My thoughts and scouting report for James Carpenter

If the draft were held a couple of weeks later, would James Carpenter still be considered a "reach"?

Posted by Kip Earlywine

Foreword: Much like an election, the draft has a horse-race element within itself.  A prospect’s stock isn’t a static thing.  It’s in a constant state of change and movement.  Consider for example, Jake Locker’s draft stock as it was twelve months ago, then six months ago, then last Thursday.  Where was Da’Quan Bowers’, or Justin Houston’s, or Marcus Cannon’s draft stock two weeks ago?   Where was Andy Dalton or Christian Ponder’s stock four months ago?

No one talks about players like Corey Liuget or Von Miller as reaches, and yet they were given 3rd round grades by the NFL draft committee at the beginning of this offseason.  They worked hard, impressed scouts and coaches, and front offices began to see them in a new light.  Both rose quickly and by the time the draft had rolled around they were long established first round draft prospects.  In the eyes of many, they had justified being taken as highly as they were.

James Carpenter had a similar rise.  It just happened to be in the 11th hour of the process.  We’ve heard talk that if Seattle had not chosen Carpenter, that both Baltimore and Chicago had him rated very highly.  We also know that Green Bay wanted Carpenter pretty badly and took Derek Sherrod as a fallback option.  Anyone that says Carpenter was a mid 2nd round prospect probably reads week old newspapers as they sip their morning coffee.

Its human nature to want your team to draft “big names:” guys who had been talked about frequently in the media.  But its important to remember that front offices and coaches will generally avoid hyping players they actually want to pick.  Remember that Tim Ruskell showed absolutely zero interest in Aaron Curry before ecstatically selecting him 4th overall in the 2009 draft.

Similarly, its becoming very clear that multiple front offices picking at the end of round one viewed Carpenter as a bit of a gem, but kept their evaluations to themselves for obvious reasons.  You can only keep a lid on something for so long before it boils over.  We can only speculate, but offensive line, perhaps more than any position in football, is built on reputation, and drafting a lineman is no different.  Once it gets out there that multiple front offices have a player high on their boards, it almost doesn’t matter what his actual draft stock is.  That’s how guys like Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick were almost first round picks.

It sounds like several front offices rated Carpenter pretty highly, and if that information slips out there two weeks ago, suddenly Carpenter is in every single first round mock.  Just like that, Carpenter is a bargain pick at #25- even though in reality nothing whatsoever has changed about the guy.  Perception is a powerful thing, and the better front offices find ways to make their best evaluations, even if it seemingly defies conventional wisdom.  That’s because sometimes, conventional wisdom can be a little behind the times.

Re: Tom Cable: I didn’t talk about this before, but when I researched Tom Cable’s history I secretly came away very concerned about the Seahawks’ future.  The type of lineman acquired for Cable in Oakland were far too tall for Alex Gibbs’ zone blocking standards, and too light-weight for anyone except Alex Gibbs.  It was an odd pairing of attributes, and it has born poor results.  Oakland got better in Tom Cable’s time there, but the offensive line may have actually gotten worse.  Which makes sense, because tall players struggle with leverage, and lightweight players struggle with power.  Tim Ruskell himself drafted a lineman in this tall-skinny mold:  Max Unger.  To close observers, Unger has been arguably one of the worst interior linemen in the league at the point of attack and is not a player I would place much optimism in after the last two years, since concerns of these exact same problems were voiced by scouts even before he was drafted.  If I was running this franchise, I’d trade Max Unger tomorrow, for any price offered.  So seeing this same “Max Unger” profile pop up so often with Cable’s lineman, well, to be blunt, it scared the bejesus out of me.

So to my great surprise at the time, Seattle drafted James Carpenter, a guy who I didn’t even talk about because he didn’t fit the tall-skinny profile, then later drafted John Moffitt, another guy who didn’t fit the profile.  When Seattle made the first pick, Gabe Carimi and Derek Sherrod were both still on the board, and both were tall-skinny types.  Drafting Carpenter was a statement.  It was a statement that the linemen acquired by Oakland in Tom Cable’s time there probably had very little to do with Cable’s preferences and more to do with Al Davis’ chronic obsession with big and fast.  I had hoped that those picks were more Davis than Cable, and having confirmation is a huge relief.

