Potential (and not necessarily production) makes Georgia OLB Lorenzo Carter interesting draft prospect

Lorenzo Carter

Lorenzo Carter was one of the most touted prospects in the 2014 recruiting cycle, earning five-star status and a spot among the top-20 recruits in the nation.

Carter, who is from the Atlanta area, signed with Georgia after also visiting Florida, Florida State and LSU, and he was one of three five-star prospects (Nick Chubb and Sony Michel were the others) to sign with the Bulldogs in that cycle.

That class played a big role in helping the Bulldogs advance to last season’s national championship game; Carter was one of eight players from that class who started against Alabama in the title game.

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But while Carter was a part-time starter in his first two seasons and a fulltime starter in his final two years, he never quite made the impact expected. He looked well on his way to fulfilling expectations as a true freshman in 2014, finishing with 4.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss while making five starts. But he never truly had a breakout season, finishing his career with 14 sacks (his season high was five) and 20.5 tackles for loss (his season high was 7.5).

NFL scouts noticed.

“He was a really big deal coming out, but I didn’t think he developed as much after his freshman year as I expected him to,” an SEC area scout for an NFC team told NFL.com.

At the same time, his size (6 feet 6, 242 pounds) and athleticism mean he has a definite upside, to the point where he is almost certain to go on the second day of the draft.

“Carter played with increased toughness and confidence this year, and his NFL potential began to reassert itself once again,” NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zeirlein wrote. “Carter is an outside linebacker in a 3-4 or 4-3 with sideline-to-sideline range and the tools to become a productive edge rusher in sub-packages. He needs to add more bulk, but he is a future NFL starter.”

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Zeirlein is impressed with Carter’s “ability to cover ground quickly and close on wide flowing plays,” and unlike some edge rushers, Zeirlein noted that Carter does a good job setting the edge against the run. Conversely, while Carter has impressive speed, Zeirlein said “long tackles can neutralize his length and push him around. … (His) rush can be too easily stalled when rushing as an end.”

Carter played end in high school but was used mostly as a 3-4 outside linebacker at Georgia. That would seem to be his best fit in the NFL, as well.

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