The NFL's supplemental draft will have more juice than usual next month.
Former Virginia Tech cornerback Adonis Alexander told me on Friday that he is applying for the 2018 NFL Supplemental Draft after being ruled academically ineligible for his senior year. NFL scouts say Alexander's size (6-foot-3, 207 pounds) and talent -- however raw -- should make him just the second player selected in the supplemental draft since Josh Gordon way back in 2012. And Alexander says he's ready to be a pro, despite non-football issues NFL teams will now dig into.
"I can honestly say the past year, maturity has been my biggest thing," Alexander told me by phone. "I have been improving on discipline. Discipline is a big thing for me now, because nothing can really be done without discipline. And I understand that now."
Alexander, 21, received what one scout described as a "big grade" from one of the scouting services NFL teams use and could've come out in the 2018 NFL Draft in April. But Alexander says he elected to return to school in part because he promised his parents he'd finish his degree. That was before his GPA sunk again, leaving him to file an appeal that was denied about a month ago, he said. He intends to hold a pro-day workout at the school in a few weeks, according to his agent, Andy Ross of SSG Football (a Virginia Tech alum), and take visits thereafter.
The collective bargaining agreement says a player can enter a supplemental draft if he becomes eligible after the date of the NFL draft. Any team selecting a player in the supplemental draft forfeits its corresponding selection in the next year's NFL draft. A small number of players are granted eligibility virtually every year. But since the Oakland Raiders took then-quarterback Terrelle Pryor in 2011 (third round) and the Cleveland Browns took Gordon the next year (second round), the only player taken in the supplemental draft is tackle Isaiah Battle, a fifth-round pick by the Rams in 2015 who is now with the Seattle Seahawks.
Alexander says the academic issues date to his freshman year, when he had some instant success on the field, got "really big-headed" and stopped paying proper attention to classes. He withdrew from three classes that year to avoid failing them, Alexander says, and eventually landed on academic probation, meaning he had to maintain a GPA of 3.0 or better while taking 16 or 17 credit hours some semesters to stay on track for his degree.
He also has some other off-field issues NFL teams will surely question him about, including a publicized arrest in April 2016 for marijuana possession. Alexander served a one-game suspension to start the 2016 season and also was suspended the first two games of 2017 for violating team rules.
"I thought I was untouchable, doing stuff I wasn't supposed to do," Alexander told me, "but as I got older, I realized the other opportunity that I was messing up. Back then, I was probably a more in-the-moment guy. I didn't really look ahead. But I can honestly say as I mature, I begin to think about my future before I make a decision."
Alexander says he intends to keep the promise to his parents. He's 25 credit hours shy of a degree in real estate and already has taken steps to enroll in online classes. He made a point to say he appreciates the support from the people at Virginia Tech, despite the way his stay there is now ending.
"I sent a text to the head coach, the training staff ... just thanking them for never giving up on me," Alexander said. "And as we speak right now, they're still working behind me."
Alexander's next stop will be decided next month. A date has not been set for the supplemental draft, but it usually takes place in mid-July.
Follow Tom Pelissero on Twitter @TomPelissero.