If Carpenter and Moffitt were hand-picked by Tom Cable, then I respect his tastes.  Carpenter is a nice blend of athleticism and power, and Moffitt is powerful if technically unrefined and smart.  In different ways, they both bring something to the table that Seattle was in need of if they want to find success in improving the running game.  Because as Kyle Rota said the other day in his Carpenter scouting report: “trying to build a run-first offense behind Seattle’s 2010 line would be criminally stupid.”

Ok, onto the scouting report.  I watched games against Ole Miss, Tennessee, LSU, and Mississippi State, all from the 2010 season.

Height: 6’4″ and 3/8″  Weight: 322 lbs.  Arm length: 34.0 inches


  • Above average side to side “shuttle” quickness
  • Despite a very poor forty time, showed he could reach second level quickly and make good blocks there
  • Very experienced cut blocker
  • Adequate to good quickness when dropping back and mirroring
  • Powerful run blocker who plays with good leverage
  • Strong goal line run blocker
  • Occasionally flashes dominance in run blocking, would sometimes pancake defenders or block them several yards down field
  • Incredibly consistent play to play and game to game
  • Highly intelligent- never stands around- always finds a task- very well coached
  • Always knew what to do against stunts and tricky blitzes
  • Not “high motor” per se… but effort was never in question to say the least
  • Footwork isn’t spectacular, a bit choppy, but good overall
  • Gave up very few sacks, pressures, and hits
  • Spotless injury record, 27 starts in 27 games
  • Thick lower body
  • Powerful anchor, isn’t easily bull rushed
  • Shows all the signs of an immediate NFL contributor
  • Left tackle experience
  • Can probably manage at left tackle in the NFL… could fit at every spot on the line except center
  • No marks for poor character, seems like a hard worker who is driven to succeed


  • 34″ arms are a minor concern against elite pass rushers at left tackle
  • Hand use isn’t always the best, defenders can get into his body
  • Despite playing in the SEC, he didn’t face many elite pass rushers and even decent ones (like at LSU) gave him some trouble
  • Sometimes misses cut blocks; dives and misses a bit more than you’d like
  • A “waste-bender” who leans forward a bit more than a tackle should
  • Unremarkable reaction speed and explosiveness off the snap
  • Disappointingly slow forty time, but I’m not sure that even matters
  • Long legs, high belt line, aka “short-wasted”
  • Very little untapped potential- the guy you see is the guy you hope to get


James Carpenter was a very good left tackle who didn’t stand out very much due to his playing on quite possibly the best line in college football.  Guys like Okung, Castanzo, et al were talked about to death in broadcasts because they were good players on so-so lines.  They stood out.  In all the games I scouted for Carpenter, he wasn’t specifically mentioned even once.  Therefore, he didn’t gain the kind of repuation he deserved.

I need to be clear that Carpenter is not an elite prospect, but merely a very good one.  He has very few flaws but very few things that “wowed” me.  The downside of a prospect with few flaws is that he has few areas for improvement.  The upside of a prospect with few flaws is that you can expect him to contribute immediately.

While its true that Carpenter’s 34 inch arms are a minor concern if he plays left tackle, keep in mind that arm length isn’t always a deal breaker.  Walter Jones’ arms are only a half inch longer than Carpenter’s.  Joe Staley’s arms are only a quarter inch longer.  Joe Thomas, David Diehl, Chris Samuels, Matt Light, Jordan Gross, Jason Peters, and Michael Roos all have arms shorter than James Carpenter and have had success protecting the blindside.

Carpenter’s punch isn’t the best and his hand use is sometimes poor.  Physical defenders can get into his body, though he makes up for this with above average quickness and a lot of lower body strength to reduce how far he’s pushed back on bull rush attempts.  His upper body strength isn’t ideal, but against typical pass rushers, its more than adequate.  I don’t think he’s got what it takes to shut down the Julius Peppers of the NFL, but he could probably handle most of the rest.

