Taking a break from watching RBs, I wanted to try to find a "fun" prospect to write about. I watched a bunch of punters and kickers. There's a K who might enter the draft who is 5'11'' and 254 pounds. They call him the "Thiccer Kicker" (I don't know why they spell it like that.) The prospect I finally settled on is the highly touted Army defender, Andre Carter II (His dad isn't the former NFL player who played for the Niners. His dad is a restaurant franchisee and worked in the airline industry. His mom used to be a lawyer. He's the youngest of 5 kids.) Currently ranked on most draft boards as a 1st or 2nd round player, Carter could be a prime candidate for the Rams to draft in the 2nd round. KA recently mentioned him in an article about unconventional players the Rams could draft.
It is likely, but not official that Carter will be allowed to enter the NFL without delay. The policy regarding allowing military academy players to go directly into the NFL has flipped back and forth during recent years. You might remember an offensive lineman from Army named Brett Toth back in 2018. At that time, it was expected that Toth would have to serve at least 2 years of military service before playing pro football. There used to be a policy allowing army prospects to immediately enter the NFL (Keenan Reynolds was a 6th rd pick in 2016), but the Defense Secretary reversed that stance in 2017 and created a different rule where they would have to serve 2 years. Toth was an UDFA in 2018 and spent a year in the military.
The following year, the President pushed for a change in the policy and in response the Army granted a special waiver to Toth in August of 2019. allowing him to play. Toth is still in the NFL, with the Eagles.
A recent bill reversed the policy once more, reinstating the requirement that football players serve in the military prior to entering the NFL. Bad press from the media led to new legislation that grandfathered in current athletes such as Carter under the former policy. So, as long as Carter is granted a waiver, he'll be able to play in the NFL without delay. For purposes of this evaluation, I'm going to assume he'll get the waiver.
The second issue I'll mention right off the top is I don't view Carter as an edge rusher prospect. He's listed that way on several boards and an NFL team definitely might try him in that role, but if it were my team, I'd try to use him as an off the ball OLB more along the lines of how Anthony Barr was used by the Minnesota Vikings. Barr originally was an offensive player for UCLA, mainly at RB. He converted to LB and had double digit sacks his final 2 years in college, becoming a top 10 pick.
In the NFL, Barr has never been used as a primary edge rusher. After his rookie season in which he had 4 sacks, Barr has only averaged around 2 sacks per year. Barr is a versatile defender, but he's not a sack artist.
Carter's projected NFL position has a huge impact on my draft grade for him, particularly with respect to the Rams. Edge rusher is a premium position, so NFL teams try to grab all the top pass rushers in the 1st round. Linebacker isn't a premium position, it is more similar to RB or TE.
There's nothing wrong with adding a stand up LB to join Bobby Wagner and Ernest Jones. I do feel that the Rams could use a LB who has better pass coverage skills, because both Wagner and Jones have athletic limitations when in coverage. That said, the Rams have a long list of draft needs that have higher priority than LB, so I don't think it makes any sense to draft one with our 2nd round pick, unless we think that guy will be an absolute monster with All Pro potential.
Carter is a very raw player. I'm not overly impressed by his pass rushing ability. Last year, I did a profile on a tall edge defender named Alex Wright from UAB. At the time of that fanpost, I noted how there was a large divide in how the major draft boards and experts ranked Wright. On about 3 boards he was listed as a middle round prospect (late 3rd to 4th rd), but on at least as many other boards he was a very low ranked UDFA. Wright didn't appear at all on ESPN's draft board. In the PFF draft simulator, he was the lowest ranked prospect in the entire simulation, number 356 (there were 262 picks in last year's draft.)
In the actual draft, Wright was taken in the 3rd round (78th overall) by the Browns. After a promising preseason, Wright was named by B/R as one of the top 10 steals of the 2022 draft. During the regular season, Wright has made 5 starts. He has a terrible 35.8 PFF grade and has zero sacks. Don't read too much into preseason games or training camp, folks.
As pass rushers, in my opinion Alex Wright was a better prospect than Andre Carter II. So, if we were drafting Carter solely to be a pass rusher, I would say that he's overrated. Wright was a 3rd round pick who hasn't played well as a rookie. If Carter is possibly not even as good as Wright, why would you take him in the 1st round? The reason I didn't drop Carter in grade all the way to Day 3 is I feel he does have good potential as an OLB.
