Less than two weeks away from the draft, let’s cover one of the top running backs. The Green Bay Packers may not be in the market for his services but Michael Carter Jr is one of the top talents.
Michael Carter Jr – North Carolina 5’ 8” 201 lbs
Michael Carter Jr was overshadowed by the amazing 2020 performance of his backfield mate, Javonte Williams. However, Carter had a solid season himself – make that a solid career. He checks in at 4th on UNC’s all-time rushing yards list, with 3,403.
He also caught over 20 passes each of his last three seasons with the Tarheels. Carter has improved in every facet during his time in North Carolina, though he might have a lower ceiling compared to the rest of the class.
He may only weigh 201-lbs but Carter has a very solid build. He’s been relatively healthy with UNC and that should translate to the pro level.
Carter’s ability to read and react will also translate. He’s got a keen sense for blocking development and can read the flow of the front seven like an open book. Add in his ability to accelerate and move laterally, and you’ve got a player that’s capable of ripping off big chunks of yards on any given play.
Carter consistently follows the blocking scheme, which will make coordinators happy. When the play breaks down, however, he knows where to find a cutback lane and can hit it with great pace. Carter is rarely trapped for a negative play.
His elite footwork helps him in the passing game. Carter can easily separate out of the break from NFL-caliber linebackers and his hands have improved during his time in Chapel Hill. He’s limited himself to just one drop each of the last two seasons.
Carter has been a reliable check down target but he doesn’t have the ability to take over a game through the air. He’s not much of a deep threat and isn’t special in space.
Carter also isn’t the most elusive runner in this class, nor is he the most powerful. He doesn’t have a niche at the next level, though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
He isn’t a poor pass-blocker but 2019 was the only season where Carter was productive in that category. He doesn’t have the size to hold up and on most of his losses, he got demolished by power and size.
Carter doesn’t have the size-speed combo of most NFL backs. His 6.24 RAS was 17th among running backs in the 2021 class. Sure, he measured small but his speed and explosion numbers were pretty uninspiring, as well.
It may seem that Carter’s small stature would limit him to a zone offense at the next level but his ability to read and hide from defenses offers him scheme versatility. He can be an effective between the tackles ball-carrier in a gap-heavy offense.
Carter may not have the size to absorb the wear and tear of an every-down role, though his receiving and blocking abilities will keep him on the field in passing situations. He’ll be a significant contributor but his role will depend on the offense that he lands on.
I have a late 3rd, early 4th-round grade on Carter. That may be too rich for the Green Bay Packers, considering they just selected AJ Dillon in the second round last year and re-signed Aaron Jones to a significant contract last month.
If the Packers choose to invest in the position early once again, Carter should be the choice. He’s the type of three-down contributor that the Green Bay Packers covet and would carve out an early role.