Of course, Carpenter wasn’t drafted to play left tackle on a regular basis.  He was presumably brought in to play right tackle.  Carpenter has the power and basic athleticism to fit at right tackle and the pulling/cut blocking ability and pass protection skills to play well at left guard.  My only concern at his playing right tackle is his tendency to be a waist bender more than a knee bender.  Carpenter plays with his back at about a 70 degree angle off the ground, whereas a more prototypical lineman like Okung probably plays closer to an 80 degree angle.  This one hits home for me, because what bounced me out of division II football as a tackle was my own bad habit of bending at the waist too much.  Being a waste bender means having a flawed center of gravity, and if a defensive player gets a hold of your pads, he can easily tug you forward and around and blow past you.  This is less of an issue when moved inside because defensive tackles generally don’t possess enough hand skills and quickness to punish waste benders.

The LSU game was the only game in which Carpenter showed any evidence of struggling, and that was against the #1 defense in college football at the time.  LSU lacked a big name pass rusher other than Drake Nevis, but make no mistake, their defensive line is deep and loaded with quality.  Edge rusher Lavar Edwards gave Carpenter all he could handle on several plays.  Other players out-hustled Carpenter just barely enough to get a quarterback hit and even a sack- although in the case of the sack I blame Greg McElroy for essentially sacking himself.  The game served as a bit of a warning that Carpenter isn’t superman and will look mortal against better pass rushers.  It was somewhat comforting though, that the rest of the line struggled far more than Carpenter did, and this is an elite line.  Overall, LSU was Carpenter’s “worst” game, but it was still a solid effort.

I don’t want to rehash all of the bullet points above, but I really want to stress one last point, and that is how consistent Carpenter was on tape.  Okung would have brain fart moments, penalties, and “huh” moments of indecision.  His effort was spotty as well.  Carpenter never had a single penalty in 4 games.  Never made even one mental mistake by my standards and was impressively decisive.  He’d always quickly find something to do even if he didn’t have a man to block.  He’s not a “nasty” or “high motor” player.  He didn’t give “110%”, but he always gave 100% every down and that’s impressive in my book.  Carpenter is a well coached player, and it shows.  Don’t get me wrong, Okung is by far the better prospect.  Okung’s upside is enormous and he can dominate even more magnificently than Carpenter can.  Scouting Okung was interesting last year.  Every single play, I wasn’t quite sure what I would see next.  By contrast, scouting Carpenter was boring as hell, and I mean that as the highest compliment.  He was so mind-numbingly consistent every play.  Consistently effective.


Whether Seattle plays Carpenter at right tackle or left guard, I expect him to play at an above average level on day one.  He’s quite possibly the most NFL ready right tackle in the draft, and I like his potential at left guard too.  His waste bending tendency makes me think he could end up at guard down the road, but he’s earned a look at tackle and I’m sure he’s got what it takes to handle the right side.  I was initially disappointed with the pick, but now see it as a wise decision amidst some very difficult draft circumstances.

NFL comparison: Bryan Bulaga

Bulaga has only played one year in the league, and outside of a couple disastrous playoff games, had a good rookie season and played a role in Green Bay’s championship run.

This isn’t a perfect analogy but both have similar traits.  Bulaga played left tackle for a very well coached offensive line in Iowa.  Bulaga moved to right tackle in the NFL because of his short arms (33 1/3″).  Bulaga is not as good of an athlete compared to Carpenter though, but was better as a 2nd level blocker.  Both were rock solid, dependable guys, but showed signs of vulnerability against tougher pass rushers.  Bulaga was also a bit of a waste bender.

Bulaga was considered a very good value when Green Bay selected him 23rd overall- which I agree with.  I would have been fine with taking Bulaga 14th overall last year in the event that Eric Berry was taken 6th.  Its odd though, because having looked into both players the last two years, I actually prefer Carpenter of the two, despite the fact that Bulaga was taken earlier and in a much better tackle class.  Carpenter is  a smoother athlete, less vulnerable in pass protection and just more consistent overall.


  1. Nick J

    Great piece. The Bulaga comparison especially put things in perspective for me. I am more and more excited for this O-line to get together already so they can work on their chemistry. PC and co are building this team the right way. Overdrafting a QB this year without a decent line for him to count on would have been a mistake. If a competent rookie can step into a better situation, then he’ll be more likely to succeed. Carpenter is part of that plan. I like it.