Name: Andre Carter II, turns 23 years old in June.
Size: Listed 6'7'' tall, 260 pounds. Per NFLDraftBuzz 10'' hands, 32.5'' arms, 80'' wingspan, 4.60 sec (40 time). In an article, was said to have 4.2 sec time in the short shuttle, which if true would be a time you'd see from a WR or RB, not from an edge defender.
Alex Wright was just over 6'5'' tall, 271 pounds, with 34'' arms and a nearly 83'' wingspan. So, in terms of size, Wright has longer arms and a bigger wingspan, with more weight.
Carter played WR and TE in high school. He had a back injury in HS, missing much of his senior season and had little recruiting interest. After finishing HS in Texas, he went to a prep school in Connecticut for a year. Didn't play defense until prep school, where he was an OLB. His prep school coach is friends with one of Army's assistant coaches and called them, saying he had a prospect. Reportedly 225 pounds when he went to Army.
Was listed as 6'7'' tall and 230 pounds as freshman at Army. Worked hard in strength and conditioning, making big strides over the next couple of years. Did not have a sack and didn't start a single game until late in 2020, his sophomore year. Army used him as a subpackage pass rushing specialist late in that season. Had 1 career sack entering 2021.
Exploded onto the scene in 2021 with 15.5 sacks, 18.5 TFLs and 4 FF. All American in 2021. Appeared to me to be used as hybrid OLB like a Elephant/LEO LB in a 3-4 type defense, and in their formation in a Wide 9 type split.
In 2022 had 3.5 sacks and 7 TFLs. Has 2 career INTs.
Had a concussion in 2022, missing some time.
ESPN 26th overall prospect, 2nd OLB. Mel Kiper has him 22nd overall. Todd McShay 32nd overall.
NFLDraftBuzz 22nd overall prospect, 4th LB
Draftcoutdown (Shane Hallam) 41st overall, 10th edge
Drafttek 35th overall, 5th edge
PFN sim 61st overall, 9th edge
NFLDraftBuzz says he's a sideline to sideline playmaker, elite athlete, quick hands, effective length, can dip and bend around corner, elite out of stance, violent hands, smooth dropping into coverage, smart and patient. Narrow waist, underdeveloped lower body, susceptible to cut blocks, slips off of tackles, a drag down tackler.
Athletic and fluid in coverage downfield. Outstanding range and burst on diagonal pass coverage drops. Easily flips his hips back and forth if necessary in coverage. Can carry routes downfield. Wingspan can knock away passes, make attempts at interceptions or potentially tip balls for teammates to get INTs.
When he drops underneath a short route and gets in front of the receiver, he can completely smother it, because he becomes a huge, athletic wall, there's no place for the QB to throw the ball.
Even though Carter is very raw and has a number of flaws, one reason I think he still has a high potential ceiling is I think that with coaching he could become outstanding at blowing up passing plays within the 10 yard box from the LOS. He's so big and athletic, he could stick with receiving TEs, he could defend screen passes, he could disrupt throws to WRs on crossing patterns and slants and to RBs coming out of the backfield. He has speed to race out to the flat and make stops to limit yardage after the catch.
Good pursuit range, can cover ground quickly and easily.
Special teams potential on multiple units. Can use height and length to try to block FGs and punts. Athleticism and speed to run down the field on coverage units. Former TE, so if you want to fake a FG, he probably could catch the ball and run with it.
Slipperly at the line. Dynamic swim move gets over the top of blockers. Explodes from a wide alignment, attacking the edge coming downhill with speed. Beat LT with rip move.
I have doubts that Carter will be able to consistently pass rush off the edge as a full time pass rusher. However, I feel he could be a very effective blitzer if your defensive coordinator likes to add additional rushers to overwhelm or deceive the pass protection.
High motor, plays with sense of urgency.
Considerable developmental upside. Barely scratching the surface of his ability, a late bloomer. Needs to continue to physically get stronger and get coaching. His best football could still be ahead of him.
