Continuing the Texans draft watch series, let’s take a look at Alabama offensive tackle James Carpenter.
What gives, you ask? Yesterday a fourth round free safety and today an offensive lineman? Bear with me, there’s a good reason why I’m throwing you a curve ball for the second day in a row
What gives is that I’m tired of writing about tweener defensive ends/outside linebackers. Plus, I think I covered most of the big names anyway, except for Robert Quinn who I may not write about because I think he’s a better fit as a 4-3 defensive end than a 3-4 linebacker.
What really gives is that the Texans are probably going to lose key backup ‘swing tackle’ Rashad Butler to free agency, and his departure will leave the Texans dangerously shallow at the position. Butler will likely get starter money from another team and the Texans are not going to pay him starter money to be a backup.
Butler filled in capably at left tackle last season when Duane Brown was suspended four games, and if Brown or Eric Winston go down to injury for an extended period, it’s not a going to be a pretty sight without Butler or another capable backup on the roster.
You might disagree and say that Wade Smith could kick out to tackle and the Texans could run Antoine Caldwell and Mike Brisiel (if he returns) or Shelley Smith at guards.
That’s true, but certainly it’s not an ideal situation, especially if it’s for more than a game or two. I’d rather have a bonafide tackle on the roster that can be developed (quickly) for just that reason. Even if he’s a rookie.
And sorry Colorado State fans, Cole Pemberton isn’t the answer.
So that leaves the Texans in a bit of a pinch, and I think they’d agree. Free agency is always an option but you always have to pay more for less when going that route – as the Texans should have learned by now. Plus, offensive tackles don’t grow on trees. Good ones at least.
So what’s left? Draft one.
Considering the needs on the defensive side of the ball and considering we’re talking about offensive tackle depth and not a starter, I think fourth round is where you start to look for Butler’s replacement unit.
It’s a shame because the Texans invested a lot in Butler, believed in him, coached him up, got his health issues diagnosed and corrected, gave him a four game audition and now are likely to lose him. That’s life in the NFL, I guess.
So over the past week or so, I was poring over draft rankings trying to find just the right guy. Carpenter quickly emerged as my leading candidate and while I watch a ton of SEC football, I couldn’t (at least with confidence) say that he was a legit swing tackle candidate at the next level.
Some guys, whether it’s because of their feet or arms, are just better fits on the right side. Others are better at guard. But I knew Carpenter played a lot of games at left tackle for ‘Bama so that was a plus.
So looking for corroboration to my theory, this morning I asked college football expert John Harris (1560TheGame and thesidelineview.com) this question via Twitter:
“How about a suggestion for a Texans draft, mid-round swing tackle candidate to replace Rashad Butler.”
I deliberately didn’t mention Carpenter’s name, and after a few clarifying tweets, Harris responded:
“I really like James Carpenter from Alabama. I have a 3rd round grade on him but if he slipped…I really like him.”
Ding, ding, ding… we have a winner! Theory corroborated.
While I doubt if the Texans would go fishing for a backup offensive tackle in the third round, if for any reason Carpenter slips to the fourth round, I’d be all over him. If you’re watching the combine, agility (quick feet) drills, punch, and arm length measurement are things to watch for when it comes to players like Carpenter. Forget the 40 and the bench press.
If you’re looking for a reason for Carpenter to possibly slip to the fourth round, cbssports.com’s Chad Rueter had this to say while watching Senior Bowl practice:
“Carpenter also looked quite strong, but not quite as athletic or technically sound as (you would like). Most scouts figured (Carpenter) would move inside (to guard) at the next level with his toughness and workmanlike, blue collar attitude.”
James Carpenter, OT Alabama (projection and position rank from nfldraftscout.com)
- 6-5, 313 lbs
- Current projection: Round 3-4
- Current rank: Ranked 11th out of 164 OTs
- First team All-SEC (coaches), Second team All-SEC (AP)
Video of Carpenter (video posted to YouTube from Senior Bowl practice. Not the best quality video but look for #77 starting at about the 1:00 mark. Physically imposing, Carpenter sure looks the part)