2022 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Florida DL Zach Carter

From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling a defensive line prospect who has some versatility to his game and that could be a fit for a plethora of teams at the next level.

# 6 Zach Carter, DL, Florida (R-Senior) – 6042, 282lb

Senior Bowl / Combine Invite

Measurements

Player Ht / Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
Zach Carter 6’4 2/8 “, 282lb 10 1/4 “ 33 1/2 “ 80 3/8 “
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone
4.99 1.73 N / A N / A
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press
9.2 27.5 19 N / A

The Good

– Possesses a thick, filled out frame for his size
– Has position versatility, having played inside overtop of the guard as well as on the edge
– Has quick burst off the LOS in pass rush situations for a bigger defensive lineman, attacking the outside corner of the tackle around the edge
– Has a pass rush plan both inside and outside in terms of how he tries to set up his opponents
– Has a club / rip move he likes to utilize as an edge rusher as he attempts to work around the corner
– Tries to bend around the arc with a dip / rip as well as with a stab long arm
– Shows instances of a power rush when he gets his hands inside the blocker’s chest
– Size helps him anchor against the run and not give a ton of ground against blockers
– Works hard to maintain his spot at the point of attack and not give ground
– Has a history of getting hands up in passing lanes

The Bad

– Doesn’t possess great open-field speed or explosiveness as an athlete
– Pursuit of the ballcarrier is below average as he lacks that closing speed and needs to be more consistent in his effort
– Can be slow to change directions and redirect to a ballcarrier in space
– Struggles to stack and shed block both against the run as well as a pass rusher when speed rush fails
– Appears to run hot-and-cold when it comes to his motor
– Plays well over his pads with his torso, getting extended which limits his power rush
– May have balance issues as he is on the ground constantly
– Will struggle to fight off blocks when blockers get hands on him early in his rush

Bio

– Redshirt Senior prospect from Tampa, FL
– Four-star prospect and # 3 DE in his recruiting class (24/7 Sports)
– Multi-sport athlete in high school having played as a power forward in basketball
Did not appear in a game and redshirted as a true freshman
– Appeared in nine games as a reserve defensive lineman and key special teams player where he totaled eight tackles, one TFL, two pass breakups, and one quarterback hurry in 2018
– Appeared in all 13 games as a redshirt sophomore and made two starts where he notched 28 tackles (nine solo), 4.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and two PBUs
– Appeared in all 12 games of the season and started at defensive tackle in 11 as a junior and tallied 35 total tackles (14 solo), nine TFLs, five sacks, two PBUs, and a fumble recovery for a TD
– Started at defensive tackle in all twelve games this season in 2021 where he recorded 31 total stops (15 solo), 11.5 TFLs, 7.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and two PBUs
– SEC Community Service Team in 2021

Tape Breakdown

Zach Carter from Florida personally was a fun film study for me since I had the opportunity to coach him in the Gator Football Strength and Conditioning Department back in 2018 when he was a redshirt freshman. Zach came off as a big dude with some sneaky athleticism, holding his own di lui with the other defensive linemen on the roster in the weight room while still needing to tap into his speed and agility out on the field. Fast-forward four years later, and I can see Zach has grown both as a football player as well as a person. While he didn’t wow anyone with his athletic testing at the Combine, he put together a good field workout and represented himself well in interviews with teams.

When you pop in the tape on Carter, you see a dense, thickly built defensive linemen that is scheme and position versatile. He would often kick inside to as a 3-technique to win with speed and quickness on the guard but also could line up outside of the tackle as a 6 or 7-tech. Despite having average testing numbers, Carter comes off the ball fast when he is rushing the passer like you see on this play against Kentucky where he gets the dip / rip on LT # 51 Dare Rosenthal getting to # 7 Will Levis in the pocket as he reaches in to impact the pass.

Here is another example from the same game with Carter rushing off the edge and this time hits Rosenthal with a stab / long arm, walking him back into the pocket as he sheds the block and wraps up the QB for the sack.

As you see from the clip above, when Carter plays with good hand placement, he can do a good job of working off blocks to make plays both as a pass rusher as well as a run defender. Here’s an example against USF where Carter gets off the ball as the LDE and gets his hands into the RT’s chest, dropping his hips and shoulders to keep outside contain and makes a play on the runner as he attempts to get to the edge, tackling him in the backfield for a loss on the play.

