The New York Giants have had a glaring need at linebacker for years. Decades, really. Even when they have tried to address the need it hasn’t panned out.
Most recently, the Giants were widely believed to be smitten with Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd in the 2016 NFL Draft, only to have the Chicago Bears trade up and and select him with the ninth pick in the draft. The team had hoped that Floyd’s blend of size, athleticism, and versatility would boost both their pass rush and ability to cover the middle of the field.
With the team hiring James Bettcher as defensive coordinator, they will be switching to a base 3-4 defense. Bettcher, though, uses versatile players who can play a variety of roles to present different looks and match-ups to offenses.
This is finally the year that the Giants select a linebacker on the first two days of the draft and Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter was reportedly be high on their list.
- Very versatile linebacker. Comfortable rushing the passer, dropping in coverage, or playing the run.
- Combines length, surprising strength, and fluid athleticism.
- Remarkably sudden off the snap as a pass rusher, with good flexibility to bend around the edge.
- Knows how to use his hands and length to keep blockers away from his chest.
- Keeps track of the ball on option plays, isn’t often fooled by fakes.
- Athletic enough to drop in coverage and frequently matched up on running backs, H-backs, and tight ends in the slot.
- Can be a bit undisciplined in his rushes, leaving escape lanes for mobile quarterbacks.
- Isn’t highly instinctive, appears to need to wait and see a play before accelerating.
- Short area quickness is lacking. Needs a moment to gather himself before changing directions in a phonebooth.
- Relatively slender build shows against particularly strong tackles or when he can’t use his length to keep blocker off of him.
- Limited production despite his talent. Only 14.5 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks in the last two years.
What they’re saying
Carter was a five-star prospect and one of the most heralded players in the nation when he was recruited by Georgia but he never made the impact expected of him as a Bulldog. However, Carter played with increased toughness and confidence this year and his NFL potential began to reassert itself once again. Carter is an outside linebacker in a 3-4 or 4-3 with sideline-to-sideline range and the tools to become a productive edge rusher in sub-packages. He needs to add more bulk, but he is a future NFL starter.
Does He Fit The Giants?
Watching Lorenzo Carter, a few things leap off the screen.
First is his build. It’s difficult to say that his build is “unique” for a linebacker when it is so similar to Leonard Floyd’s from a couple years ago, or Trumaine Edmunds in this draft. However, there aren’t many linebackers who are 6-foot-5, 242 pounds with his blend of explosion, athleticism, flexibility, and strength. It’s actually easy to imagine him standing among the “new age” hybrid tight ends or tall NBA point guards.
What’s more, he knows how to use that wiry frame to his advantage, consistently using his long arms to keep blockers from latching on before shedding them to make a play, or simply blowing past them and flattening around the corner to pressure the passer.
Next, Carter’s sheer versatility is remarkable. He played all over the Georgia front seven, and even took the occasional rep as a slot corner. On one play he could be lined up off-ball as a WILL linebacker and dropping in zone coverage, the next he could be in a four-point stance as a Wide-9 rusher in a 4-3 alignment, on another he could be on the line in a 2-point stance as an “elephant” rusher in a 3-4 look, and then he could be matched up in man coverage on a tight end in the slot.
Carter isn’t without his faults, and perhaps wearing so many hats for the Georgia defense magnifies them. While some athletes seem to defy physics, no player can escape it, and when Carter is asked to quickly change directions it takes him a moment to gather himself and launch in a new direction. He’s flexible enough to sink his hips and make sharp moves, but there is simply a lot of him to get moving in a new direction. Also, having so many roles might slow down his decision making. He seems to process information quickly, but paring down the number of positions he plays might let him rely more on his instincts without needing to verify before accelerating into the play.
There are those who will want to fill out his frame more, but he shows enough strength to deal with most blockers when he is able to initiate contact, gain leverage, and use his length. NFL teams should be wary of compromising the flexibility and sudden, fluid athleticism that allows him to be so versatile, in the pursuit of greater bulk which might not help his game.
Given his versatility, athleticism, and talent -- as well as their own glaring need -- it makes sense that the Giants would be keenly interested in Carter. He was, reportedly a favorite of Jame Bettcher’s and should be a particularly strong fit in his “multiple” and aggressive defense.
That defense should allow him to take full advantage of his impressive and varied physical tools, as well as give the Giants both the speed rusher and second level coverage they have lacked since the days of Osi Umenyiora and Michael Boley.