First Step Explosiveness - Really like his twitch when he's committed to coiling and driving up the field. His acceleration is pretty nutty when he looks to work back against his momentum as well — not just a straight line burst guy who can't but his twitch and initial quickness to use in the full field of play.
Hand Technique - Separation skills are spotty and he's not consistent with extending himself to leverage blockers. That said, when he's established a fit he as a number of counters that work to swipe and reset as he presses into a hip to hip relationship with blockers. Has promise with his rip move to pop hands off his chest as well.
Pass Rush Counters - There are instances where his hand flashes aren't the most timely but he's got a variety of attacks to implement, including a nasty inside chop and a spin move. Would like to see some more power components added to his skill set but question here becomes if he's maxed out — he's pretty dense but lacks pop.
Flexibility - He's got good surface reduction prior to contact to dip the inside shoulder. His base is fluid and allows him to plant and drive with suddenness and cover significant turf. Carries a fair amount of tilt off the edge to take the apex of his rushes and not get ridden out — but stronger tackles can still bubble him past his mark.
Run Defending - Too many reps where everything looks good but he just doesn't have the oomph to put off hands and get himself clear in gaps. He's pretty well stacked up but is better served in gap penetration or slasher role to defeat blocks with quickness relative to stacking up defenders with his hands.
Competitive Toughness - His motor runs red hot — appreciate his willingness to double back against his momentum and attack quick hitters in the pass game or scrape across the field to stay in pursuit. His functional play strength is only modest, however. Not sure it would be worth bulking him up any more at risk of losing movement skills.
Tackling - He has explosive finishes when he's able to carry momentum into contact. He doesn't have the biggest tackle radius and when he's faced to play outside his pads he loses some of his effectiveness as a finisher. That said, his movement skills are effective to flash and stay into the body of ball carriers or quarterbacks in head up challenges.
Lateral Mobility - He's quick to flip his hips open and this he's got potential to play as an isolation linebacker on the edge. Has the burst and suddenness to drive outside when tested at the mesh point and he's got plenty of range to flash outside the hashes when run comes his way or he has to string out a blocker on wide zone.
Stand-Up Ability - Not a lot of exposure to playing pass drops but the mobility is here and if a team wants to be patient with him, he should be able to be an effective buzz defender in the flats or hook/curl on overload blitzes and exotic looks. Has just as much twitch and burst out of a 2 point stance as he does a 3.
Football IQ - There are some small details for him to build out but generally he's got good instincts and navigates his rushes fairly well. Sees small creases to attack or drive inside. Like his sense of urgency and awareness to what his hands are capable of, even if the play strength doesn't back it up.
Best Trait - First Step Explosiveness
Worst Trait - Hand Power
Best Film - Old Dominion (2019)
Worst Film - Clemson (2019)
Red Flags - None
Player Summary - Alex Highsmith projects as a developmental starter at the pro level. He's got the needed explosiveness, short area agility and motor — pairing it with promising flashes of hand usage to play off of contact and win off the edge as a pass rusher. There's plenty of quickness to his game — can Highsmith learn to consistently stack up the point of attack? He's probably best suited to play 3-4 OLB in the NFL to allow him wide angles to extend and stack up blockers against the run.