  2. James

    Kip, I am a University of Alabama alum and watched every game Carpenter played for the Tide. Your analysis is really accurate and deserves congratulation. You can’t compare Carpenter to Okung, because Okung is truly an elite prospect. But Carpenter is the ideal right tackle in the new NFL. Carimi is slow-footed and will just wave at the elite DE’s put over on his side. Sherrod played in the spread and has never run-blocked a day in his life, just steered the DL to the right or left for misdirection plays. Carpenter is equally solid against the run and the pass, and as you say, was amazingly consistent. Give him an assignment and he will fulfill it 90% of the time. And if Okung goes down, Carpernter can fill in at LT far better than most other replacement on any team. Trust me Seahawk fans, you will see Marshawn breaking some big runs to the right, and you won’t see our qb going down in a flash.

    • Kip Earlywine

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that Carpenter is a much better run blocker than I think a lot of people realize. About 1-2 times a game, he will bulldoze somebody and its pretty cool to watch.

      • Rugby Lock

        Spoken like an old O-Lineman and serious fan of the game. I too like the way that the Hawks are going and love that they are building their line. I love watching a game where my teams Oline just manhandles the other team. Like the 05 team…

        • ManBearPig

          Not to use profanity, but F yeah. I was intially puzzled with the pick at first, ONLY because what was still on the board at other options and BPA, that and the fact trading down a few spots would have been great. But after Moffit was picked I started to get excited and seeing a strong O’line that can fire up the run makes me a happy season ticket holder. Even if many games are lost this year, I never want to see a blowout and hopefully a strong o’line and some depth to d’line and get secondary improved we won’t see another game like the Giants last year.

  3. Derek

    Great article Kip! Also, didn’t Carpenter transfer from a JC and become the immediate starter at left tackle? If that is true that is truly remarkable especially playing in the SEC, and on a Nick Saban coached team. I think that would show his mental commitment to the game as well.

    In terms of our line, I would love to see Unger traded as well. He has proven nothing since being here. If that happens, what players do you see the Hawks bringing in? I know Gallery is always talked about, but I am more interested in guys like Harvey Dahl or Justin Blalock from the Falcons, and David Joseph from the Bucs. In terms of the type of linemen drafted, do you think Cable wants Spencer re-signed to start at center?

    • Kip Earlywine

      Yup. He was actually only a 2 star recruit coming out of high school, and signed with Iowa State after getting basically no interest from bigger schools. Because of academic problems, he had to transfer to a JuCo to get his grades up. During that time, he added a ton of size and started turning heads. You kind of feel for Iowa State a little bit, as Carpenter jumped ship on them after they gave him a chance, but it was ultimately a great career move so its hard to blame him.

  4. Bruce M.

    Nice read. And I agree on Unger. Spencer wasn’t perfect, but at least he had a good anchor and could not get bullrushed repeatedly. Unger has simply not shown the sort of base you want in a NFL center. He may become good at line calls, and at pulling, and at getting to the second level if he’s uncovered. But put a big nasty nose tackle on him and he’ll end up halfway into the backfield on a depressingly regular basis.

    Which is why I was pretty alarmed to hear Carrol on KJR this morning insisting that Unger was in their plans at center. Maybe if they cover him up with Moffitt (and Gallery?), they figure he can get the job done.

    One concern I have on Moffitt is the effort he gives off the field, in the gym. A 6′ 4″ 320 lb dude with 33′ arms should be able to put ups 225 pounds more than 23 times. A lot more. Okung’s arms are 3 inches longer, and he did 38 reps. Bench press is not the be all and end all of a lineman’s value, but I use it as a barometer of how hard the guy works off the field, and that number bugs me.

    • FWBrodie

      I was similarly surprised by Carroll’s apparent faith in Unger. I guess for now I’m willing to assess the awfulness of his rookie year to it being his rookie year and give the coaching staff the benefit of the doubt, but if they let Spencer walk and Unger continues to get plowed into the backfield I’m gonna be pretty disappointed.

