For the first time since 1998, the Cincinnati Bengals go defense for their first three picks in the NFL Draft. With their third-round pick, they went with Florida defensive linemen Zachary Carter.
While he wasn’t particularly high on the consensus board when he was selected, Carter brings traits that the Bengals need in their defensive line room. He’s not going to be pigeonholed at one position while defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo is still around, but he does have a place where he can make the biggest impact.
Let’s learn a little bit about the 95th pick in the Draft.
What Carter brings to the Bengals
Not many defensive tackles in this class had a lot of backfield production in college. Carter is an exception. He had a productive final two seasons with the Gators, playing mostly on the edge but also a good amount inside in the B-gap. For defensive tackles, his sack market share ranks in the 90th percentile per James Cobern’s data. Carter’s tackle for loss market share wasn’t too far behind in the 84th percentile.
There’s a lot of crossover between Carter and what the Bengals currently have at defensive line. He’s not an all-world athlete, but he can win with hand usage, power, and effort. Where he runs into trouble is when his first move is countered and he’s late off of the ball. His best athleticism trait is his flexibility for his size (62nd percentile for defensive tackles)
In all likelihood, Carter’s going to be at his most productive when he’s not on the edge, He’s got 3-technique traits to him, but his length and base make him a good candidate to play 5-technique as well.
Why the Bengals picked Carter
Those two positions are what the Bengals needed to fill at some point in this Draft, and defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said after the pick that Carter will start out at 3-tech and recognized his ability to play over the tackle at 5-tech. From a needs perspective, Carter fits what they didn’t have behind and next to B.J. Hill.
Carter doesn’t just have quality production from a big program in Florida, he was also a Senior Bowl participant along with Cam Taylor-Britt. Cincinnati has made it a recent habit to pluck players who spent time in Mobile, Alabama for the premiere collegiate all-star game. Carter is the 12th Senior Bowl defender the team has drafted since Zac Taylor took over as head coach in 2019, nine of whom are still with the team.
Coming from an SEC school certainly doesn’t hurt your chances in the Bengals’ eyes. Carter had quality production against quality opponents during the three years he played significant snaps. Strength of schedule typically validates the quality of production a player has, and Carter is no stranger to finding the ball.
Journey to the Draft Podcast— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) September 17, 2021
Matchup to Watch? @AlabamaFTBL OT Evan Neal vs @GatorsFB DE Zachary Carter
I thought Carter showed some high level reps against 360lb Evan Neal in last year's SEC Championship Game. Stout, active player at 6'4 285lbshttps://t.co/eBOY4Uch1Z pic.twitter.com/Si07izktrs
The Bengals are banking on Carter proving the consensus board wrong as a rotational defensive tackle with edge versatility. He’s inline to play a few hundred snaps barring any other additions to the d-line room, so he’ll get his chances early and often.
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