One of the hottest names of the 2021 rookie class is New York Jets RB Michael Carter. Some analysts are projecting him as a potential breakout candidate for fantasy football. Does Carter have the fantasy outlook to back up his ADP, or will the improvement to the Jets not be enough for reliable production this season?
Michael Carter’s fantasy outlook for 2021
For those that were plugged in early in the 2021 NFL Draft cycle, you have seen Carter’s rise. Although he shared the backfield with Javonte Williams at North Carolina, Carter carved out a role for himself along with a great deal of hype.
Carter ended his collegiate career with 3,404 yards (6.6 avg) and 22 touchdowns on 514 carries as a rare four-year player. He added 82 receptions for 656 yards and 6 touchdowns in his 44 games as a Tar Heel. During his senior campaign, Carter led the ACC in rushing with 1,245 yards and 9 touchdowns and finished second in the conference with 151.6 all-purpose yards per game. Furthermore, he led the nation with 18 rushing attempts of 20 or more yards.
The new-look Jets fell in love with him in their pre-draft process and selected Carter in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. He joins La’Mical Perine, free-agent addition Tevin Coleman, Ty Johnson, and Josh Adams.
In terms of skills translating to the scheme, Carter’s fit with New York might have been the best of any running back in the class. He was arguably the best wide-zone rusher in the draft and landed on a team that will run this same scheme with HC Robert Saleh and OC Mike LaFleur. The Jets also have the fourth-highest percentage of vacated carries heading into 2021 at 54.2% (238). This also includes 35.7% of the carries inside the five-yard line.
The opportunity is there for Carter to be a contributor in Year 1 for the Jets and fantasy managers looking for a solid RB3 with RB2 upside.
Michael Carter’s fantasy projection
Deciphering a fantasy outlook for Carter is one thing. Making the projections for a rookie on a team with a brand new offense is an entirely different matter.
I will say this — the Jets will be a better team in 2021. Sure, that is a low bar to cross, but it is a start. I like a lot of the moves they made this offseason. The defense was a significant focus, along with upgrading the offensive line by selecting the versatile Alijah Vera-Tucker. The most important addition came via subtraction when they moved on from HC Adam Gase. He went from being an NFL head coach to an offensive coordinator for a high school football team.
Because of this, we likely see a more competitive team overall than the one that averaged just 57.2 plays (31st), 279.9 yards (32nd), and 15.2 points per game (32nd).
While I do project Carter to be the leader of the Jets’ backfield, it will be more of a committee approach as Coleman has proven to be a solid enough rusher when healthy. Carter should have the leg up in the receiving game, given what he has shown on tape.
While early, projections come out in favor of Carter being a fantasy-relevant player early on as a rookie. Currently, he is slated for 160-165 rushes for 660-680 yards and 4 touchdowns. Moreover, he could add 40-45 receptions on 55-60 targets for 300-315 yards and 2 more scores.
Michael Carter’s fantasy ADP
According to Sleeper, Carter is being selected at an ADP of 88.5 in PPR formats. At Fleaflicker, Carter’s ADP is 85. Meanwhile, in NFC (a high-stakes fantasy platform), Carter has an ADP of 78.19.
Should you draft Carter in 2021 for fantasy?
There is a genuine path for Carter to be a solid RB for fantasy managers in 2021, which is odd to say about a Jets running back. The opportunity is there for him to build on the hype surrounding him over the past several months. He can exit training camp as the RB1 on the Jets’ depth chart.
Now, that is not to say there are no concerns. While the offensive line has improved, they are not elite yet. They have a rookie QB in Zach Wilson and a rookie head coach. They could also struggle to score points. But you are not drafting Carter at an ADP where the expectations are for him to be a standout player. The risk is already baked into his ADP, which you want to see when taking a shot on a player as an RB3 or RB4.
I don’t know if he will ever be a fantasy superstar, but I think Carter is a better version of what people thought Devin Singletary would be when he came into the NFL.
If history serves correctly, there will be a breakout rookie RB in 2021. Although the Jets might not be the team you associate that with, no one expected that to come from the Jaguars last year. I love to target players with talent in backfields with ambiguity. That’s where a player can take over and find a sizable workload and possibly explode for fantasy. Carter has a real shot at doing just that in 2021 and being the breakout RB.