the towel. Here’s another angle of the pursuit:
Teams will have to love the hustle here because it’s just something that can’t coach a player to do; it’s intrinsic. While I haven’t seen Alexander get beat that badly in the film I’ve viewed, I don’t see him putting in the effort to make this play. Beal is a chirpy player who isn't afraid to get his nose dirty, but his play recognition especially in zone coverage has a long way to go.
Ultimately, the NFL is a league where coaches and decision-makers pine for premium raw talent to mold, and Alexander seems to be a better athlete with more elite measurables. When you add in better production in a much more difficult ACC, Alexander would be my choice of the two CB prospects if I was an NFL decision-maker. Beal would still be a good match for a CB-needy team like the Colts or the Chiefs, and both teams just so happen to have an extra 2nd round pick as of now in 2019. Although a 2nd rounder would be a reach for Beal, having that extra top 64 pick may make it easier to give away a 3rd or 4th to add another player this year to cultivate and compete with.
MISSISSIPPI STATE FS BRANDON BRYANT (5’11” 215 LBs)
Sticking with the secondary, Brandon Bryant is another candidate to be selected with a 7th rounder in the Supplemental Draft after initially being rumored to be looking to transfer out of Mississippi State.
In 37 games, Bryant has totaled 157 tackles (3.5 for loss), 7 pass deflections and 5 interceptions, however, he had his least productive season in 2017 with only 32 tackles and 1 INT, which is likely the reason he wanted to go back to school and improve his stock. Bryant is a stocky, thick safety who can reportedly run in the 4.24 range. If this is true, than I have never seen such a discrepancy between timed speed and play speed, and if you look at the play below, you'll see why I say this. Second play of the game against Auburn, so Bryant (maroon socks) should be fairly fresh and mentally engaged:
Not only do I not see that type of foot speed, Bryant is unreliable in his pursuit angles and doesn’t show the relentlessness to play through the whistle. Not only does Bryant’s run fit allow Kerryon Johnson to hit the open field, but you can see him tapering off in his pursuit. In addition to some geometrical shortcomings in run support, Bryant will also bite on double moves and get over-aggressive in his coverage assignments, which is a recipe for disaster for a safety who is supposed to be the final security blanket in the secondary. This is a trick play by Auburn on 3rd & 2 where Bryant gets frozen so hard that he should change his name to Elsa Bryant:
Bryant does a nice job recovering and almost makes the play on the slightly underthrown ball, but ultimately he blows his assignment and allows a big play.
While a team in need of safety depth could burn a 7th round pick on Bryant if they fall in love with his 40 time that Bryant won't have an opportunity to prove. While the Eagles and Giants both have two 7th rounders as of now and could use FS depth, I would wager he likely goes undrafted.
What do you think? Would you burn a draft pick for any one of these prospects for your favorite team? Let us know in the comments below.