Everywhere you turn it seems as though there’s another player who should be getting more buzz in the 2022 NFL Draft.
This year’s draft is deep at a number of positions, and the defensive line group is one of the deepest. That depth is great for teams, but it’s also causing some talented prospects to get lost in the shuffle.
For instance, Florida’s Zachary Carter would likely be getting a lot more recognition in a less crowded draft class. Carter is an undersized but athletic defensive lineman who was used in a variety of ways by Florida’s defense. Could that athleticism, disruptiveness, and versatility appeal to Wink Martindale and the New York Giants?
Prospect: Zachary Carter (6)
Games Watched: vs. Georgia (2020), vs. Florida State (2021), vs. Alabama (2021), vs. UCF (2021)
Games Played: 41
Tackles For a loss: 26.0
Forced Fumbles: 2
Passes Defensed: 8
Games Played: 12
Tackles For a loss: 11.5
Forced Fumbles: 1
Passes Defensed: 2
Best: Hand usage, versatility, leverage, competitive toughness
Projection: A rotational interior defensive lineman in an aggressive 1-gap defense
(Carter is Florida defensive lineman number 6)
Florida defensive lineman Zachary Carter is an experienced lineman with an intriguing blend of technique, versatility, and athleticism to play on the defensive line at the NFL level.
Carter lined up as an EDGE defender and an interior lineman in the Gators’ “multiple” defense, playing a variety of techniques. He has experience as a 7-technique defensive end, a 5-technique defensive end in a 3-man front, and on the interior as a 4i, 3-technique, and 2-technique defensive tackle.
Carter has adequate lower-body flexibility, allowing him to play with good leverage to maximize his play strength. He flashes the ability to fire out of his stance when attacking individual gaps, playing with a good up-field burst. He also shows surprisingly fluidity and bend for such a stoutly-built prospect. Carter comes to the NFL with polished hand technique and showcases a variety of moves to defeat blockers. His go-to moves seem to be a dip-and-rip and a two-hand swipe move, though he also uses long-arm and bull rush moves. Carter shows active hands in defeating offensive linemen’s blocks, and great competitive toughness to fight through waves of blockers.
He also shows good quickness and agility when exchanging gaps on stunts or twists.
Carter also shows great leverage, particularly in the run game, playing low hips and pads to get under blockers’ pads. He can be a handful for defenders in one-on-one situations and is able to walk even much larger tackles – such as Alabama’s Evan Neal – into the backfield.
While Carter flashes good quickness and agility when attacking gaps, he seems to lack true explosiveness and only has an average get-off. He never seems to be the first defender moving, and he doesn’t really “explode” into defenders. Likewise, Carter doesn’t play with the same aggression when he is being asked to 2-gap or play off blockers as he does when trying to disrupt into the backfield.
Carter has some ability to play off the edge, but he lacks the true top-end athleticism to be an every-down EDGE defender. He can also be swallowed up by linemen when forced to take on double-teams. And while his hand usage is good for a college prospect, he struggles to use his hands to reliably defeat cut-blocks and can have promising rushes derailed by them.
Overall Grade: 7.1
Florida defensive lineman Zachary Carter projects best as a rotational defender for an aggressive 1-gap defense.
While Carter’s lack of elite athleticism likely limits his upside, his technique, football IQ, give him a relatively high floor. And that isn’t to say that Carter is a bad athlete by any stretch, but he lacks the explosiveness and agility that the best EDGE defenders possess. Instead, Carter might be best served as a rotational interior defensive lineman – likely a 3, 4i, or 5-technique, depending on defensive scheme – who slides out to the EDGE in heavy sets.
Carter has a good build for a 1-gap penetrating defensive tackle at 6-foot-3, 287 pounds. He carries his weight very well and shows good flexibility and bend for a player with his build. Carter is very clearly at his best when allowed to pin his ears back and fire into the offensive backfield. It isn’t fair to say that he’s tentative when the defense “builds a fence” to play off of blockers in the run game, but he doesn’t show the same quickness and explosion as when he is trying to get into the backfield.
Carter’s hand usage and football IQ – he’s an experienced defender who’s rarely fooled by misdirection or play fakes – should allow him to get on the field and contribute to a defense early. He might never be a highlight reel player, but he can be a useful player for a defense that’s focused on disrupting and uses an active defensive line rotation.