For the draft pundits that have railed on Seahawks GM John Schneider, this article is for you.
Alabama OT James Carpenter had been one of the most overlooked prospects heading into the draft. Despite being a JUCO transfer that had to fill the enormous cleats of Andre Smith, Carpenter delivered by starting 27 of 27 games for the Crimson Tide. He plowed open running lanes for Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. He shut down opposing pass rushers en route to 'Bama winning 24 out of his 27 games at LT.
Although James originally committed to Iowa State, he struggled academically and instead enrolled at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College. Once incumbent left tackle Andre Smith left for the NFL, an opportunity presented itself for Carpenter to take the reins at one of football's most critical positions.
When asked about the pressure or what he thought about being given the burden of replacing an Outland Trophy winner, Carpenter essentially said he chose Alabama to do just that. Talk about a guy who doesn't get rattled by pressure or expectations, which will serve him well in justifying his first-round status.
As I mentioned, James adjusted on the fly, starting all 14 games in 2009 as the Crimson Tide won the National Championship. It's hard enough to handle that jump of talent level at defensive tackle or guard or another position where mistakes aren't as glaringly obvious. Undeterred, he manned the left tackle spot in the toughest conference in football en route to an undefeated season.
While the team went 10-3 last year, Carpenter was still playing at a high level, and he got better in many respects.
As much as I respect Mike Mayock, the best analyst on TV, I have no idea where he saw James play "finesse football." Ever.
I would be hard-pressed to recall a single snap I watched where Carpenter was avoiding contact. I saw him pound the lights out of the defensive end. On pitchouts and screens, I've seen him 10 yards down field looking for another guy to block at the second level. He mauls off the snap and can blow open running lanes.
All that being said, I think he's more consistent in pass blocking. I don't know where he got the perception he lacked quick feet, meaning he should shift inside to guard. I feel he has the feet of an NFL left tackle and can mirror the movements of any defender. I've seen him literally take the defender out of camera shot.
Football talent aside, look at the kind of person James is. He has a quiet, unassuming nature. He's not self-glorifying; he just works at getting better.
Coach Nick Saban says, "He doesn't say anything. He never speaks unless spoken to...so I guess you would say he's not really a vocal leader. But I think he leads by example. He's never an issue, never a problem, never in trouble, never doesn't do the right thing. I don't even know that his name has ever come up since he's been here for missing class or anything."
I wouldn't be surprised at all if James eventually takes the left tackle spot, with high pick Russell Okung shifting over to the right side (a la the Rams with Rodger Saffold and 2009 second overall pick Jason Smith).
While he may not have the immense upside of a Tyron Smith, he's the most NFL-ready tackle in the class. James isn't short on potential, though. I feel he can get even better.