New York Jets running back Michael Carter is an extremely elusive runner who is also proficient in the passing game.
Michael Carter comes into the NFL with a relatively solid amount of tread on his tires, as he was never “the guy” throughout his four years in Chapel Hill. Carter amassed 596 touches over 44 career games, an average of 13.5 per game. In 2020, he averaged a career-high 16.5 touches per game with 181 of them in 11 games.
Over the past two seasons, Carter was deployed in a nearly dead-even split with Javonte Williams, who ended up being taken 35th overall by the Denver Broncos in this year’s draft. In 2020, Carter rushed 157 times to Williams’ 156 while both players caught 25 passes.
Carter was primarily a first-down back this past season. Here is a breakdown of how UNC dispersed the football on each down:
- 1st down: Carter – 106 carries for 836 yards, Williams – 78 carries for 555 yards
- 2nd down: Carter – 43 carries for 364 yards, Williams – 52 carries for 451 yards
- 3rd down: Carter – 7 carries for 45 yards, Williams – 19 carries for 83 yards
UNC leaned on Carter more often when they were out of scoring position and began to lean on Williams more as they approached the goal line. Outside of the opponent’s 40-yard line, Carter received 99 carries to Williams’ 78, and Carter did a fantastic job in that range as he averaged 9.1 yards per carry. From the opponent’s 39-to-21-yard range, Williams out-carried Carter 34 to 29, and in the red zone, Williams out-carried Carter 45 to 28.
The Tar Heels’ scheme employed a fairly average split of zone and gap concepts. Carter ran a zone concept on 56.8% of his career carries, almost dead-on with the 2020 NFL average for a running back (57.0%).
Carter was featured in the passing game at a relatively average frequency. Targeted 30 times over 138 routes run, Carter saw the ball come his way once every 4.6 routes run, a tad more frequent than 2020 NFL average for running backs (5.0).
Carter is a small back, standing at 5′ 7⅞” (5th percentile all-time among RB) and 201 pounds (18th percentile).
Here are some of Carter’s pro day measurables and their rankings among running backs in Combine history (since 2000):
- Wingspan: 73⅜” (34th percentile)
- Arm length: 29⅛” (4th)
- Hand size: 8¾” (14th)
- 10-yard split: 1.65 seconds (10th)
- 20-yard split: 2.60 seconds (58th)
- 40-yard dash: 4.54 seconds (55th)
- Vertical jump: 34 inches (43rd)
- Broad jump: 119 inches (55th)
- 3-cone drill: 6.83 seconds (85th)
- 20-yard shuttle: 3.98 seconds (97th)
- Bench press: 16 reps (24th)
Carter’s profile sums up his game pretty well: small frame, not a ton of power, average long speed, and great short-area quickness.
Rushing efficiency and big-play propensity
Carter averaged 8.0 yards per rush attempt in 2020, the best mark among FBS running backs with at least 100 carries.
However, Carter made a much bigger impact in the yardage department than the chain-moving department. Carter picked up a first down or a touchdown on 30.6% of his carries, which is good, but not great, ranking at the 68th percentile among running backs with at least 100 carries.
While that number is a solid representation of his playstyle (big plays over consistency), it is largely a product of his role. Over two-thirds of his carries came on first down and the Tar Heels leaned towards Williams in short-yardage or goal-line situations. A player’s conversion rate will naturally be lower when they are used that way.
Nevertheless, Carter is certainly much more of a big-play threat than a consistent chunk yardage workhorse. He led the nation with 29 rushes for 15+ yards in 2020. Carter picked up 62.7% of his rushing yards on runs for 15+ yards, the highest portion among running backs with at least 10 carries.
This addresses a major weakness for the New York Jets offense. New York ranked last in the NFL with 10 rushes for 15+ yards in 2020. Carter brings an explosive element that the Jets simply did not have last year.
Shifty as can be, Carter is extremely difficult to bring down, and that’s reflected in his outstanding after-contact and broken tackle numbers. It’s his excellence in these metrics that provide the most intrigue regarding his long-term potential.