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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: RB Michael Carter

  • The Draft Network
  • December 26, 2020
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PROSPECT SUMMARY

North Carolina running back Michael Carter was a steady presence in the Tar Heels backfield since 2017 but truly broke out over his final two seasons, where he collected 2,669 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns. He has terrific vision, burst, elusiveness, receiving skills, and decision-making as a runner that makes him so productive. While he is on the leaner side, Carter is a good inside and outside runner. He does well to make intelligent and timely cuts while blending patience with decisiveness, making his blocks right, and running to daylight. While he isn’t overly dynamic when it comes to contact balance and breaking tackles, he is slippery and his wiggle enables him to find yards after contact. For a team looking to employ a two-back system, Carter would be an outstanding complementary option to another back that brings size and power components to the table. 

Ideal Role: Complementary, 1B back that is featured in the passing game.

Scheme Fit: Zone rushing scheme.

FILM EVALUATION

Written by Joe Marino 

Games watched: Virginia (2019), Duke (2019), Clemson (2019), Pittsburgh (2019), Virginia Tech (2020), Syracuse (2020), Notre Dame (2020), Wake Forest (2020), Miami (2020). 

Best Game Studied: Miami (2020) 

Worst Game Studied: Pittsburgh (2019)

Vision: Carter benefits from playing in a scheme that features an excellent vertical passing game, a terrific run-blocking offensive line, and another talented running back in Javonte Williams, but Carter certainly does his part in taking advantage of spacing, making his blocks right, and making good decisions with the football. His vision in the open field is outstanding. He does well to blend patience with being decisive, allowing blocks to take form but not being hesitant. Carter shows good technique when pressing the line of scrimmage to manipulate the second level and create space/cutback opportunities.

Footwork: Carter has quick, springy, and compact footwork. I love his subtle ability to gain width in cuts without altering his pace—he carries his speed through cuts. Carter’s cuts are timely working off blocks and he has plenty of lateral quickness. 

Contact Balance: Carter won’t be confused as a power back but he has plenty of wiggle and twitch to shake out of tackles and find additional yardage. He does well to square his pads and reduce his pad level to bring a physical dynamic to the table, but he’s not overly powerful given his frame. Carter is compact and controlled in space and understands the economy of motion. 

Durability: Carter has been an increasingly featured piece of the North Carolina backfield since 2017 with 596 touches over that span. He did suffer a broken wrist just prior to the 2018 season which delayed his debut as a sophomore. He also missed the Miami game in 2017 due to injury. Carter is built as more of a complementary back in the NFL. 

Explosiveness: Carter has always had terrific long speed and that truly showed up in 2020, where he averaged eight yards per rush and more than 10 yards per reception. While he doesn’t have elite breakaway speed, he has plenty of juice to rip off big chunks of yardage. Carter’s vision and intelligent tracks pressing the boundary help provide opportunities for him to hit the long ball. 

Versatility: Carter is a good inside and outside runner and reliable pass-catcher out of the backfield. His pass blocking ability is adequate and he’s an option to contribute on every down. Carter does have 29 kick returns for his career where he averaged 22.4 yards per return. Carter isn’t likely to be a desirable option for short-yardage carries against heavy boxes. 

Elusiveness: Carter is quick and slippery through gaps and he has excellent control of his frame, executing dynamic cuts in space. His wiggle enables him to slip out of tackle attempts and find additional yardage after contact. He’s always under control, even when stringing together moves.  

Ball Security: Carter logged just one fumble across 2019 and 2020 where he combined for 379 touches from scrimmage. He appears to be deliberate about protecting the football and he isn’t loose with the ball. He is capable of carrying the ball in either hand but doesn’t force switching hands.

Passing Down Skills: Carter is a good receiver out of the backfield that should be an asset in the screen game, check-downs, and as a route runner. He has reliable hands but isn’t immune to an occasional drop. Carter is adequate and willing in pass protection, but his modest strength and leaner frame could present some challenges as a faceup blocker. 

Discipline: Carter has explosive, big-play qualities but that doesn’t mean he reaches for a home run on every carry. He is disciplined to execute the play concept but also knows when to improvise. I appreciate his willingness to stay with inside tracks and not force runs to the perimeter. 

Prospect Comparison: Duke Johnson (2015 NFL Draft, Cleveland Browns) 

SCOUT GRADES

TDN Consensus: 78.75 / 100

Joe Marino: 79.50/100

Jordan Reid: 78.00/100

Drae Harris: 79.00/100

Kyle Crabbs: 78.50/100

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