Two months ago, the Detroit Lions re-signed Rashean Mathis to a two-year deal. It was clear that both parties wanted the same outcome. The Lions needed their veteran cornerback to continue his success and help mold their young defensive backs, while Mathis was keen on staying put in Detroit and embracing his role as a leader. Enter Alex Carter, who the Lions selected -- trading up eight spots -- in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Like Laken Tomlinson, Alex Carter had a rough path to the NFL. His little sister Cameron, who was just 14 years old at the time, passed away due to complications of Type 1 diabetes during his senior year in high school. This tragedy nearly forced Carter to stay at home with his family in Virginia rather than attending Stanford University.
"It was rough because it was like three months before I left to go to Stanford," Carter said. "That's cross country, I have to leave my family. I thought about not going to Stanford just because it was hard for me and hard for my family, my mom. But she was like, 'Cameron would want you to live your dream. Keep on this path, keep going forward.' So it motivated me."
Carter is also engaged, which comes as a shock to exactly no one.
Carter's three forced fumbles as a true freshman in 2012 equaled the sixth-most in the Pac-12. His two interceptions in 40 career games may be a bit concerning, but I wouldn't get too worked up over college statistics.
Carter may not have the desired long speed that some NFL teams are looking for, but he tested well in almost every other drill, and his SPARQ score was good for 23rd out of 220 qualifying CB prospects.
Physical in Press Coverage
(GIFs via Draft Breakdown)
Carter played mostly off-man or zone coverage in Stanford's defense, but when he was asked to play press he did a great job of being physical. He made several plays on the ball against Michigan State in their Rose Bowl defeat, including this one. His jam technique could use some refining and his technique isn't perfect, but he has the physical traits that defensive coordinator Teryl Austin would love to work with.
Aggressive and Willing Tackler
Once he develops, Carter can be a huge asset for the Lions because of his size, physicality and versatility. He loves to hit, and his willingness and aggressiveness versus the run is something that Detroit's coaching staff truly coveted leading up to the draft. This attitude gives you an idea of why they traded up for him. In the play above, Carter does a spectacular job of shedding a block and stuffing the ball carrier for a minimal gain.
Needs Work Wrapping Up
Carter is undeniably aggressive, but doesn't always do a nice job of wrapping up. As you can see, this was a pretty pathetic attempt at an open-field tackle. He has a bad habit of lowering his head when going in for the tackle (remind you of anyone?), and I expect the Lions' coaching staff to work on improving his tackling form.
Poor Change of Direction
Carter has stiff hips and struggled badly in off-man coverage. He just wasn't able to change directions or react quickly to the ball. Here's an example where Carter continues his backpedal for a few steps with the ball in the air and the receiver breaking inside. The receiver creates a ton of separation, but the throw is off and Carter catches a break.
Carter was routinely carved up on slants all year and did a poor job of responding to inside releases. On this play, the receiver fakes an outside release then quickly breaks inside and Carter gives up a huge cushion for an easy third-down conversion.
Needs Technique Work
Carter also has a bad habit of opening up his hips too early. In this example, you're able to see for a brief moment at the top of the screen that Carter opens his hips too early in the opposite direction that Jaelen Strong makes his break. That's a colossal mistake that's going to get you beat every single time at the next level.
Carter has average instincts and only intercepted two passes throughout his career. His ability to read and react quickly was very suspect on tape. Strong was able to beat him several times throughout this game, including this one for a touchdown. Carter watches the ball into the mesh point, but does a poor job of digesting the play and gets faked out by the read-option pass.
Outlook for 2015
This profile may seem a bit harsh on Alex Carter, but I do believe he has what it takes to eventually develop into a solid player, whether it's at safety or cornerback. I believe that being drafted by the Lions was probably the best opportunity he could have received. He'll be able to learn behind a veteran in Rashean Mathis and also work with a DB magician like Teryl Austin for at least a year.
Alex Carter is an intelligent and ambitious kid who has the physical traits to play either cornerback or safety in the NFL. He's a raw product who needs a lot of work, but I fully expect that in a few years, this coaching staff will be able to develop and turn him into their Rashean Mathis replacement.
Previously: OG Laken Tomlinson