Panthers 2012 Draft Pick Profile: DE Frank Alexander

NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 22: Quarterback Seth Doege #7 of Texas Tech scrambles away from defensive end Frank Alexander #84 of Oklahoma in the second half at at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on October 22, 2011 in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma was upset by Texas Tech 41-38. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

The one question I kept asking myself in the weeks leading up to the draft was this: If the Panthers pass on Quinton Coples in the first round, who is the "next best" 4-3 defensive end in this draft? The more I watched video and crunched the statistics of everyone else that was out there, the answer to that question always seemed to come back to one person: Frank Alexander.

Even though there wasn’t a defensive end in this draft who could come close to Coples in terms of his height/weight/speed combination, there were plenty of prospects who wanted it more than the physical specimen from UNC, and Alexander was at the top of that list. Join me after the jump for a closer look at a life-altering incident that occurred during his redshirt freshman season at Oklahoma, and why that has motivated him ever since.

Close Call

In his second year as a Sooner, Alexander was invited to a party, along with some teammates, after a season opening victory over Tennessee-Chattanooga in 2008. Before he actually left for the party that fateful night, he called his mother to tell her about his intentions, and, as you can imagine, she advised him not to attend like any intuitive parent would. Of course, Alexander ultimately decided to go against the better judgment of his mother, and as a result, he became the innocent victim of a stab wound to the arm, which came within an inch of severing an artery. His tendon was just barely missed as well, and the doctors let him know that if it had been sliced, he would have lost all use of his right arm.

A Second Chance

After learning what might have been that night, Alexander was determined more than ever before to, as he put it, ‘make up for lost time’. This focus and drive was enough to earn him freshman All-American status even though he only played half of his 2008 season. This is just the type of player that you and I can get excited about because he can draw strength from places that many other players can’t. After we take a look at his impressive stats for a moment, we'll briefly examine some of his strengths and weaknesses, along with a peek into what he can provide for the Panthers in the short and long term.

Tackles Def Int Fumbles Year School Conf Class Pos Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF 2008 Oklahoma Big 12 FR DL 11 15 26 5.0 3.5 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 2009 Oklahoma Big 12 SO DL 17 6 23 7.0 1.5 0 0 0 2 1 3 1 1 2010 Oklahoma Big 12 JR DL 20 19 39 13.0 7.0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 1 2011 Oklahoma Big 12 SR DL 35 19 54 19.0 8.5 1 27 27.0 0 9 0 0 0 3 Career Oklahoma 83 59 142 44.0 20.5 1 27 27.0 0 15 1 3 1 6

2011 Accolades: Walter Camp All-America second team, Co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year by coaches, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year by AP, Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year, All-Big 12 first team by the AP and coaches.

Strengths: In addition to shedding blocks with ease, Alexander uses his long arms well against the run and the pass. The latter was clearly evident this past season against Florida State when he batted down six passes. He is a very hard worker and is a classic high-motor player.

Weaknesses: Even though he ran a respectable 4.80 forty for a man his size, he doesn’t display great quickness. Alexander gets swallowed up by double teams more than you would like and is just an average run defender. He also shows a tendency to get overpowered by stronger players.

Future Outlook

We can be sure that the best players will be on the field under Rivera, regardless of their previous experience and/or stature, and, with that being said, I truly believe that Alexander is good enough to get some significant playing time as a rotational player during his first season with the Panthers. Although he will most likely be playing with his hand in the dirt for the majority of his time on the field, don't be surprised if you see him occasionally standing up as well, because he did have some moderate success doing so at Oklahoma.

While his motor is undeniable, he will need to improve his run defense before he can be promoted to a full time three-down starter. I could definitely see Alexander adding some more strength and weight to his long frame(35" arm length and 83.5 inch wingspan) without sacrificing his above-average athleticism.

After further review of Alexander, I can see why the Panthers felt compelled to make a move for this guy. He possesses a drive that cannot be taught, and this is just the type of player that our team can rally around. I have he will be considered one of the steals of the 2012 draft in the very near future, and we'll be thanking Hurney for having the courage to trade a future pick in order to select him.

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