When he lines up inside, Carter has the requisite speed and quickness to shoot gaps and take advantage of guards who are tasked with sealing him off from getting into the backfield. Carter makes a great play here where he lines up in the right-side B-gap between the RG and RT, coming off the ball hard and fast and sneaks through the gap into the backfield almost immediately as he wraps up the ballcarrier right after he takes the handoff for the TFL.

Despite being a bigger defensive end, Carter has a decent amount of bend to his game when coming off the edge as a pass rusher. He is a guy that has a pass rush plan and a natural feel for how to get after the passer. Here are two plays against Alabama where Carter doesn’t get home, but you see his ability di lui to run the arc well for his size di lui, getting the hurry on # 9 Bryce Young.

There are some notable aspects that Carter needs to clean up in his game to be a more consistent player on the defensive line. He needs to do a better job syncing up his hands and feet when rushing the passer as his initial rush may fail with speed and he will struggle to stack and shed effectively. He also tends to end up on the ground a lot due either to poor balance or possibly the fact he keeps his legs moving even when he doesn’t engage properly with his upper half. # 70 Darrian Kinnard likely holds Carter on this play as he latches around his neck, but Carter does telegraph the dip / rip to Kinnard who takes advantage and puts him on the turf.

Another issue with Carter is that although he is a well-built, thick defender for the defensive line, he doesn’t always play to his size when it comes to strength and power. This shows up when he attempts to stack and shed blocks like referenced earlier, and part of that is due to him playing over his feet with his shoulder pads. Watch this rep where Carter shoots into Rosenthal on the snap, and while he doesn’t give much ground, he isn’t able to shed the block well either as Rosenthal gets his hands well inside Carter’s chest as he leans into the blocker with his torso well over his toes.

While he has good intentions, I did recognize times in Carter’s tape where there was a lack of effort in pursuit of the ballcarrier. Part of that can relate to the fact that he isn’t likely running down many ballcarriers in the open field, but it seems like his motor runs hot-and-cold like on this play here where Carter comes off free on the backside, but stands up and slows down his pursuit instead of flattening the corner to the ball, letting up as he sees a teammate make it to the ball, but ends up missing which turns a TFL into a five-yard gain.

Conclusion

Overall, Carter is a pumped-up base defensive end that can play in both an odd or an even front and can play both inside as a 3-technique or 4i, but also can line up wide on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle. For being a bigger defensive end, Carter appears to have a good understanding when it comes to developing a plan to get after the passer and a few select moves to get the job done. He’s sturdy and is difficult to move off his spot di lui as a run defender, but also can shoot gaps as a penetrator or when schemed up on twists and stunts. Still, Carter needs more consistent technique effort to become an impact defender in the league.

When I was searching for a potential pro comparison for Carter, one name that came to mind was former Michigan State Spartan and current Tampa Bay Buccaneer William Gholston. Gholston also was a bigger base end coming out of Michigan State, possessing nearly identical measurables to Carter in terms of arm length (34 “), hand size (10 3/8”), weight (281lb) as well as in athletic testing ( 4.96 40, 28.5 vert, 9’2 “broad). Gholston also played out on the edge during his time at Sparty but has found a home on the inside of the Bucs vaunted defense, becoming a high-level run stuffer with the chops to get after the QB on the interior by too taking advantage of slower offensive guards.

While I think Carter as more ability out on the edge at this time, a move like what Gholston did when he transitioned to the pros could do him wonders in terms of having a long-fruitful career. He needs to develop more use of power and the ability to consistently stack and shed blocks, but Carter has the size and makeup to be an effective 3-4 DE in that system while also fitting a 4-3 defense well as either a base end or inside at DT.

For a team like Pittsburgh who spoke to Carter informally at the Combine, he would profile as a mid-round selection that they would develop over a season or two in a rotation and potentially take over one day for either Tuitt or Heyward down the road as that 3-4 4i. There are some good traits and qualities that Carter brings to the table; he just needs some development as well as a more consistent motor to bring those talents to fruition.

Projection: Late Day Two to Day Three

Depot Draft Grade: 7.5 – Raw Traits / Upside Prospect (4th Round)

Games Watched: vs Alabama (2021), at Kentucky (2021), at USF (2021), vs Georgia (2021), Senior Bowl (2021)

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