With the signings of Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard during NFL free-agency this off-season, it might seem like the Buccaneers are set at the running-back position.
However, when you look a little more closely, three of the four backs under contract this year will no longer be under contract in 2022. One season from now this room may look a lot different, unless the Bucs choose a back in the 2021 NFL Draft.
At pick no. 32, there are going to be some options there. But, if they choose to wait a little bit longer, they may be able to pick up a very talented back like Michael Carter, without having to spend their most valuable picks on the position.
Let’s take a look at what he accomplished at the collegiate level and what he could bring to the Bucs if he ends up hearing his name called to Tampa Bay on draft night.
MICHAEL CARTER’S COLLEGIATE CAREER
Carter came out of high school as a three-star recruit despite him being named the USA Today Florida offensive player of the year, after a spectacular senior season. With 18 offers to weigh out, he ultimately chose to attend the University of North Carolina where he made waves almost immediately.
In his true freshman season he played in 11 games and piled up 659 total yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns, eight of which came on the ground. In his second year, he did much of the same as he racked up 732 yards from scrimmage, but only three touchdowns in a total of nine games.
Going into 2019 as a junior, he was ready to take on a bigger role and when he stepped onto the field, he truly embraced it. Carter led UNC in rushing during this season, picking up 1,003 yards on the ground with an additional 198 through the air and was rewarded with a Third-team All-ACC selection.
This past season he continued to impress as he amassed 1,512 total yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns in only 11 games, which finally earned him some national recognition as he was named to the AP Third-team All-American list. He ended his career with a 6.6 yards per carry average and a total of 28 touchdowns, and is now looking to make a splash at the professional level.
PRO DAY DATA AND ANALYSIS
North Carolina hosted their pro day on March 29th and Carter had some pretty good results:
Results are in for @8kMike #CarolinaFootball #ProHeels pic.twitter.com/yPM9YJVNfD— Carolina Football (@TarHeelFootball) March 29, 2021
While he is below average height and weight for a typical three-down running-back, he most likely won’t be drafted to take that role and it shouldn’t affect his draft stock too much. What many people are pointing to as the big weakness here is his 4.50 40-yard dash time.
Even though that time lines up with the NFL average for backs at the combine, it was thought that he would be much quicker based on his smaller size. I’m here to tell you that it really doesn’t matter because his play style doesn’t require high top-end speed.
The two biggest areas we really should be looking at with him are the 3.98 sec shuttle and 6.87 sec three-cone drill. These two showings are well above average and demonstrative of his quick cut agility and overall elusiveness, two areas that he has the tape to back up.
WHAT HE BRINGS IN 2021
With Tampa Bay bringing four running-backs into the 2021 season in Jones II, Fournette, Bernard, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Carter would most likely not see the field very often in his rookie season.
His quickness, elusiveness, and ability to catch out of the backfield might spring him into a rotational role on third downs with Bernard, but his time to shine wouldn’t really come until 2022.
If he were to even suit up on game days in this upcoming season, I could see Carter playing in a special teams role with the opportunity to develop into something greater in the years to come.
As I mentioned earlier, Carter isn’t a starting bell-cow type running-back in the NFL because of his size. He is well-suited to come in on passing downs to add some explosiveness from out of the backfield, and he’s shown that he can pass protect.
If he were to end up on the Buccaneers, he could easily be a replacement for Bernard going into 2022 depending on what the Bucs decide to do with the veteran back. While he wouldn’t be a guy to replace RoJo or Fournette, he could be a valuable asset that would add another element to an already elite offense.
Before a stand-out showing at the Senior Bowl, many people had Carter falling to the fourth round or later. However, after this, he has been in the conversation as a back who could be drafted as early as the beginning of the third round.
His Senior Bowl, combined with the elite three-cone and shuttle drill numbers, might just propel him into day two despite his size and play-style limitations. Though it really does depend on who you ask.
There are some who claim that he will still be a day three pickup, and those who say that he’s definitely earned his way into day two. Only time will tell, but to me he seems poised to be selected somewhere in the latter half of the third round.
ON THE CLOCK...
What about you Bucs Nation? What are your thoughts about UNC’s Michael Carter? Let us know what you think by voting in the poll and leaving your comments below!
For Michael Carter, the Buccaneers should...
This poll is closed
...draft him at current projection (late Day two)
...draft him early (trade up on day two)
...take a better player earlier in the draft
...draft this position, but later than he is projected
...not draft this position group at all