Lorenzo Carter is one of the 2018 NFL Draft’s biggest anomalies in terms of prospect evaluation. He is a long, lanky, athletic freak at 6’5, 250 who played mostly as a hybrid linebacker at Georgia with occasional pass rush reps off the edge. With 34-inch arms and 98th percentile numbers in both the 40-yard dash and broad jump, I’m willing to bet most teams will view him as a high-upside pass rusher prospect. You just don’t see many people at his size with the explosion and fluidity he possesses, but his tape does leave a bit to be desired.
With all of this talent and athleticism, he did not nearly put up the production that his traits should indicate. Most will argue that Georgia played him out of position, but he went invisible too often for long stretches of games. There is no doubt that Carter is a project, but some team is going to fall in love with his traits. It is the same reason why Leonard Floyd went in the top 10 two years ago. Carter won’t go as high as Floyd, but I would be surprised if he did not receive first-round consideration.
With that being said, here are three teams I could see pulling the trigger at the end of the first round or at the top of the second round because of the fit and need.
Tennessee Titans (25th pick)
The Tennessee Titans have a new head coach in Mike Vrabel who is going to want to bring in some young pass rushers to this defensive unit. Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan did an admirable job last season, helping the Titans to a fifth-place ranking in team sacks in 2017, but both players are clearly past their prime.
Vrabel comes from a Texans team that had multiple high-volume pass rushers at their disposal with JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus, and I believe he will try to bring that same mold of roster building to Tennessee. Lorenzo Carter is a perfect fit for what this teams wants in a 3-4 outside linebacker who has the athleticism to drop, but he also has the pass rush potential to be a cornerstone player.
The risks are obvious with a project player like Carter, but I think Vrabel will see some Whitney Mercilus in his game and consider him with the 25th overall pick.
New England Patriots (31st pick)
The New England Patriots are one of these teams where its draft board is not consistent with the consensus of the NFL. For instance, their board consists of maybe 50-80 prospects each year. Lorenzo Carter is a player that this team usually gravitates towards, however. He is a versatile linebacker who has the athletic traits to play both off the ball and on the edge.
While the Patriots have Derek Rivers coming back from injury, I think Carter’s fit with the Patriots’ hybrid scheme is obvious. Bill Belichick and this front office love prospects who offer multiple things with scheme versatility and position flex, and Lorenzo Carter fits that mold. With his off-ball athleticism and sub-package value as a long pass rusher, he checks all the boxes the Patriots look for, and I believe this team will take a chance on developing his rare traits if he falls to 31.
Seattle Seahawks (trade down from 18th pick)
The 18th overall pick would be incredibly high for a player as raw as Lorenzo Carter, but I think Seattle moves out of that spot. Whether it is out of the first round entirely or to the back of the round, Seattle’s only pick in the top 100 is their first round selection. This is a team that has a history of moving back recently, and I think they are almost a lock to do so again this year. With that being said, I could see Carter being a legitimate option for Seattle if they do indeed trade out of the 18th spot.
Ever since Bruce Irvin left to go to Oakland, they have been searching for a dynamic pass rusher to play that LEO spot. Carter has the length, explosiveness, and metric numbers that Seattle usually looks for to play this position. His technique as a pass rusher is totally unrefined, but that has not stopped Seattle before. Expect Carter to be on Seattle’s shortlist of players at the end of the round or at the top of Day 2, depending on where they trade back to accumulate more pick(s) in the top 100.