Michael Carter (North Carolina)

Jets’ Michael Carter To Miss Time

Jets rookie running back Michael Carter has been diagnosed with a low-grade high ankle sprain (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com). Carter is expected to miss 2-3 weeks, but there’s no word yet on whether the Jets will move him to the injured reserve list.

Carter — not to be confused with the Jets’ rookie fifth-round defensive back of the same name — was a fourth-round selection in this year’s draft. This Carter split time with Broncos second-round pick Javonte Williams at UNC and registered back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons in 2019 and 2020. His senior year was particularly efficient — the 5-foot-7, 201-pounder averaged 8.0 yards per tote en route to 1,245 yards and nine touchdowns.

So far this year, he’s got 430 yards off of 111 carries (3.9 ypc average). In an all-around flat Jets offense, he’s emerged as the top option ahead of veteran Tevin Coleman and the rest of the bunch.

Without Carter, the Jets will lean more on Coleman, Ty Johnson, La’mical Perine, and Nick Bawden when they take on the Texans this week.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which Rookie Running Back Will Finish With Most Rushing Yards?

Quarterbacks, per usual, dominated this year’s pre-draft coverage. The Falcons made Kyle Pitts the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history, and four wide receivers then went off the board in the top 20. Running backs, as they have done in a few drafts over the past decade, waited.

While two went in Round 1, the Jaguars’ Travis Etienne pick preceded a 60-pick stretch during which just one running back — the Broncos’ Javonte Williams choice — went off the board. The 2021 draft matches 2016 and 2003 for the fewest backs chosen in the top 80 (three) in the common draft era (1967-present), continuing a grim era for this once-storied position. But several of this year’s draftees have quick paths to key roles.

Linked to Najee Harris ahead of the draft, the Steelers took the Alabama standout at No. 24. Harris will join a Steelers team that ranked last in rushing in 2020. Although the Alabama product scored 30 touchdowns in his senior season and topped 1,200 rushing yards in two straight years, he will now play behind an offensive line that went through considerable turnover this offseason. The Steelers lost 17 Pro Bowls on their offensive line this year. They will replace Maurkice Pouncey and Alejandro Villanueva with far less experienced players, and David DeCastro‘s replacement (Trai Turner) struggled in 2020. Will Harris’ talent be enough to overcome significant O-line concerns in Pittsburgh?

Etienne joins a Jags team that just saw James Robinson set the rookie UDFA record for scrimmage yards (1,414) despite missing two games in 2020. Jacksonville also signed Carlos Hyde, who played for Urban Meyer at Ohio State. Etienne spent time at receiver during the Jags’ offseason program but should be expected to contribute heavily in the backfield. Like Harris, Etienne stayed in college for four years. He twice surpassed 1,600 rushing yards and totaled 78 college TDs — most of which coming alongside No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence — but will this unusual setup (for a first-round back, that is) translate to rookie-year production?

The Broncos traded up four spots for Williams in Round 2, Pro Football Focus’ top-rated back in this class, and chose the North Carolina product 36th overall. Williams teamed with Jets draftee Michael Carter to form one of the nation’s top backfield tandems. Williams compiled just one 1,000-yard season with the Tar Heels but led Division I-FBS with 75 broken tackles in 2020. The Broncos have Melvin Gordon signed through 2021, but the John Elway-era addition does not appear to be a lock to hold off Williams for the starting role.

The rest of the rookie field includes third-rounder Trey Sermon (49ers), Carter (fourth round, Jets) and a host of backs ticketed for early-career backup roles. While injuries certainly will hit the running back position, potentially forcing some of the later-round picks into the fray, Sermon and Carter have the best bets of seeing steady action among the mid- and late-round selections.

An Oklahoma and Ohio State product, Sermon also played four years. He averaged more than seven yards per carry in each of his past two, though he never topped 1,000 on the ground. Lead 49ers back Raheem Mostert is coming off an injury-marred season. The Jets added Tevin Coleman, who joined Mostert in missing most of last season, but do not have another back with much experience. This could allow Carter (two 1,000-yard years at North Carolina) early upward mobility, despite his 5-foot-8 frame.

Which rookie back will rush for the most yards in 2021? Who are the later-round candidates or UDFAs who can join these players as early contributors? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Sign Fourth-Round RB Michael Carter

Although the Jets still have higher-profile rookie contracts to finalize, they are done with the Michael Carter section of their rookie deals. The first of the team’s two Michael Carters chosen, the fourth-round running back signed his four-year rookie pact Friday.

This comes nearly a month after fifth-round defensive back Michael Carter agreed to terms. These two played against one another in the ACC and both have paths to immediate playing time. A former North Carolina running back, this Michael Carter figures to become a higher-profile name sooner — perhaps due to the fantasy realm.

Carter split time with Broncos second-round pick Javonte Williams with the Tar Heels and ripped off back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons to close his college career. The 5-foot-7, 201-pound back delivered an efficient senior season, averaging 8.0 yards per carry to reach 1,245 and nine touchdowns for a potent Tar Heels ground attack.

The Jets signed Tevin Coleman this offseason, and although the former Falcons and 49ers back has extensive experience working with OC Mike LaFleur, he has battled constant injury trouble over the past two seasons. Carter, who figures to compete for playing time ahead of his rookie season, also joins 2020 fourth-round pick La’Mical Perine in the Jets’ post-Le’Veon Bell backfield.

Of the Jets’ 10-man draft class, seven members have signed. Only the team’s first- and second-rounders — Zach Wilson,Alijah Vera-Tucker and Elijah Moore — are unsigned.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.