Draft Watch: James Carpenter

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 16: Marcell Dareus and James Carpenter of the Alabama Crimson Tide against the Ole Miss Rebels at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 16, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

While there has been some improvement over the past few games, offensive line is still very upgradeable for the Bills after this season. My top rated tackle in the 2011 draft class is Alabama senior James Carpenter. While most mock sites have him projected to go in the 3rd-4th round, he graded out to a 9.6 (Top 5 grade) in my system.

• JUCO transfer (Coffeyeville [Kan.] Community College) that started 14 games at LT his first season at Alabama in 2009
• He committed to Iowa State originally, but struggled academically
• Has quick feet and can mirror his guy
• James can literally just take his defender out of the play. A lineman will try and put the outside rush on him, and Carpenter drives him out of the camera’s view
• He’s a good run blocker. He can seal the edge. And blow open holes. He can pull block and get outside in a hurry. Not as consistent as he is with pass protection, but he’s solid.
• Said he chose Alabama for the challenge of trying to fill Andre Smith’s shoes
• Any team that drafts James is getting a franchise tackle for the next decade. His blocking skills are about as good as it gets and he’ll be an elite tackle. He was a starter for a national championship team at LT his first year coming from junior college. Any player that can adjust like that and continue to get better has unlimited potential

I keep watching film on him, trying to prove the grade wrong, but I can’t. I’ve heard that there’s a feeling around the league that Alabama tackles are viewed as damaged goods. This sentiment can be traced back to brutally overweight tackle Andre Smith, who went to the Bengals 6th overall in 2009. If this is the case, the Bills could potentially grab a franchise caliber player at the top of the 2nd round.

In case you want to get a look for yourself, the Crimson Tide squares off against No. 17 Mississippi State on Saturday.

Matt Cooper
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