03 May 2012
Continuing our look at the Panthers draft picks, we will now move onto the team's fourth round selection of Oklahoma DE Frank Alexander. This was an interesting pick because Alexander could see himself playing more than a few snaps per game in his rookie season and could very well be a starter at some point in his career. How will he fit into the Panthers' system, though?We will take a look at that after the jump.
Weight: 255 lbs.
Who is Frank Alexander?
Alexander has been one of the top pass rushers in the Big 12 for the last two seasons as he has accumulated 15.5 sacks and 93 tackles during that time. He thrived in Oklahoma's 3-4 defense when he was used as an upright pass rusher as he showed the ability to quickly get in the backfield and fend off weaker blockers. He was also decent in playing zone coverage as a defensive end and linebacker, which will help him a lot at the next level. Alexander never quits on plays and always makes sure that he is involved in the play no matter what, which will definitely go a long way in the NFL.
Now, I have to admit that I was fooled a little bit by watching this highlight clip of him against Texas, because he looks a lot better than a fourth round pick there. He showed great footwork, hustle and strength against Texas by getting into the backfield on almost every snap and playing solid against the run, as well. This fooled me because Alexander has struggled against tougher opponents like Iowa in the Orange Bowl. He was also invisible for the second half of the 2011 season as 7.5 of his sacks came in the first six games, so that's definitely a cause for concern. Alexander also has a heart condition which bumped his draft stock down a little bit.
Still, it's hard not to like his pass rushing ability as he appears to be very skilled in that area and can succeed in the NFL as a two-down player. His speed is not top-notch but he is solid at getting to the ball-carrier and usually manages to get involved in every play. He also has shown ability to identify holes in the offensive line and take advantage of them rather easily. Alexander also improved his play against the run as the season went on and can continue to improve in that area so that he isn't used only as a pass rush specialist. He might need to get a little stronger and improve his one-on-one play against blockers to become a full-time starter, though.
Why did the Panthers draft him?
Most should see this coming; pass rush. Ever since Julius Peppers left, the Panthers have struggled to consistently get to the QB and create havoc in the backfield. Charles Johnson may have emerged as a great pass-rusher and Greg Hardy has been solid but the team needs more than that, and adding Alexander will give them that. It is still uncertain what scheme the Panthers defense will play next season but Alexander can succeed if he is used in the 3-4 as an outside linebacker. He was an upright pass rusher throughout most of last season and played very well in that set-up. This might be the best situation to use him in at the pro level since you are playing him to his strengths.
I am not sure if Alexander will be a starter in this defense but he should be very useful, especially if he can improve his play against the run. The Panthers desperate need players who can get in the backfield on a constant basis and Alexander exceeded at that throughout college, so you can not say that this pick did not address a need. The team got a pretty good steal in Greg Hardy a couple years ago, and I wouldn't be surprised if Alexander ends up being a great mid-round selection, as well.