The first round of the 2011 NFL Draft is in the books and it had more twists than anyone expected.
After a predictable start with Cam Newton going first overall to Carolina, we had a number of big shocks. Atlanta traded up in a pro-active way to grab Julio Jones and help their quarterback, Tennessee picked Jake Locker ahead of Washington and Christian Ponder was taken 12th overall by Minnesota.
Not wanting to feel left out, Seattle pulled off a surprise by drafting James Carpenter (OT, Alabama) with the 25th overall pick. A surprise to many, anyway.
Watch the Seahawks draft James Carpenter here (Note Nick Saban’s reaction)
On Thursday my source told me the Seahawks would favor offensive lineman if they couldn’t move down and I touted Carpenter as an option alongside Danny Watkins (already off the board) and Rodney Hudson.
Regulars to the blog will know how highly I rate Carpenter. He originally caught my eye early during the 2010 season and stood out for the Crimson Tide as the team’s left tackle in 2010. He’s athletic and has the lateral agility to play left tackle and understands run blocking as you’d expect from the Nick Saban offense.
However, my impression watching Carpenter was that his greatest strength was in pass protection. He had no problems playing at left tackle, which is why I valued him so highly in the first place. At times, he didn’t look unlike Michael Oher – although not necessarily as physically gifted or as aggressive. I have always maintained that if I’m taking an offensive tackle in round one, they have to be able to play on the left. Seattle passed on Gabe Carimi, as I would’ve done, almost certainly because he is a pure right tackle. You won’t fear Carpenter stepping in for an injured Russell Okung. It’s easier to show a left tackle to play on the right than vice versa.
I rated Carpenter highly enough to put him at #23 to Philadelphia in my final mock draft. He turned 22 at the end of March and stands at 6-4, 321lbs. He came from the JUCO ranks prior to joining ‘Bama.
From a pure talent stand point, it’s a very solid pick. I cannot criticise the selection from that perspective because it correlates with my own grade. It isn’t a reach, he will contribute immediately and has much more potential than perhaps people realise. The only real issue is that Seattle has taken a player in the right kind of area and it highlights once again that a poor 7-9 team is picking 25th overall.
You see St. Louis adding a guy like Robert Quinn to their already solid pass rush and suddenly they have their franchise quarterback and they have an ever growing defensive line. There’s identity written all over the team. Who are the Seahawks? They are a team that is realistically staring at a stop-gap option at quarterback, a team lacking a dominating defensive lineman and without any star skill players on offense. Did they need to keep hitting on top-15 talent, especially at key positions? Is a right tackle a key position? Or guard?
They now have two first round offensive lineman – a third if they re-sign Chris Spencer. Max Unger cost a second round pick. I’m not sure any team has invested more draft stock into the offensive line than Seattle over the years, but the results haven’t always been there. Carpenter adds to it now, but the Seahawks cannot expect miracles. If you stack eight in the box, they will beat your five offensive lineman more often than not. Too many times in the last three years Seattle has faced that look and I wonder if it’s part of Seattle’s desire to have mobility at quarterback.
The success of the 2005 Seahawks was greatly enhanced by the left side of the offensive line, but it was helped along by an elite running back and a Pro-Bowl quarterback in his prime. This current line may be blocking for the same quarterback, now 36, and without anyone capable of running the way Shaun Alexander did at his best. Let’s also appreciate the precision and execution of the Holmgren offense during those days.
So my judgement would be – Carpenter has the talent to justify the pick. Whether the Seahawks can justify taking offensive lineman in round one back-t0-back is a question that will only be answered in years to come. People may ridicule that statement, but this is a team with a dearth of talent at premium positions and eventually that has to be recognised alongside the offensive line.
As expected the team passed on Ryan Mallett, the source highlighted his lack of mobility as being one reason (I now believe there are more) for not going in that direction. I understand Oakland may stop his fall tomorrow. Jimmy Smith – a legitimate top-10 talent with character concerns - went just after Seattle. Mark Ingram landed in New Orleans, who lucked out also adding Cameron Jordan. Da’Quan Bowers’ knee injury is clearly a major issue as he is still available.
And as suspected, realism hit home for Andy Dalton who like Colt McCoy last year - did not go in round one despite a lot of nonsense about a high pick. If only I could explain the Ponder selection…
It sets up for an interesting Friday when the draft re-starts at 3PM PST. The Seahawks own the #57 overall pick. Will Colin Kaepernick make it that far? What about Da’Quan Bowers? There’s still a lot of talent on the board.
Thank you to those who participated in making the live chat a major success. We’ll do it all again tomorrow just before the second round kicks off. I’ll also announce the winners of the mock draft competition soon.