NFL Draft 2011: Seattle Seahawks Reach for the Hammer, James Carpenter

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NFL Draft 2011: Seattle Seahawks Reach for the Hammer, James Carpenter
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Seahawks drafted the right position. And considering the construction project that is the offensive line right now, James Carpenter certainly has the right name. But was he the right guy?

Failing to find a partner to trade down as they so desperately wanted, the Seahawks made a surprise pick in the Alabama left tackle, whom they will apparently plan to move to right tackle opposite 2010 first-round left tackle Russell Okung.

The Hawks made a lot of people scratch their heads as they passed over two higher-rated linemen, Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi and Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod, to take a guy almost everyone else rated as a second-rounder.

After quarterbacks Jake Locker and Christian Ponder went way too high and a few other players slid, it looked like the Seahawks were in great position to draft Carimi as they smartly continue to rebuild a long-neglected line. But they obviously thought Carpenter was a better fit for them.

“The more we looked at his background and really did your research on the guy, it just kept coming up that this is the right guy for what we’re going to try and do,” new offensive line coach Tom Cable told reporters Thursday night, adding that he likes Carpenter's size, power and toughness.

The book on the 6-4, 321-pound Carpenter seems pretty good—two-time SEC left tackle with a good combination of athleticism, strength, aggressiveness and toughness. You might say Carpenter brings the hammer and looks to nail people.

As for switching sides, he told reporters, “I’m very comfortable at right tackle. I’ve been practicing it since the season [ended], and I can do pretty good at it.”

With Okung at left tackle and Max Unger the likely center, the Seahawks still need two starting guards.

It’s still possible the Hawks put Carpenter at guard, if they think Stacy Andrews can play at right tackle.

“Stacy is a legitimate factor at right tackle,” coach Pete Carroll said last month. “That is his natural position. We brought him in to play right tackle and, when Max Unger got hurt, it necessitated the move [to right guard] right away, and he didn't get a chance to play right tackle. That’s a spot that Stacy will compete at. We’ll see how that works out.”

That would result in this lineup (left to right): Okung, Carpenter, Unger, TBD, Andrews. They would then need only one starting guard instead of two.

While some Seahawk fans surely were disappointed the team didn’t draft cornerback Jimmy Smith (why?) or even quarterback Andy Dalton, going with a lineman was obviously the best choice. The only question is—did they pick the right guy?

Some fans will liken this unexpected move to the drafting of Chris Spencer with the 26th pick in 2005. He certainly did not turn out. Even worse was right tackle Chris McIntosh, drafted 22nd in the 2000 draft.

The Hawks have to hope Carpenter works out—and that he plays better than Carimi, who went to Chicago four picks later, and Sherrod, who went to the Packers as the last pick in the first round.

The Hawks had offers to trade down but decided against it.

"We had some things fall apart," general manager John Schneider told reporters, referencing one deal that the Seahawks strongly considered.  

You have to wonder if it’s the same deal the Saints ended up pulling with the Patriots three picks later. In that trade, the Saints gave up their 2012 first-rounder to jump from 56th overall so they could take Alabama running back Mark Ingram, whom Carpenter blocked for the last two years.

You have to wonder if the Hawks passed on that offer because they didn’t want to drop that far into the second round. But they surely could have gotten Carpenter in the second round, possibly even at No. 56 or their own 57. And they could have packaged picks to move back up in the second, too.

So let’s hope they didn’t turn down a 2012 first-rounder to use their 2011 first-rounder on a guy with a second-round grade.

And then let’s hope Carpenter does indeed bring the hammer that helps the Seahawks rebuild their broken-down line.

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