An undrafted free agent out of the University of Houston and born in the Bahamas, Alex Cooper is an offensive lineman who fits the mold that coach Paul Alexander loves. Cooper is both versatile enough to play in all five positions on the offensive line but also tough to beat.
Cooper will face a lot of competition this season to make the final roster, but with his reputation as team captain and second team All-Conference selection should earn him a chance to show what he can do in the preseason.
Weight: 305 pounds
Pro Day: Bench press: 23; 40-yard dash: 5.23; broad jump: 08'08"; vertical jump: 28
After moving to Houston from the Bahamas in 2005 to attend Second Baptist School to play basketball, Cooper started playing football with two years remaining of high school, when his coach, Mike Snead, convinced him to try out. He enjoyed the spot and soon switched allegiances, finding success both on offense and defense, ending up listed as top-100 recruit in the Houston area.
An all-district selection, Cooper chose to stay in town to play for the Cougars over Baylor, Kansas State, Rice and Southern Methodist. In college he helped anchor one of the highest-scoring offenses in football, starting 25 straight games in all positions but center, a position he is practicing at with the Bengals nonetheless.
While some teams didn't like his heavy feet or his stiff form, Cincinnati saw a player with the leadership and versatility to hold his own out there, as he did for Houston, not allowing a single sack and conceding only eight quarterback pressures in his last season as a Cougar.
More comfortable as tackle, Cooper has decent lateral quickness despite lacking the athleticism to play on the outside. The Bengals, though, have enough depth at tackle that if Cooper was to make the roster he would do it as an inside lineman.
Chances of Making Roster
Cincinnati will have eight or nine offensive linemen depending on whether fifth round Draft pick Christian Westerman is able to hold down the backup center job as well as a backup guard spot. That means barring injury to at least two guys, Cooper is more likely looking at earning a spot on the practice squad than the active roster, just as fellow undrafted free agent Trey Hopkins was a couple of years ago.
With Andrew Whitworth, Cedric Ogbuehi and Eric Winston manning the tackle positions, Kevin Zeitler, Clint Boling, Russell Bodine inside and Jake Fisher and Christian Westerman as swing men, longtime second-string center T.J. Johnson and Hopkins are more likely to be given a spot on the roster than Cooper.
ESPN's Coley Harvey said that Johnson was "the only center this spring to snap the ball with adequate consistency" in organized training activities and that "all other backups struggled", which is to be expected from rookies in their first NFL practices. Still, Johnson has the edge which means Cooper will need to have a spectacular summer to earn a spot on the roster.
The Bengals appear to really like Cooper's versatility despite a minor blip when he shot -gunned a snap into the stands while the offensive line was working on the side. That ball was retrieved by Bengals vice president of player personnel Pete Brown, by the way. That can't be the type of impression he wants to leave, and he will surely have better opportunities to impress once training camp rolls around.
At age 24, and with his pedigree as former team captain for the Houston Cougars, Cooper could stand a chance as a call-up from the practice squad later in the season if there are injuries to the unit, but right now there doesn't seem to be a spot for him on the Bengals offensive line with the abundance of talent already present.