    • Kip Earlywine

      I haven’t scouted Moffitt, but I’ve seen a lot of plays where he pushed a defensive tackle back a few inches while being bent over backwards. If he can get even a small amount of push even with poor leverage, it makes me wonder how he’d do with good leverage.

      Keep in mind that on the field strength is different that weight room strength and the relationship is not linear. Steve Vallos was very strong in the weight room as I recall, but was consistently overpowered at the PoA.

      Regarding Unger, I try to be open minded. Unger didn’t look great in the preseason last year, but the truth is he was IR’d after just 1 game for a toe injury. Maybe the coaches saw improvement in practice or in the offseason? Unger does have some strengths. He’s like a different player on the move, whether its pulling or going to the 2nd level. I still think for a smashmouth approach he’s not a great fit.

      On the bright side, if he’s a total failure, Seattle could always add a center next offseason. But yeah, I think Seattle is making a big mistake if they let Spencer walk.

      • Bruce M.

        Agree. Often the bench press champs at the combine are never heard from again. But at least it’s clear they work their butts off. That attitude, plus talent, can make a good player great.

  5. FWBrodie

    Kip, awesome report. I agree. His technique reminds me of Charles Brown who was drafted out of USC last year. Leaning forward and getting away with it because he’s so much more athletic than his competition, which will immediately change in the NFL.

    Here’s what I’m thinking…
    His legs are his strength, while his arm strength and coordination are not as advanced. Thus he feels the need to shorten the distance between his legs and his block by leaning forward.
    A few ways to help correct this:
    A) Weight room, appears to have a frame that could easily add muscle
    B) Coach him up. Hopefully Cable reminds every d-lineman on the roster to rip Carpenter’s pads straight to the ground as often as possible until he has no choice but to sit back. Also, blow the whistle on anything that even resembles holding every time.
    C) Get some tennis balls or something and work on that coordination. He needs to get his hands inside with his initial punch and keep defenders away from his body both to increase his chances of holding his block and to cut down on holding calls that will inevitably follow him with his current technique.

    • Kip Earlywine

      As I eluded to, I have some experience with this same issue.

      Its not very coach-able, unfortunately. I mean it is, but its only coach-able as much as speed or accuracy is. You can teach players good technique and mechanics that will help them very slightly. Teach a guy good running technique and maybe he’ll end up 5 hundredth of a second faster. Teach a quarterback better mechanics and he might raise his completion rate a couple points. But that’s probably the maximum extent, because things like speed and accuracy are talents you are born with.

      Similarly, waist benders aren’t leaning forward by choice. I was getting coached out of waste bending for a Division II school every day in practice, so I imagine it was the same for a major program like Alabama. And yeah, I improved, but not nearly enough. Typically evaluators will assume waist bending will stay the same. Ciron Black was once a very highly touted tackle prospect, but when scouts took a close look at him they noticed he was an egregious waist bender and would have no choice but to play guard in the NFL. Black was pretty massive and non-athletic though, so guard was a tough sell. Ciron Black ended up undrafted, and was never even signed by anyone in UDFA. If something like that was “fixable”, then Black would have been a 2nd round pick. As it is, he’s probably applying at McDonald’s right now.

      I don’t expect Carpenter’s waist bending issues to be going anywhere. But that’s ok, because they shouldn’t be so big an issue that they keep him from being an effective right tackle and even if they do, he’d be a good fit for left guard.

      • Rugby Lock

        I was getting coached out of “waste” bending

        I’m not really sure I want to know precisely what this is or how it was being coached out of you Kip… 🙂

      • FWBrodie

        While I respect that opinion, maybe I’m naive enough to believe a guy that athletic and powerful may have some hope to make a dramatic improvement (no offense to your own athleticism). That being said, you’re probably right that he’ll still be able to get away with it against a lot of his NFL competition and it will be less of an issue when he is run blocking.

  6. Steve in Spain

    Ben Muth, who covers offensive lines for Football Outsiders, had James Carpenter as his #1 offensive linesman in the entire draft. Here are excerpts from the FO draft chat from last Thursday when the pick was announced:

    9:50 FO_Ben Muth: Carpenter was my favorite OL in the draft.
    9:52 FO_Ben Muth: Good run blocker. Athletic enough pass blocker. Strong lower body. Should be a good right tackle.
    9:54 FO_Ben Muth: I think he could play left tackle, but the Seahawks already have a guy they like there hopefully.

