RENTON - With most folks anticipating the Seattle Seahawks trading down, general manager John Schneider worked the phones in the team's draft room until the final seconds of the 10 minutes allotted for Seattle to make its first-round pick.
Then the Seahawks’ choice flashed across the TV screen Thursday night.
The Seattle Seahawks select Alabama offensive tackle James Carpenter.
Count Carpenter as surprised as the Seahawks’ faithful when he was taken with the 25th pick in the first round. Watching from his home in Augusta, Ga., Carpenter said he knew the Seahawks were interested, but he expected a phone call during the second round today.
“It was crazy,” Carpenter said. “I was so shocked. I thought I was going to go in the second round, but I’m glad somebody had faith in me.”
At 6-foot-4 and 321 pounds, Carpenter has the versatility to play both tackle and guard. He initially accepted an offer to Iowa State but did not qualify academically, and the Cyclones sent him to Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, where he played two seasons. Carpenter then transferred to Alabama, where he started immediately filled in at left tackle, starting 27 games for the Crimson Tide and earning all-SEC honors from the coaches his senior season.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said the Carpenter pick was an effort to bring more nastiness and toughness to an offensive line that had 10 different starting combinations and improve a rushing attack that averaged just 89 yards per game in 2010, second-worst in the league.
“This guy’s a road grader,” Carroll said. “He’s a guy who comes off the football with great leverage. His feet are flying. He wants to bury you to demonstrate the attitude, the style and the toughness that he plays with.
“And the fact that he’s versatile, that’s another element that adds to it. He fits the way we want to bring our program along.”
Carroll said Carpenter will be Seattle’s starting right tackle from Day 1, and with the team selecting Russell Okung with the No. 6 overall pick last year, this gives Seattle two young bookends to anchor the offensive line.
The pick also seems to show the influence new offensive line/assistant head coach Tom Cable will wield. Cable is known as a no-nonsense coach who likes tough guys with a mean streak.
And Carpenter fits the bill.
“I’m mentally tough,” he said. “I just play hard. I do my best to get the job done, and I know that football is a tough sport. So that’s what I do.”
There’s also a chance Carpenter could move inside and play left guard next to Okung. Carpenter played some left guard at the Senior Bowl in January and fared well.
Carpenter has never been to the Pacific Northwest, and he will take his first trip to Seattle this weekend.
The farthest west Carpenter’s been is Pasadena, Calif., where he played in the Rose Bowl for the BCS title.
Carpenter became the 10th offensive lineman the Sea-hawks have taken in the first round.
There were four trades made in the opening round, and Schneider said Seattle had some potential deals lined up.
“We were working on some things,” Schneider said. “We got close on two things quite frankly. And then we had one to make a decision on. So we had two things that went away, and then one to make a decision on and we passed on it.”
Some questioned Seattle selecting Carpenter with higher-rated prospects like Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi and Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod still on the board, but Schneider said that Carpenter was the right pick.
“I would say to the fans that they should take reassurance in the fact that we’ve been busting our tail since last May covering this guy, and that we spent countless hours probably the last eight weekends in a row just evaluating this thing, and this guy’s never changed.”
Cable had an interesting response when told that draft analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network described Carpenter as a “finesse tackle.”
“I wouldn’t have drafted him if he was finesse,” he said. “I didn’t see anything that deterred me along the way, and the more you looked at his background and really did your research on the guy, it just kept coming up that this is the right for what we’re trying to do.”
The Seahawks have seven picks remaining in the draft, with the second and third rounds taking place today.