The New York Jets continue to add talent around new franchise quarterback Zach Wilson. In the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, they selected UNC running back Michael Carter. A three-star prospect as rated by 247Sports, Michael Carter posted 3,345 all-purpose yards with 2,536 coming on the ground and an astounding 45 total touchdowns as a senior at Navarre High School just outside of Pensacola, Fla. Not bad for a kid coming off a torn PCL and LCL in his right knee the year prior.
Named the USA Today Florida Offensive Player of the Year, Carter was recruited by Florida, Tennessee, Louisville and Mississippi State but ultimately went to North Carolina. There, Carter was part of a multi-pronged rushing attack that included fellow 2021 prospect Javonte Williams. He finished his career there with 3,404 rushing yards, 656 receiving yards and 28 total touchdowns in 44 games. Carter also took part in the 2021 Senior Bowl where he led the National team with 60 rush yards on eight carries with a touchdown.
We're breaking down everything you need to know about Carter from a Fantasy manager perspective, including best fits, Dynasty outlook, measurables, scouting report, key stats and an NFL comparison.
2021 Fantasy impact
Prior to the draft, if you could pick any team for a rookie running back to land on and immediately inherit a sizable 2021 role, the Jets would probably be that team. Former 49ers defensive coordinator and first year coach Robert Saleh brought with him Mike LaFleur to run the Jets offense and he will be bringing over with him a similar system to what Kyle Shanahan ran. In other words, the run game will feature a lot of outside zone which makes Carter -- a one-cut and go back -- a perfect fit for what the Jets want to do. Carter has the talent to excel in a power/gap blocking scheme too, but outside zone is likely to be his forte.
In addition to joining a blocking system that fits his skill set, Carter will also be joining a team that has upgrade the talent around the running back position immensely this offseason. The Jets added Wilson at No. 2 overall and a case can be made that he will immediately upgrade the QB position. They also added Corey Davis at receiver in free agency and drafted Elijah Moore at the top of the second round -- all three players add firepower to this offense, which is a good thing for Carter. The most important addition for Carter was New York's second of two first-round picks: offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker. He's Day 1 ready to make an impact in the running game as a blocker.
The Jets haven't invested major draft capital or free agent dollars in the running back position and Carter joins a wide-open depth chart that includes 2020 Day 3 draft pick Lamical Perine, 2021 free agent acquisition Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson and Josh Adams. While both Johnson and Adams saw touches in 2020 after Le'Veon Bell was cut, Carter should jump them shortly. As for Coleman and Perine, a case can be made that Carter is immediately the most talented back on this depth chart and a path to playing time is clear. Carter also offers a passing game skill set and can be a contributor on passing downs for the Jets. -- Dan Schneier
Carter's a good back who's going to have to catch some breaks to become a workhorse in the NFL. He's a shifty, compact runner, but he doesn't have the blazing speed, consistent power or pass protection chops to lead a backfield. Not at this point anyway. It wedges him into a complementary role that, in the Jets offense, could mean anywhere from 10-to-15 touches per week. He could evolve from there, but he could also struggle to keep that workload. In a rookie class with several great running backs and even more great receivers, Carter could move up into the back-end of the first round of rookie drafts after landing with the Jets but is more likely to be a second-round pick in rookie drafts.
- Short, stocky build challenged defenders not only to wrap him up but also locate him behind his offensive linemen.
- Displayed excellent patience in following his blockers in both zone and power schemes. Transferred over to following blocks downfield, too.
- Had excellent vision to identify where his rushing lanes were. When he did stop or shuffle his feet, it was usually because defenders crashed his O-line. He didn't bump into his O-line's butts very often.
- Terrific focus and fearlessness, which helped him navigate very tight quarters when running between the tackles.
- Carter had very good lateral agility that gave him the goods to be a cut-back escape artist. Would regularly jump cut, shift, slide and juke his way through defenses for extra numbers.
- Don't mistake his size for his toughness. Carter was never afraid to run with a physical edge.
- Was unfazed by lower-body tackle attempts, frequently breaking out of defenders' grasps like Alvin Kamara. That includes when he ran in tight, dense spaces between the tackles. He's slippery.
- Acceleration and burst weren't consistent but was mostly good. Typically sprung into gear once he diagnosed a play and knew where he wanted to go.
- Wasn't a burner but had good enough speed, displayed at its best when Carter rushed to the edges and broke away from defenders.
- Finished plays with toughness and smarts. Did a solid job of diagnosing defenders at the end of plays. Would run to contact frequently to max out his yardage and often would drag a defender to pick up extra yardage.
- Ball security was very good. Fumbled twice in 2018 (109 touches), once in 2019 (198 touches), zero times in 2020 (181 touches).
- Mostly good hands in the passing game. One drop all of 2020. Naturally turned upfield after the catch and was effective in space.
- Returned kicks for North Carolina, averaging 22.4 yards per return on 29 tries with no touchdowns.
- Hand size is 8 3/4, which is considered very small.
- Underweight, which could make him a liability if pressed into a big role.
- Carter isn't a big target, but his power was non-existent when defenders hit him high. When defenders wrapped him above the waist, the play was over.
- Had good burst, but it took him a second to recognize where to run once he had the football in his hands. The slightly slow reaction time could cost him opportunities at the pro level.
- Speed was never electric -- would get caught from behind by faster defenders in the ACC.
- Didn't see him run a variety of routes and might be best as a flare/screen/dumpoff option in the passing game.
- Willing to work in pass protection but wasn't good at it. At best he was inconsistent and at worst he got completely overpowered by linebackers.
- Had nearly 25% of his entire 2020 rushing production in final game at Miami.
- Didn't miss a game in 2019 or 2020, but a broken wrist cost him two games in 2018 and a torn right PCL and LCL in 2015 forced him from nearly all of his junior year of high school.
- Some may consider it a red flag that he sat out of the Orange Bowl, his last college game.
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Advanced stats to know
(all from 2020)*
- 3.46 yards before contact per rush, sixth-best in nation
- 4.47 yards after contact per rush, 14th-best in nation
- 47 missed tackles forced, fifth-best in nation
- 29 carries of 15-plus yards, best in nation
- Small sample size, but Carter converted 90% of his carries on downs of three yards or fewer (9 of 10). It was the third-best mark in the nation.
- Played four games last year with under 15 touches, three with 20-plus touches
A lot of names came to mind when watching Carter -- Brian Westbrook, Garrison Hearst and Austin Ekeler, to name three. But Carter's thick legs and physical ways brought back some serious Devonta Freeman vibes. Freeman entered the NFL as a part-time running back and then emerged as a full-timer who became a good Fantasy asset. That's the best-case scenario for Carter, who is nearly certain to be viewed as a part-time running back to begin his career with zero guarantees he will ever become more than that.