West Point is no place for someone who lacks discipline or has a poor work ethic. Wasn't a highly rated recruit who had things handed to him. Worked hard to get where he is today.
Zero power moves as pass rusher. No bull rush. Finesse style, almost always tries to go around the blocker, even if he's up against a RB and not an OT. Very predictable and repetitive basic moves, doesn't have a plan and doesn't set up his opponent so that he can spring a different move on them later in the game.
By being overly reliant on outside swipe move, he often goes too wide, getting out of his rush lane, opening up room for scrambles and RB runs.
Below average play strength. Can get easily washed down the LOS. Struggles to hold his ground at the point of attack on run plays. Won't be able to set a hard edge. Retreats and surrenders ground, doesn't dig in heels and drop anchor.
Plays too high. His pad level is too high when he tries to turn the corner on OTs and bend the edge. High cut, lacking the desired build and flexibility to dip low to the ground and run a tight arc, instead his chest is exposed to the OT with a larger profile, making him easier to block. Unable to get around edge, got easily ridden out of the play and past the QB by the RT.
Tried to go inside, but his chest exposed, high pads, the OL pushes him in the chest, lifting him in the air and knocking him to the ground.
Rudimentary and uncoordinated hand usage. Unable to disengage from pass blockers once they get their hands on him, lacks countermoves. If the measurements reported by NFLDraftBuzz are accurate, his arm length is shorter than expected relative to his overall size.
Overruns plays, poor feel for his positioning in relation with the other defenders on the field, resulting in cutback runs and wide open gaps.
Completely blows edge containment duties at times, creating opportunities for huge gains.
Very poor on field awareness. Repeatedly late finding the ball with his eyes. Sucked in by play fakes, susceptible to misdirection and runs in the wrong direction. Not reliable to read cues from OL, including pulling blockers. Against a read option, he chased after the RB and took 5 steps before he finally realized the QB still had the ball. Even in the middle of the play, sometimes he loses sight of the QB and will go in the wrong direction, unaware of the location of the football. Just a very inexperienced player who lacks an innate feel and instincts for what to do one split second to the next.
Falls off of tackles very easily, like his hands are covered with butter.
Very upright in his pedal when dropping into coverage.
Doesn't display much ability to recognize route combinations and anticipate where passes will be when there is a receiver behind him and he's in zone.
Way too emotional on the field, to the point of not being in control. Reacts when there is a bad play or penalty flags are thrown by the refs.
Even though he's tall to block FGs, he's not strong enough to push the blocker to create room to jump up in the air. The ST coordinator might have to scheme him open or maybe he can pull a Bobby Wagner and jump over the top of the center.
Played against a lower level of competition. Most of his sacks in 2021 came against small schools and lesser talented opponents.
Low floor with higher than normal bust potential if taken in early rounds.
Draft Grade and Pro Comp
3rd round grade, Anthony Barr (1st round, 2014, Vikings, UCLA)
Andre Carter II is a project player. He's a great athlete, but his football skills are rudimentary and his football awareness is lacking. He also lacks play strength and has an odd build, resulting in him playing too high and getting pushed around or stuffed by offensive linemen. I see him as a boom or bust prospect and I feel his best position in the pros would be as a stand up OLB, not as an EDGE rusher.
Similar to O'Cyrus Torrence, I understand why some NFL scouts and draft experts like this player, because Carter is an uncommonly huge athlete, which makes him stick out from the crowd, but I feel this carries the risk of causing him to be overrated. Size by itself doesn't make you a good football player. Technique, strength, football IQ, there are a bunch of other elements and with Carter some of those ingredients are currently missing. That makes him a risky prospect and in general I feel teams should avoid taking those types of players early.
In 2017, the KC Chiefs drafted a player named Tanoh Kpassagnon out of Villanova in the 2nd round, 59th overall. He was nearly 6'7'' tall, 289 pounds, 35 5/8'' arms, 10 5/8'' hands, 84.5'' wingspan. He was considered to be an athletic freak. Tanoh had a total of 7 sacks over 4 seasons with the Chiefs. Ten slots after KC got Kpassagnon, the Rams drafted a WR who was supposedly too slow to be an elite player, some guy named Cooper Kupp.