When the Raiders selected LSU guard Vadal Alexander in the seventh round of this year’s draft, Alexander had no clue the team was interested in him.
“I actually didn’t have much contact with (them) going into this,” he said following the draft. “It was a little bit of a surprise to get that call from them.”
But as Alexander heads toward the opening of his first NFL training camp later this month, the 6-foot-6, 329-pounder could be in the mix to earn playing time as a backup guard (behind both Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele) or swing tackle.
The second-team All-America pick and all-SEC offensive lineman was selected as a guard, but also has played tackle and has been getting work at both positions with the Raiders since the draft.
Alexander’s strength is in his size and power. In 46 starts at LSU, he had 315 knockdown blocks. And, according to a story by Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel before the draft, Alexander was one of the highest-rated lineman by NFL scouts. Scouts had him pegged as the ninth-best interior (center or guard) blocker available, and Pro Football Weekly ranked him as its No. 1 guard and a possible second-round pick. Yet he fell all the way to the seventh round for a number of reasons, according to Levi Damien of SB Nation.
Damien wrote that one scout thought he might have slipped because of his work as a tackle, which didn’t play to his strength because “he’s not a real good athlete.” Another said his footwork in one-on-one drills isn’t as good as it should be. A third scout cited the extra weight he carries as a negative and said he “needs hard coaching.”
Still the consensus among them was the Alexander could be a steal as a guard if he develops.
“He’ll end up mauling you,” said one scout, according to Damien. “He’ll do all right. There’s been a lot of guards like that.”
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie believes Alexander’s size and versatility could pay off for his team. He was surprised Alexander lasted so long in the draft.
“Yeah, because big guys, they usually get taken,” McKenzie told the media. “We felt really good about that and we like big people.”