Debating Seahawks' approach to NFL draft

The most recent Football Today podcast with Ross Tucker and Matt Williamson takes an in-depth, balanced look at the Seattle Seahawks' thinking in the 2011 NFL draft.

Tucker and Williamson offer points and counterpoints as to the Seahawks' decision to select Alabama tackle James Carpenter with the 25th overall choice. I'll provide a transcript covering this portion of the discussion, followed by some thoughts in conclusion.

The conversation began with Tucker noting that he had predicted Carpenter as a first-round selection based on what he was hearing from offensive line coaches.

Ross Tucker: "I talked to two teams that both really, really liked him and both said they would be surprised if he didn’t go late first round. ... A lot of people really like him. He is very physical. They think he can play four different positions. Both guards and both tackles. Played at Alabama. High level of competition. Played for Joe Pendry, who was, ironically enough, my offensive line coach my rookie year with the Washington Redskins. And evidently, Joe Pendry really talked him up to people.

"This may surprise you, but I’m not typically a big fan of drafting offensive linemen high. So, I don’t love the pick because I think you can get a guy in the third, fourth round that maybe you train him for a year or maybe even not and maybe he goes in there and plays well. Like what Marshal Yanda did with the Ravens when they took him in the third round. I think you can get good offensive linemen in the third and fourth round. And so I’m not enamored with what they did with Carpenter and I’m really not enamored with what they did getting John Moffitt in the third round. I think Moffitt is a tough guy. He looks like he is guy was willing to be physical. But I think they could get comparable players lower."

Matt Williamson: "I am a believer that you can get by with mediocre offensive line talent. They don’t have to be Orlando Pace in terms of physical abilities if you are tough and you are smart. You have to have those two attributes. A lot of those guys in turn can play multiple positions. But I can’t be real, real critical of this pick, either, because their line was so bad. They used a first-round pick on Russell Okung, who I love, at left tackle last year. Now they have a set of bookends.

"They had so many needs, they could have went in a lot of directions. A guy like Jimmy Smith would have been a really good pick. They need a lot of things in Seattle, but right tackle was certainly one of them. I don’t think it was a reach. Obviously, they are trying to get to be very, very physical. Their two offensive line selections suggest they want to run the football, they want to be a more physical football team than who they go up against. I can’t be real critical of it, although I think their draft in general was pretty blah."

Ross Tucker: "And that is the one thing I always say about the draft: Why do you think people were appalled by that pick? I’ll tell you why. Because none of them had ever seen any mock draft, James Carpenter going in the first round. If they had taken Gabe Carimi, I don’t think people would have been that appalled by it. They would go, 'OK, Gabe Carimi from Wisconsin, good player, first-round pick, I’m glad we got him.' Or if James Carpenter had been listed in a bunch of mock drafts as going at going 17 and 19. So much of what people think of your draft is based on their perceptions before the draft, which might be completely wrong."

This conversation captures the debate perfectly. Drafting two offensive linemen made great sense for the Seahawks based on their priorities and needs, but it's fair to ask whether they overvalued right tackle and guard, which qualify as non-premium positions.

The same questions apply to the San Francisco 49ers, who used 2010 first-round choices for a right tackle (Anthony Davis) and left guard (Mike Iupati), and also to the St. Louis Rams, who used the second overall choice of the 2009 draft for a right tackle (Jason Smith). The Arizona Cardinals' Levi Brown, chosen fifth overall in 2007, played right tackle until last season.

In the end, teams have no reason to regret selecting such players early if their offensive lines perform at a high level for an extended period.