The Seahawks selected Alabama offensive lineman James Carpenter with the 25th pick in the NFL draft on Thursday.
RENTON — James Carpenter has never been to Seattle.
And on Thursday night, he was the choice no one saw coming.
Not in Seattle, anyway. Not until the Seahawks exhausted their allotted 10 minutes to make the 25th pick in the NFL draft, then chose the offensive tackle from the University of Alabama — surprising just about everyone, including Carpenter.
“It was crazy,” Carpenter said later in a telephone interview. “I was so shocked. I thought I was going to go in the second (round), but somebody had faith in me. I’m glad to be in Seattle.”
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Carpenter is 6 feet 4, weighs 321 pounds and started 27 games at left tackle in two seasons at Alabama. He will have a chance to compete for a starting spot at right tackle on a line with Russell Okung and Max Unger the only starters you can write into the 2011 lineup.
“This is a bit of a statement,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Carpenter’s selection. Carroll said the first-round selection of Okung last year was a statement. The addition of Carpenter, another offensive lineman, “is just a continued commitment,” he said.
“We’re a long ways away, but we’re moving in the right direction,” Carroll said.
And that direction is straight ahead on the ground with a line that will be anchored by bookends weighing more than 300 pounds each.
From 2005 to 2009, Seattle drafted one man to play tackle, Ray Willis, a fourth-round pick in 2005. This is the second consecutive year Seattle has spent a first-round choice on the position, taking Okung No. 6 overall in 2010 and now Carpenter at No. 25.
“This is a pick that we needed to make a move on,” Carroll said. “We’ve watched this guy all along. We had him targeted throughout.”
Well, they didn’t let anyone in on that secret.
So much of the buildup to Seattle’s draft focused on quarterbacks, and four were chosen in the first 12 picks, including the University of Washington’s Jake Locker at No. 8.
TCU quarterback Andy Dalton was available when Seattle picked. So was Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, who was chosen by Baltimore at No. 26.
Carpenter was the fourth offensive tackle chosen, and Seattle took him ahead of Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi, a more touted prospect.
Carpenter was Seattle’s target, said general manager John Schneider.
“Quite frankly, our top-rated guy came to us and he stayed there the whole time,” he said.
Schneider had been frank about his desire to trade down to net more picks, and he said there were three potential deals the team was working on while on the clock. Two deals fell apart, and Seattle left one on the table, choosing instead to pick Carpenter.
It’s not like Carpenter came out of nowhere. He started at left tackle on an Alabama team that won the national championship after the 2009 season. He never missed a game in two seasons after transferring to Alabama from a Kansas community college.
What would Schneider say to Seahawks fans who waited nearly three hours and 24 picks for their team to be on the clock, only to watch it pick an offensive lineman considered a relative surprise?
“They should take reassurance from the fact that we’ve been busting our tail since last May covering this guy,” Schneider said of Carpenter. “We spent countless hours evaluating this thing, and this guy has never changed.”
All that mattered once the Seahawks were on the clock is what they thought of the Alabama tackle.
“Whether somebody else saw it that way, we don’t care,” Carroll said. “We evaluated this thing very carefully, and we’re really fired up it worked out the way it did.”
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org