NY Jets running back Michael Carter has unusually intriguing fantasy potential for a rookie fourth-round pick.
Carter was an explosive athlete for the Tar Heels throughout his collegiate career. He shared the backfield with Javonte Williams, who was drafted two rounds earlier by the Broncos, but Carter was arguably an even better performer than Williams. Carter posted an average of 8.0 yards per carry in 2020 compared to Williams’ 7.3.
Standing at 5-foot-8 and just barely passing the 200-pound threshold (weighing in at 201), Carter isn’t an imposing figure. He isn’t going to barrel through defenders too often (despite the now-famous clip of him running over his now-teammate Michael Carter II). Carter also doesn’t have incredible speed, posting a 4.56 40-yard dash.
What Carter does offer is tremendous elusiveness. Carter’s shuttle (3.98s) and three-cone (6.83s) times at his pro day would have been top-5 among all players at the 2020 NFL combine. In 2020, he ranked sixth among FBS running backs with 47 missed tackles forced.
Double jump cut from UNC running back Michael Carter. That’s pretty. pic.twitter.com/MwrRaKXn9d
— Ryan Roberts (@RiseNDraft) December 23, 2020
Carter has soft hands as a pass-catcher and an ability to pass-block, two skills that should allow him to see the field sooner rather than later. He’s gotten better in this regard each year at UNC, turning 25 catches into 267 yards (at an excellent 10.7 average) in his final season. He has already been showcasing his receiving potential on the practice field for the Jets.
Michael Carter is a dual-threat RB 🙌 pic.twitter.com/2LFFIIQKDV
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) June 19, 2021
Fit with the Jets
Getting drafted to the Jets was probably the best bet for Carter’s fantasy football potential. The team doesn’t have a true lead back, and despite selecting La’Mical Perine in 2020, the Jets still chose to take Carter this year.
While that’s the good news, there is some bad news. Yes, there is no true lead running back, but because of that, Mike LaFleur will almost assuredly run a committee approach at the position, taking after the style employed by his 49ers over the past few years.
The Jets signed Tevin Coleman in free agency, who is quite familiar with the system LaFleur will deploy. Coleman shared time with LaFleur in San Francisco from 2019-20, and the two were also together in Atlanta from 2015-16.
On top of that, Ty Johnson is a potential darkhorse at the position. Johnson has an underrated skill set that fits the scheme excellently. He had been part of the three-man rotation at the position during early minicamp and OTA practices.
Fantasy Football Outlook
It’s quite easy to fall for rookie hype (myself included), but expectations should be tempered for Michael Carter in the 2021 season. Historically, the odds are against Carter. Since 2001, only two RBs selected in the fourth round have had a top-24 fantasy season in their rookie year.
Here is a list of RBs selected in Round 4 since 2001. It shows their rookie-season PPR finish and their career-best PPR finish.
The last rookie-season Top 25 was in 2011. Only 7 went on to reach top-10 status.
This is a Michael Carter tweet. pic.twitter.com/9ILCwfRqG1
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) July 2, 2021
At the moment, Carter is being drafted as the RB30 in redraft leagues. This is ahead of Mike Davis, Kenyan Drake, and Gus Edwards – players who were paid this offseason and will see guaranteed touches.
The realistic ceiling for Carter in his rookie season – given the history of the Jets’ scheme – would be a similar stat line to Raheem Mostert in 2019 when he finished as the overall RB26 with the 49ers. Mostert rushed 137 times for 772 yards and eight touchdowns that season.
Carter’s floor, on the other hand, could be a hardly playable option for fantasy football managers. At this moment, there is no guarantee he will touch the ball on a frequent basis.
If Carter is healthy, he will play all 17 games for the Jets this season, but that doesn’t mean he will see a meaningful number of opportunities from a fantasy football perspective. You should be expecting a low FPPG (fantasy points per game) total from him throughout the year with bursts of incredible play in between.
While I personally love Carter as a prospect and player, 2021 isn’t the year I’m targeting him in fantasy. Rookies (especially those in a committee) tend to start the season slowly.
In redraft leagues, Carter isn’t worth taking over some of the more proven players that are going off the board after him.