Through seven weeks of the college football season, there have been many risers. Zachary Carter from Florida is one player who has taken that next step and has the talent to be a first-round selection in April. Carter is such a unique player and projects well to the next level. The Gators have had an up and down season, but one thing has stayed consistent: Carter's play.
It was a surprise when Carter returned to school for his senior campaign after recording 36 pressures and five sacks as a junior. On film, Carter displayed unbelievable versatility. He lined up at defensive tackle, 3-4 defensive end, and a traditional 4-3 defensive end. Carter was very impressive no matter where Florida put him. His explosion inside was outstanding, and he held up in the run game. When asked to play 3-4 defensive end, Carter held the edge well and used his length to make plays at the line of scrimmage.
What stands out the most about Carter's game in 2020 and just as a whole is his work ethic and team-first mentality. Carter came into Florida at 270 pounds and has played at a different weight every year. He was as high as 290 pounds in 2020 and as low as 263 in 2019. Many players would play at the position or weight they wanted, but Carter is different. When injuries hit, too, Carter is always helping fill in where the Gators are thin. In the long run, this has helped him, as now he is arguably the most versatile defender in the nation, a quality team's love in a player.
So far this season, Carter has continued to be a versatile chess piece for the Gators, but he has also taken his game to the next level in several different areas. His ability to get after the quarterback has greatly improved. Carter was a very good pass rusher on the 2020 film, using a combination of length, power and a high motor. He is now one of the best pass rushers in college football.
His explosion and hand usage have stood out this season, adding a lot to his pass rush arsenal. On film, he has consistently kept offensive linemen guessing and out of position. He dominated FAU in week one and has continued that success, with six sacks already on the season. For a player that is not a traditional edge rusher, that number is pretty incredible. His play against the run has been stout as well, with nine tackles for a loss. Carter is on pace to essentially double his numbers from last season.
What makes Carter such an intriguing prospect is that he not only has been highly productive, he has a tremendous amount of upside. Carter hasn't played the same position for four years but has instead excelled at many. A smart defensive coordinator will utilize all the tools Carter brings to the table as both a pass rusher and a run defender. What also separates Carter is that he is pro-ready. He'll be able to contribute early on and could be counted on for meaningful snaps.
Carter's traits are all there to develop into a player who can record double-digit sacks and dominate against the run. Add in a really good frame, and the work ethic necessary to succeed in the NFL and Carter is a coach's dream. Considering all that, Carter has the skill set to be a first-round pick and one of the most productive players from the 2022 draft class.
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