After a successful 2020 season, his first as a full-time starter, Florida defensive lineman Zachary Carter could have declared for the NFL Draft. A decision weighted in more than football saw him return to the Gators this season. However, that same decision may have also had a profound impact on his football journey. As his scouting report reveals, Carter is developing into a potential early-round 2022 NFL Draft prospect in his redshirt senior season.
Zachary Carter NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Defensive Tackle
- School: Florida
- Current Year: Redshirt senior
- Height: 6’3 1/2″
- Weight: 287
- Wingspan: 81″
- Arm: 33 3/8″
- Hand: 10 3/8″
Zachary Carter Scouting Report
The 2022 NFL Draft class is brimming with edge rushers. However, the interior defensive line group has received mixed reviews. Having played many positions across the defensive line, can Carter help merge the lines between the two groups and emerge as a premier prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft?
This versatility seems like an excellent place to begin Carter’s scouting report. Listing him simply as a defensive end or defensive tackle prospect doesn’t do justice to his ability to satisfy several roles both at the college and NFL levels.
Carter has experience playing as a 3-4 defensive end from his time with the Gators. Furthermore, he’s also lined up as a traditional outside defensive end in a four-man front. Carter has also been tasked with rushing the passer from the 3-technique and 5-technique alignment.
Carter’s 6’4″, 285-pound form would suggest he fits best on the interior of the defensive line at the next level. However, that would be a disservice to his ability as a genuine 4-3 defensive end prospect. Carter has shown flashes of natural bend as a pass rusher off the edge and demonstrates the use of swim, spin, and rip moves as a pass rusher.
Length, strength, and agility
He’s blessed with decent length, which he puts to good use as a pass rusher. That length is also apparent when taking on blockers. He can use a single long arm to hold a blocker at bay.
Carter possesses some impressive strength as a defensive line prospect. He can move offensive linemen and blocking tight ends with force at times. The Florida defensive lineman has demonstrated pop with his initial punch, with the ability to shock players when he makes clean contact. His strength is also apparent in how he goes into battle with double-team blocks that he faces regularly.
While he may not have the same elite athletic profile as some defensive line prospects, Carter does show some lateral agility. There were multiple examples in the games studied where he appeared to attack the outside shoulder but seamlessly switched inside to attack from the inside shoulder.
Areas for improvement
Although Carter has some impressive areas on his scouting report, there is also room for improvement. Furthermore, some things could limit his 2022 NFL Draft stock.
While he has consistently improved his production year over year, Carter’s college production isn’t as sensational as other defensive line prospects. He needs to finish plays more routinely, as he can often be a little late to impact the quarterback as a pass rusher. This starts with timing his first step better at the line of scrimmage.
While he flashes some impressive athletic traits, Carter needs to work on his reading of the game. In the contests studied, he was often fooled by RPO plays, where he would misdiagnose the ball carrier.
Zachary Carter Player Profile
Long before he earned recognition as an NFL Draft prospect, Carter was terrorizing high school offensive lines. Between his sophomore and junior years, he tallied 149 tackles. He averaged 7.1 tackles a game and amassed 14 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, and 13 quarterback hurries. Additionally, he proved disruptive in passing lanes, with 5 deflected passes.
Unsurprisingly, Carter was a highly sought-after high school recruit. The four-star, third-ranked defensive end prospect attracted over 40 offers as a top-150 recruit. Among the multitude of offers were premier programs such as Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio State. Clemson was also considered a favorite to secure the signature of the strong side defensive end.
However, for Carter, the home was truly where the heart was. A Hillsborough native, he attracted attention from all the in-state programs. But there was only one destination. Carter announced his decision via social media with a post that included: “I am announcing that I am officially committing to the University of Florida, which has been a dream of mine since I was a kid.”
Carter committed in June before his senior season. With his college career decided, he helped lead Hillsborough to an 8-2 record with 56 tackles and 6.5 sacks. The dominant defensive end earned first-team All-Hillsborough County honors while ending his high school career as the Tampa Bay Times’ Blue Chip Player of the Year.
Carter’s career at Florida
Despite his senior season success, Carter didn’t make an immediate impact on his arrival in Gainesville. At 6’4″ and 250 pounds, he needed some physical refinement to meet the demands of college football. As a result, he redshirted his freshman campaign without seeing the field.
Even in his redshirt freshman season, Carter saw little playing time. Although he saw action in nine games as a reserve defensive lineman, his standout contribution came on special teams. During a game against Charleston Southern, he became the first Florida player to block a kick since 2016.
The 2019 college football season marked an uptick in both playing time and production. Appearing in 13 games, Carter earned his first two career starts against Vanderbilt and Missouri. He tallied 31 tackles, while his 4.5 sacks and 7 tackles for loss both ranked second on the team. The Florida product had his first career forced fumble against South Carolina and a career-high 5 tackles against Auburn.
A standout 2020 season sees Carter’s draft stock soar
Meanwhile, he ended the year on a high with 2 tackles for loss against FSU. Carter carried that momentum into the 2020 season. Following up on his previous year’s disruption, he produced a then career-high 9.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks — both team-leading. He was also named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for the first time in his career, following an 8-tackle, 1.5-sack performance against South Carolina.
Carter also showed a penchant for big-game performance in 2020. Despite missing the first half against Georgia due to a fight in the previous contest, the Florida defensive end tallied 5 quarterback hurries. In the SEC Championship Game, he abused Alabama to the tune of 1 sack and 2 tackles for loss.
Those big-game outings earned Carter significant attention in NFL Draft circles. As a result, he was considered a potential 2021 NFL Draft prospect. Yet, the Florida defensive end had other ideas, prioritizing his long-term future over possible short-term success, as he told Gainesville.com.
“I just know that this football stuff, it doesn’t last forever,” Carter said. “So it’s just good to have that degree. I think more guys should have that attitude towards football and schools, but everyone is in a different situation. But, that was a big thing for me.”
A return to school results in an elevation of NFL Draft stock
While his education might have been the prime driver behind a return to school, Carter’s NFL Draft stock might also have benefited from his decision. In the 2021 season opener against Florida Atlantic, Carter recorded a career-high 3 sacks and a forced fumble to begin his redshirt senior campaign in style.
While the Florida defense has had its struggles, Carter is compiling a college career-defining season. With two games still to play at the time of writing, the defensive lineman has set new career highs with 10 tackles for loss and 6 sacks. He remains disruptive in all facets of the game, with 2 pass breakups and 1 forced fumble.
At present, I view Carter as the second-best Florida prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Gators’ defensive lineman is my 73rd overall prospect and the sixth-ranked defensive tackle in the recently released Pro Football Network Big Board. As a result, Carter should solidify himself as a Day 2 prospect throughout the rest of the year.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report for Zachary Carter
Positives: Hard-working defensive line prospect with solid size and growth potential. Very quick, bends his knees, and consistently gets leverage on opponents. Immediately gets his hands up and fires them into opponents. Attracts a lot of double-team blocks and gets off the snap with a terrific first step. Fast off the edge, easily moves about the field, and gives great effort. Resilient and stays with the action. Moves well laterally in pursuit of the action.
Negatives: Handled at the point by a single blocker and displays limited strength in his game. Lacks size and can be out-positioned from plays.
Analysis: Carter is a well-rounded defensive line prospect who will only get better as he physically matures and adds bulk as well as strength to his frame. He’s a rotational defensive lineman who can be used in both three- and four-man fronts.
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