NFL Draft Running Back Rankings: No. 5 – Michael Carter, North Carolina

Get to know North Carolina's Michael Carter and what he'll bring to the table in the NFL.
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With the surprise re-signing of Pro Bowler Aaron Jones and the promise of A.J. Dillon, the Green Bay Packers are set atop the running back depth chart. However, given the violence of the position, a quality third option is practically a necessity.

North Carolina’s Michael Carter is our No. 5-ranked running back.

In a game during his senior season at Navarre (Fla.) High School, Michael Carter set the school record with seven rushing touchdowns.

Whose record did he break? His brother’s.

Older brother Dwayne Carter played at Division II Harding. Younger brother Josh is a linebacker at South Alabama. Together, they did more than drive each other to new heights. They created C3 Sports, an athletic clothing line with a goal of creating quality but affordable athletic gear.

“We try to sell the same thing, or similar, but for less” than Nike and other brands, Michael Carter told the Pensacola News Journal. “We want to sell clothes that anybody can wear. You can work out in our stuff or hang out around the house or walk around the mall. We're brothers on a mission. Our goal is to make an impact and eventually give back.”

Carter was on a mission during his final two seasons at North Carolina, during which he rushed for almost 2,500 yards despite sharing carries with fellow draft prospect Javonte Williams.

Coming back from a broken wrist that cost him the start of the 2018 season, Carter said: “Did you ever play a sport? You ever had the game taken away from you? Like, you just miss it? It’s like that. I really love football. And I don’t play for what it could give me. I play because I really enjoy it. And I know that — because I’ve been tested.”

Carter aced those tests. As a senior, he was a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award, which goes to the nation’s most versatile running back. According to Pro Football Focus, he was first in the nation in runs of 15-plus yards and fifth in missed tackles forced. His 4.47 yards after contact per carry ranked fifth among backs with 100-plus carries.

“It's just being versatile in that aspect,” Carter said. “Because you look at the new-age running backs (in the NFL), (Christian) McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, Zeke (Elliot) even. Guys like that, that are the best players in the league – Aaron Jones, I can't believe I missed Aaron Jones, like special talent and because he's so versatile.”

Carter was a team captain and key resource for coach Mack Brown in navigating a challenging 2020 season.

"He has been the number one guy I've gone to to try and figure out, was it safe with COVID? Were we going to play games? Did the players want to play? Did they feel safe?" Brown said after Carter’s final home game. "I would always call or text Michael first and say, 'Give me the pulse. What do you think the guys are thinking?'"

Measureables: 5-foot-7 7/8, 202 pounds. 9-inch hands.

Stats and accolades: In four seasons, Carter rushed for 3,404 yards (6.6 average) and caught 82 passes for 656 yards (8.0 average) and six more touchdowns. He topped 1,000 yards as a junior (1,003 yards) and senior (1,245 yards, 8.0 average). As a senior, he earned some All-American honors and was one of five finalists for the Paul Hornung Award, which goes to the nation’s most versatile player. In his collegiate finale against Miami, Carter ran for 308 yards and two touchdowns and Williams ran for 236 yards and three touchdowns. Their 544 combined rushing yards set an NCAA record. He did not fumble as a senior.

NFL Draft Bible says: A Dion Lewis clone, Carter runs with similar pad level and surprising contact balance for a smaller back. He has a good habit of getting skinny and surging through holes, presenting a smaller target for second-level defenders. In the perfect situation, Carter will serve as a situational runner and third-down specialist with his ability to manipulate second-level defenders, catch the football and consistently create positive yardage.

About This Series

Packer Central is introducing you to the top prospects, both on and off the field, in this year’s NFL Draft. The series is starting with the top five at each position, then will add additional players as the draft approaches, with a focus on positions of need.

RB1: Alabama’s Najee Harris

RB2: Clemson’s Travis Etienne

RB3: North Carolina’s Javonte Williams

RB4: Memphis’ Kenneth Gainwell

RB5: North Carolina’s Michael Carter

QB1: Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence

QB2: Ohio State’s Justin Fields

QB3: BYU’s Zach Wilson

QB4: North Dakota State’s Trey Lance

QB5: Alabama’s Mac Jones

Draft Order: All 259 selections

Team-by-team selections