Lorenzo Carter’s defining moment came in a setting many have played in, but few have made such an impact at. The 104th Rose Bowl game was the first one ever to reach overtime, contested between the Oklahoma Sooners and Carter’s Georgia Bulldogs.
The game trickled into double overtime with a place in the National Championship Game at stake, and Oklahoma’s Austin Seibert lined up a 27-yard field goal to put the Sooners ahead, an the pressure on Georgia’s offense to answer.
Lorenzo Carter had other ideas.
The Norcross, Georgia native leaped up and blocked the field goal. Two plays later Sony Michel darted into the end zone to win it for the Bulldogs, and in no small part because of Carter.
But where will Carter be trying to emulate his defensive heroics for next season at the NFL level?
RAF Big Board Ranking: #47
Carter didn’t do much during his time in Indianapolis, but what he did was thoroughly impressive. His broad jump was the longest broad jump ever recorded at the combine by an edge rusher.
Height: 6’ 6”
Weight: 250 Ibs
40-yard Dash: 4.50 seconds
Vertical Jump: 36 inches
Broad Jump: 130 inches
His athleticism is ridiculous. There’s really no other way to put it. On top of having the best broad jump of any edge rusher in Combine history, his 40-yard dash time was third among all pass rushers, and that goes for tackles, edge rushers, and linebackers. It goes without saying he’ll be able to make plays from sideline to sideline with his feet by closing gaps quickly, and he’ll use his size and length well in individual battles.
I absolutely think there’s a place for him in this league as a linebacker, probably an outside one in a 3-4 scheme. His pass coverage was at least good enough when he was asked to drop back by Kirby Smart and company in Athens.
But getting after the ball carrier, and more specifically the quarterback, is where Carter made his mark. He finished with 166 tackles in his four seasons at Georgia, totaling 14 sacks, 4.5 of which came in his senior season. Six fumbles forced, as well as six recovered was the icing on the cake during his career; he was top five in the SEC in that statistic in both of his final two seasons between the hedges.
And while it’s obviously not a reason to draft or not draft a player, Carter’s special teams playmaking ability is an added bonus. He had the iconic block in double overtime of the Rose Bowl, and also was part of the push leading to an important block on the game-tying field goal attempt from Auburn in the SEC Championship Game. He can make, or at least help make things happen in the kicking game.
Part of the athleticism he has comes from his nimble size, and that could be where he’s a problem. 250 pounds is going to leave him at a major disadvantage against almost all of the offensive linemen he’ll be matched up against at the professional level. The lack of size starts to make itself apparent on tape when he gets outmuscled at the line of scrimmage. He is either going to have to strictly be a linebacker, or put some weight on to be a true edge rusher.
I don’t think he’s as versatile as the coaching staff at Georgia tried to make him out to be. Those starting positions on his tape in the Rose Bowl and National Championship Game would tell you he can line up either on the outside or the inside of the defensive line as well as at linebacker; I don’t buy it.
Outside of a few bits and pieces, his moves weren’t good enough to win at the line of scrimmage against college offensive linemen. Technically speaking the ability to shed blocks just wasn’t there consistently enough. He showed flashes with his 4.5 sacks last season, but not nearly enough to keep an offensive coordinator up at night or command double teams.
He got far in college based on just being able to run faster or in the case of special teams, jumping further than a lot of other guys. Athleticism is a lot, but it’s not everything. Carter needs to work on developing more tools in his game beyond what he’s naturally gifted with.
There might be an impact player here if his skill can start to catch up with him as an athlete, but he’s still a long way away from reaching the point where his potential could be unlocked. He’ll be much more of a long-term project than some of his peers, and that might be what sees him tumble down the draft.
Draft Prediction: If a team is planning on using him at linebacker, taking a stab at him with a high second-round pick wouldn’t be bad value. I could see him falling far beyond that if other edge rushers fall as well.