    9:54 FO_Tom Gower: I’m just surprised Carpenter goes before Carimi, who seemed to me like he’ll be a very good right tackle.
    9:55 FO_Ben Muth: I like Carimi too. But I like Carpenter more

    • Billy Showbiz

      I like this! Football Outsiders is a far more credible source than any of the so called draft experts on the major media outlets.

      • ManBearPig

        Me too. I am sick of Kiper and most of ESPN ‘draft experts’ at this point.

  7. TonyB of the most thorough analysis I have read on this or any other Hawks related blogs. Great job..enjoyed this piece immensely.

  8. woofu

    I would have liked to hear you compare Carp to Andrews as that will be the “compete'” that happens.

    I would be ok with Unger and Spencer being kept as they can battle it out for duties at C and would provide a good back-up scenario for multiple injuries across the line. It appears though they are not that interested in Spencer staying.

  9. Billy Showbiz

    Great job Kip! I really appreciate your evaluations particularly concerning offensive linemen. I try to watch them and it’s difficult for me to tell one from another. Hopefully you will be evaluating Moffit like this in the near future. The thing that really struck me was that Carpenter is an accomplished run blocker which is something that we desperately need.

    On Unger, I’m really looking forward to seeing how he plays at Center. This was his position in college and he was pretty highly touted coming out. I know that most center are supposed to be able to move easily to the guard position but that clearly was not the case for Max. What are the main differences in the two positions other than the center making calls at the line? Do those things translate to what Max does well?

    • Kip Earlywine

      I have to be upfront, I never played guard or center, just tackle, and so I never had to learn their assignments. But from what I understand, center and guard are 90% the same. The two biggest differences would be center duties like snapping the ball and “quarterbacking” the interior in the face of an exotic pass rush. Another minor difference is that centers line up directly against powerful nose-tackles, but only about half the teams in the league have a nose tackle so it isn’t constantly an issue.

      Unger’s problem is that nose tackles eat him alive, and even playing RG, he’d face quite a bit of 1 tech DTs who would overpower him.

      If I was forced to start Unger I’d prefer him to be at guard rather than center. He’s too tall (6’5″) for the center position and gets his ass kicked by nose tackles. Centers also pull and block at the 2nd level quite a bit less than guards do, which are Unger’s strengths. Unger is a very bad guard, but he isn’t a center at all, from what I’ve seen of him. I would love to be wrong, but I think Seattle’s promotion of Unger over Spencer is complete insanity.

      • Coug1990

        The only successful tall center that I can think of you have to go back aways. Former Pro Bowl Raider center from the mid 80’s to mid 90’s Don Mosebar was 6’7″. Other than him, I cannot think of another.

        Who knows, maybe Unger will be another. But, I kind of think he fits best as depth than as a starter.

  10. kevinf

    good stuff!! Kiper my grade for you is a C+, you do your homework, hold down a job with ESPN and have nice hair. Mayock gets a B for not being Kiper, and Trent D. gets an I …not just for incomplete, but for complete idiot. If it wasn’t for R.Lewis, E.Reed and the gang on D-fence, you wouldn’t have any hardware. You were the epitome of a game manager. Best wishes on that special consultant gig. Go true Hawk fans!!! Thanks again Kip, Steve in Spain and everybody.


    On Chris Spencer, I don’t understand what anybody sees in him. For all his alleged strength, he gets zero to negligible push in the run game. And while I think he’s good enough at maintaining pocket integrity in pass-pro, he routinely gets bamboozled by the same blitzes and stunts over and over again, and I’ve grown tired of his marked incompetency in that area.

    At least with Unger you think there might be done upside there since he was a far superior center than Spencer was at a collegiate level. Whereas with Spencer you are assured a mediocre player with a lengthy injury history. I’m tired of excuses about him not “getting it” yet while other early-drafted centers younger than him like Maurkice Pouncey, Alex Mack and Nick Mangold have already established themselves as top centers.

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