Michael Carter II
(Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

After a dominant season of slot coverage at Duke, Michael Carter II could instantly compete for the New York Jets’ starting slot cornerback role.

Role/usage

Michael Carter II primarily played slot cornerback for the Blue Devils, but he was a highly versatile defender overall. Here is a breakdown of his snap distribution in 2020:

  • Slot cornerback: 49.5% of defensive snaps
  • Outside cornerback: 27.2%
  • Inside linebacker: 10.2%
  • Free safety: 6.1%
  • Strong safety: 4.5%
  • Outside linebacker: 2.4%

As Duke substantially increased Carter II’s versatility in 2020. In 2019, the New York Jets rookie defensive back leaned much more heavily into his slot role. Here is a look at his snap distribution as a junior in 2019:

  • Slot cornerback: 68.5%
  • Outside cornerback: 15.6%
  • Inside linebacker: 7.8%
  • Free safety: 3.8%
  • Outside linebacker: 3.0%
  • Strong safety: 1.2%

Carter II has fairly even experience with both man and zone coverage. In 2020, he had a 52.5%/47.5% split between man and zone coverage reps. He played a good amount of press coverage as well, pressing on 34.8% of his coverage snaps in 2020, which ranked at the 64th percentile among cornerbacks.

The Blue Devils rarely blitzed Carter II, sending him to rush the quarterback less than once per game in his career (31 pass-rush snaps over 42 snaps). He only had one pass-rush snap in 2020.

Athletic profile

Here is a look at Carter II’s pro day numbers and where they stack up against all defensive backs (cornerbacks and safeties) in Combine history (since 2000):

  • Height: 5′ 9⅝ (8th percentile)
  • Weight: 184 pounds (9th)
  • Wingspan: 72¾” (11th)
  • Arm length: 29⅛” (1st)
  • Hand size: 9½” (71st)
  • 10-yard split: 1.51 seconds (81st)
  • 20-yard split: 2.56 seconds (72nd)
  • 40-yard dash: 4.36 seconds (95th)
  • Vertical jump: 35½” (47th)
  • 3-cone drill: 6.90 seconds (63rd)
  • 20-yard shuttle: 4.44 seconds (5th)
  • Bench press: 13 reps (26th)

Carter II’s small frame and extreme lack of length should all but eliminate his chances of succeeding as an outside cornerback in the NFL, but he has more than enough speed and quickness to thrive as a slot corner and potentially as a safety.

There were only two cornerbacks in the NFL this past season (who appeared in a game) that stood under 5-foot-10 and weighed under 185 pounds: two Eagles, Nickell Robey-Coleman (5’8, 180) and Avonte Maddox (5’9, 184). Carter II will have his work cut out for him as he attempts to prove that he can overcome his lack of size, but his speed and impressive production suggest he has a chance to stick in the NFL.

Positives

Dominant slot producion

Carter II was a lockdown force in the slot this past season. Over 31 slot targets, he allowed 15 catches (48.4% completion rate) for 122 yards (3.9 per target), one touchdown, and one interception, a passer rating of 56.1.

Multi-year coverage excellence

Carter II is not a guy who struggled throughout his career before breaking out in his senior year – he was a standout in coverage for three years.

After struggling in his freshman season, Carter II was an effective producer for Duke from his sophomore year through his senior year. In each of the past three seasons, he posted a Pro Football Focus coverage grade of at least 73.5 and allowed a yards-per-target average below 6.2. For reference, the 2020 NFL averages for cornerbacks were 61.0 and 8.0.

Over the past three seasons combined, Carter II allowed 5.2 yards per target and a 69.3 passer rating while posting a PFF coverage grade of 77.0. It’s very rare to see a Power-5 defensive back maintain such a high level of production in coverage over a three-year span.

Tackling improvement

Missed tackles were an issue for Carter II over his first three seasons, but he improved every year until he became an above-average finisher in 2020. Carter II had a 9.3-to-1 ratio of tackles to missed tackles in 2020, which is solid for a cornerback (2020 NFL CB average: 6.8-to-1).

Penalty minimization

Carter II is fantastic at avoiding penalties. He committed only six penalties over 2,132 snaps in his career, a rate of only 2.8 per 1,000 snaps. That’s less than half of the 2020 average for NFL cornerbacks (5.9).

On-ball playmaking

Carter II had a fantastic season of on-ball playmaking in 2020, recording eight pass breakups and two interceptions. He tied for seventh among all FBS cornerbacks with 10 forced incompletions. With those 10 plays coming over 47 targets in his direction, Carter II posted an impressive forced incompletion rate of 21.3%, placing at the 93rd percentile among qualified FBS cornerbacks.

Proficiency in both man and zone coverage

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