Thanks to Brandon for letting me share this scouting report on James Carpenter with you guys. I am basing this report off of the following games in the 2010 season: vs Florida, Louisiana State, South Carolina, and Michigan State.
James Carpenter, OT, Alabama
6043, 322lbs, 34 inch arms, 9.75 hands
The Physical (Size and Athletic Ability): On video, Carpenter shows a nice frame and build for an OT, with squat legs and an upper body that could be developed further. Estimated that he played around or under 300lbs his senior season, but displays very good lower-body strength to move players. Because Alabama runs a power system with lots of FBs and TEs, his natural athleticism is a bit hidden compared to OT's who often operate in space. However, the more video you watch, the more athleticism you see from Carpenter. He is not an elite athlete, but he's a very good one who has the athleticism to play LT in the NFL, if he shores up his weaknesses. Overall, Carpenter is a great size/speed package when studying 2010 games, but with added size since the end of the regular season (20+lbs), his grade here could shoot through the roof if he added good bulk without losing his great athletic talents.
The Mental (Assignments and Competitiveness): This is another area where Carpenter grades out very well. He picks the right blitzer to pick up, he always knows the play and what he needs to do, and he is usually in-sync with his teammates. In four games, he made very few mental mistakes. Carpenter is also a highly competitive run blocker who shows a bit of nastiness and a strong desire to hit people. He lacks the same aggression in his pass protection, which is one reason why he gives up more ground vs bull-rush than you like, but his effort is still good, just lacking the aggressive quality that marks his run blocking.
The Technical (Upper and Lower body technique): It's important to note that the technical and the mental are closely tied. Carpenter is pretty raw in terms of his technique. His footwork is actually pretty good; when executing the reach block, he snaps his hips and he moves his feet through contact. However, Carpenter really struggles with his hand placement, often catching the defender, failing to land a violent punch, and/or placing his hands outside the defender's jersey. While he doesn't win every leverage battle, he doesn't lose many and he is able to sink his pads and bend his knees exceptionally well. Does not get tall like most college OL. This is by far the weakest area of his game; adding a violent hand punch and improving placement would make his pass blocking more effective and competitive and would aid his already strong run-blocking skills.
Run Blocking: Excellent run blocker, even at 300lbs rather than the 322lbs he measured at Indy. Squat lower body enables him to move defenders quite often. Excellent athleticism to get to the second level. Mentally sound player who knows when he needs to drive block and when he should reach block. Rarely used on pulls/traps but flashes the ability to be good there as well. Rarely used on screens, but looks comfortable in space and was quite effective in limited snaps. Rarely asked to cut block and had limited effectiveness doing so.
Pass Blocking: Natural athlete capable of handling all but the quickest edge rushers. Was rarely challenged on the edge (makes it look easy) and was not beaten outside in the games I studied. Has some areas for improvement; as mentioned above, he is very raw with his hands and his pass protection would be aided greatly if he refined his technique. Is sometimes the last man moving on the snap, which is something that will need to be improved if Carpenter is going to be the pass protector he is capable of being. Could be more aggressive in pass protection; while the bull rush was not an effective means of pressuring the QB, Carpenter did give ground and shrink the pocket. The only times he was beaten came on inside moves, so defending better against that is key to his development.
Overall: Carpenter is a borderline 1st-round prospect at ~300lbs, as he's a little light for the RT spot and lacks the ideal dimensions for LT. He is very athletic, even for a 300lb tackle, and his technique problems don't stem from a lack of intelligence or competitiveness, which gives me hope that he will be able to improve on this aspect of his game. If Carpenter's weight gain is good weight and has not hurt his athleticism, he presents a very tantalizing size/speed/smarts combination. In all, this is an excellent pick and I expect Carpenter to develop into a very good player, with Pro Bowl potential if he adds a strong hand punch, keeps improving his body, and improves his quickness out of his stance. He also shows the natural athleticism to play LT in a pinch, and potentially guard as well.
The Pick Itself:
As badly as we need a Quarterback - and this team is not a true contender without an upgrade - we had a real hole at Right Tackle. Sometimes you have to accept that a pitch isn't right for a home run but maybe you can hit a line drive and get things moving in the right direction.
Pete Carroll is going to build a run-first offense. The wisdom of that decision is up for debate, but trying to build a run-first offense behind Seattle's 2010 line would be criminally stupid. Carpenter was the first step to creating an offensive line that is capable of helping the running backs, rather than hindering them. Carpenter is probably not the best value pick available at #25, but the more I watch him, the more I believe he will be one of the best 25 overall players in this draft, and for this team, getting a right tackle is vital to what our coaches want to do.