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2011 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Bruce Carter, OLB, North Carolina

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How NFL teams view North Carolina outside linebacker Bruce Carter will be one of the most interesting things to watch as the 2011 NFL Draft process unfolds. Carter was considered by many to be a sure top 10 pick in this April's draft before suffering a torn ACL in his left knee.

Before the injury Carter was an immensely gifted, athletic, play-making linebacker. Whether or not that athleticism, which is what had scouts and general managers drooling over him, will be compromised is the question. Carter has an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine later this month, but he just had reconstructive surgery on the knee in mid-December.

Mocking The Draft speculated in December that Carter could fall all the way to the third round. That would not be surprising, especially since it doesn't seem likely that Carter will be healthy enough by the end of this month to work out. So, teams might be heading into the draft in April not really knowing what they are getting in Carter.

Is he worth a third-round gamble? What do you guys think?

Scouting reports after the jump -- all of which are, of course, skewed because of the unknown impact of his injury.

Bruce Carter
OLB, North Carolina (Sr.)
6-foot-4, 235 pounds

Scouting Reports

From CBS Sports:

Possessing a brand of eye-popping pure athleticism reminiscent of former top-10 selections Aaron Curry (No. 4 overall pick in 2009, Seattle Seahawks) and Keith Rivers (No. 9 overall pick in 2008, Cincinnati Bengals), Carter entered the 2010 season among the highest-touted prospects in the country. Unfortunately, a disappointing senior season and late knee injury that required surgery now cloud his draft status. ...

When healthy, Carter is among the most explosive prospects in the 2011 draft. His athleticism has made up for average instincts, making his return from ACL reconstruction surgery critical to his final grade. ...

Underwent ACL reconstruction surgery on his left knee on Dec. 14, 2010 and may not be available to work out for scouts before the draft. Prior to the injury he was recognized as a workout warrior. Reportedly has been timed at 4.39 in the 40-yard dash, and owning a 40.5-inch vertical jump and a 440-pound max bench press, 605-pound squat and a power-clean of 374 pounds. Special teams demon for North Carolina in 2008. Led the country with five blocked kicks, including four punts. Blocked eight kicks for his career.

From Sideline Scouting:

Positives: Good speed... Has good strength for his size, but could stand to add a little weight to frame... Excellent special teams performer, has blocked six kicks in college career... Does good job breaking down feet and getting in position to wrap up when tackling... Plays with pretty good motor, does not take plays off often and always tries to get to the play... Has a lot of experience dropping into zone coverage, does not make a lot of big plays in coverage, but is always quick to get to the ball in the air... Very sound mentally and is an overall fundamental player who rarely makes a big mistake... Hard worker with a lot of potential, always working to improve his game.

Negatives: Timid when diagnosing plays, more concerned with maintaining duties than relying on instincts... Not a heavy hitter, tends to wrap up at the ankles rather than forming up and driving through ball carrier... Must develop more as a pass rusher, gets caught up in blocks at line of scrimmage and can be neutralized easily by stronger offensive linemen... Had reconstructive surgery to repair a torn ACL in mid-December, will likely not be available for the combine or North Carolina's pro day.

From the National Football Post:

One of the more gifted athletes you're going to see at the position. Possesses a long, athletic-looking frame and is at his best when asked to click and close and make plays in pursuit. Showcases great explosion once he locates the football and quickly is able to get from point A to point B. Exhibits impressive length and range when asked to break down and wrap up on contact. ...

The biggest knock on him is his inability to quickly react to the football. Isn't real instinctive, doesn't consistently trust what he sees and rarely gets an early jump on the pass. Puts himself in position to make plays on the football, but is slow to get his head around in the pass game and adjust to the throw.

However, has a real savvy for blocking kicks, is explosive, can cleanly change directions and does a great job dropping his pad level and accelerating after the football. Could have a real impact as a special teams guy early in the career.

Impression: A gifted athlete who has the makings of a starting weakside backer in the NFL. But I do have some questions about his instincts, which could end up holding him back from ever becoming a real impact player at the next level. However, tore his ACL toward the end of the year and is now a major medical risk.