Jets Added An 'Explosive and Fun' Running Back in Michael Carter

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Moments after he was selected by the Jets in the fourth round on Saturday afternoon, running back Michael Carter was asked how he would describe his game.

"Explosive and fun," Carter told reporters. "I like to try to score every time I get the rock."

That explosiveness is a big reason why the Jets pounced on the running back out of North Carolina with the No. 107 pick. In fact, New York's head coach Robert Saleh revealed at the conclusion of the draft on Saturday that everyone in the organization went to bed the night before knowing that Carter was their guy at the start of the fourth round.

"Michael's got tremendous vision, he's got tremendous speed, burst, he's got the ability to make people miss," Saleh explained. "He's good on third down, coming out of the backfield in the pass game and he's pretty stout in protection. For him to be where he was at 107 was a major surprise to all of us, including Joe and his staff. Felt like it was a no-brainer at that point."

New York Jets Select North Carolina RB Michael Carter With No. 107 Pick in 2021 NFL Draft

Carter was the final offensive player taken by the Jets this year, a 10-man class that featured four players on offense and six versatile defenders. Heading into this year's draft, however, running back was clearly a position this organization needed to address.

Coming off a season where 37-year-old Frank Gore led the team in rushing, a top option from this year's class would've been a great fit in Gang Green's running back room.

General manager Joe Douglas called Carter elusive, praising the back's "explosive playmaking ability." The numbers speak for themselves. 

Carter finished his fourth year at UNC with 1,245 rushing yards, the fourth-highest total in the nation. What's more, Carter did that on just 156 touches. His average of eight yards per carry was also fourth in the country in 2020, a testament to that explosiveness that Carter alluded to.

Remember when Carter called his game fun? He meant "fun to watch." Not so enjoyable for opposing defenders, though.

Carter was one of only three Power Five running backs to have 20-plus runs of over 15 yards in 2020. He led that trio—including his former teammate at UNC, Javonte Williams—with 29 such runs.

The running back called being drafted by the Jets a dream come true, looking forward to getting in the building and beginning to earn the respect of his new teammates. As far how the back fits in Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur's offense, Carter has experience thriving in a wide-zone scheme.

"I think my change of direction and stop-start ability complements this system well," Carter said. "I've been running wide zone pretty much since I was born, so it's something that really comes natural to me. It's one of those systems where we ran a lot of it in college, in high school I did and even youth football. I'm very familiar with it."

When it comes to playing alongside No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson, the new franchise quarterback in green and white, Carter called his ability to block in the backfield a "strength of [his] game."

"I'm more than willing to put my nose in there and block, I'm not scared of anybody," he said. "I'm tough, I have good technique and that's something that I want to keep getting better at is the technique. I'm just excited to prove myself."

He'll be competing for playing time with Tevin Coleman (who signed in free agency), La'Mical Perine (New York's fourth-rounder a year ago), as well as Ty Johnson and Josh Adams. 

Carter may not be Najee Harris or Travis Etienne, the two backs that came off the board in the first round and players that some experts predicted the Jets would target, but Carter has the potential to excel with the Jets. 

"I had a feeling all along that I was gonna be in New York. Well, really New Jersey, I guess," he said, smiling. "I'm just excited to be a Jet."

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