Why spend a first round pick on a running-back? Every year this question pops up and generates some interesting discussions in the draft community. The mainstream view is that you can find a very capable back in the mid to late round range who can be as productive as a first round prospect. Hard to argue with that since the top two rookies in rushing yards during last season (TB LeGarrette Blount and NO Chris Ivory) weren’t even drafted.
So here we are with a weak RB class where even the consensus top prospect at the position, Mark Ingram, has doubters who question whether he deserves to hear his name called on the first day of the draft. So why not talk about a mid round prospect who has a lot to offer to the running game of whatever team he falls to?Let’s talk about Syracuse RB Delone Carter.
To me, Carter’s one of the few running-back prospects whose productivity and blend of power and quickness overmatch the projection of where he’ll go (4th – 5th round range). At Syracus, Carter has had up and down moments: during his first years at Syracuse he saw action in a spread offense that wasn’t the best fit for him; still, he managed to lead the team with 713 yards in his freshman year, showing flashes of great potential. Unfortunately for him, a freak hip injury (which many thought was career ending) and a hamstring injury threw away his sophomore season. With the arrival of Doug Marrone and his pro-style approach, Carter has burst into the scene with two 1000 yard seasons. His 3104 career rushing yards rank him 3rd in the Syracuse’s career rushing leaders, above legends such as Jim Brown, Floyd Little or Larry Csonka.
On the field, Carter is a compact RB who works best as in the inside running game due to an excellent patience and vision. His lateral quickness is superb, allowing him to work through tight spaces. And although Carter is a physical downhill runner, he still has to show more consistency when asked to lower his shoulders: sometimes he stays to tall and tentative when a defender approaches. He has to take more advantage of that great build he possesses. Besides his production inside the tackles, the All-Big East second-team selection has shown enough speed and burst to turn the corner at the next level. And while he isn’t a homerun-type runner, his 4.56 40-yard run at the Combine won’t hurt him, either. Carter hasn’t been used much as a receiver (only 24 career receptions). However, his pass blocking and blitz pick-up techniques are very solid, standing low and physical, so I expect him to see a lot of 3rd down action on Sundays.
At the start of the season, Carter was viewed as a 4th-5th round prospect, probably a fair grade taking into account his extensive injury history. But you can’t say he hasn’t worked hard to earn some momentum going into the final month before the draft: Most Valuable Player honors in both the New Era Pinstripe Bowl Game and East–West Shrine Game add to a great performance at his recent Pro Day, including a 4.43 40-yard dash.
As long as he can avoid the injury bug, Carter has the potential to be a very significant component of a running back rotation from the very first moment he steps into the field. Before that, don’t be surprised if the Syracuse standout comes off the board a lot earlier than expected.
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