A New Weapon?

There’s been a buzz in the background of the NFL this week, nearly drowned out by the raging din of “Deflategate”; that buzz is all about a promising young receiver who is being pursued by numerous NFL teams, Duron Carter, son of Vikings Hall of Famer Cris Carter. Carter has spent the last two seasons playing for the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL and has put up some pretty good numbers in that time.

For the record, I hope that this kid can make it in the NFL, regardless of who he signs with.  If he’s successful, it would make for a great redemption story, not quite the scale of his father’s story, but a good one nonetheless.  Indianapolis seems to be the frontrunner to sign him, but before we start heralding him as “Luck’s Megatron”, let’s take a little closer look.

First, a little background on why this is news.  There are many dates on the NFL calendar, and many fans don’t realize that there are actually some red-letter dates between the Super Bowl and the draft.  One of these dates in 2015 falls on February 10th, this is the date when CFL free agents are free to sign with NFL teams; this is the reason that this news is creating such a buzz this year.  Carter is arguably the most sought after CFL import since Warren Moon or Doug Flutie due to his raw talent, his physical size and, of course, the bloodline he comes from.

The Stats:

In his two seasons with the Montreal, Carter has put up pretty good numbers, especially at this point in his career.  He played in 27 out of 36 regular season games, producing 124 catches for 1,939 yards and 12 touchdowns.  He also played in three playoff games for the Alouettes, one game in 2013 and two games in 2014, where his stats were not quite as impressive.  In these three games he was targeted a total of 7 times for 75 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Now, as impressive as these numbers sound, there are a few things to keep in mind when considering them.

  1. The CFL plays and 18 game season, 20 weeks with two bye weeks, that is a full two games more than the NFL regular season.
  2. The clock stops after a completed forward pass in the CFL.  While they still have 15 minute quarters, their play clock is 20 seconds as opposed to the 25 second play clock the NFL uses, this creates more actual playing time, thus more opportunities for a player to touch the ball through the course of a game; additionally, after the three-minute warning (not a typo), the clock stops after every play.  However, the CFL only allows three downs instead of four, so that balances this a bit.
  3. The field is 110 yard long and 65 yard wide, an NFL field is 100 yard long and 53.3 yards wide, additionally, corners are only allowed a one yard contact zone, NFL corners are allowed a five yard contact zone.  There’s much more open space for a CFL receiver as opposed to an NFL receiver.
  4. CFL rules only require that a receiver have one foot touch in bounds as opposed to the NFL, which require that a receiver have both feet touch in bounds.

All things considered, this would tend to temper the “wow” factor of those numbers a bit, especially when you consider that the CFL has had three players in its history eclipse the 2,000 yard receiving mark, the NFL has never had a 2,000 yard receiver.  Still, when you consider Carter’s age, these are still solid numbers.

The Measurables:

Carter is a fairly impressive physical specimen…6’5″, 198 lbs (his father believes he can carry 225), but at his FAU pro day, his number were somewhat lacking.  He ran the 40 in 4.58, but his 10 yard time was 1.54 and his 20 yard time was 2.60, which indicates that his speed is more of a “top end” type of speed rather than someone who is explosive off the line, this could be compensated for with good route running, but he’s not the type of guy who is going to beat his man off the line.  He also declined to participate in the bench press, which may indicate a lack of strength which would make it difficult for him to beat press man coverage where he is jammed at the line and could hamper him when he is in a situation where he has to fight for the ball.

The Intangibles:

Carter had a poor collegiate history, he started out at OSU, but was declared academically ineligible after his freshman year.  He then transferred to Coffeyville Community College in Coffeyville, KS; he dominated while with the Red Ravens and transferred to Alabama for his junior year.  Academic issues followed him to Alabama and he was ineligible to practice with the Tide until late August; in September that year, he was redshirted and would not play at all that entire season.  He was suspended for spring practice the following year, due to issues with marijuana and subsequently transferred to Florida Atlantic University.  He petitioned the NCAA to waive the one year sit-out requirement, but was denied; he never played a down for FAU.  Duron declared for the 2013 NFL draft, but was neither drafted nor signed as a UDFA, he was invited to spring tryouts for the Saints and Vikings, but garnered no interest.  A source with one of the teams said that Carter goofed off and “acted like he had made the team” instead of doing whatever it took to impress his potential employers.  I understand that those issues were when he was mostly still in his teens, and both his father and Montreal’s GM, Jim Popp, have stated that he has matured greatly since 2013, there are still red flags that cannot be ignored.  In his final playoff game with the Alouettes, he was lined up against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Delvin Breaux, a consensus choice for best CB in the CFL.  Despite being the focal point of Montreal’s game plan, he did not have a single pass thrown his way by the mid-point of the second quarter, leading to Duron becoming frustrated.  He drew two 15-yard penalties, one after punching an opponent and the other after he was supposedly taunting and pointing at an opponent when his hand was bumped into an official’s face. He wound up with three catches for 25 yards in a 40-24 loss.

Final Take:

Duron Carter has many of the physical tools to succeed in the NFL, and if the price is right, I’d love to see him don the horseshoe for the Colts this season.  I’m not holding out hope that he will be Indy’s version of Calvin Johnson or Brandon Marshall, but I think he has the potential to be that big possession receiver that would complement T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief in Luck’s arsenal.  If Duron can make it with the Colts, he would be a prime target to line up opposite Donte on the outside and allow T.Y. to work the slot, his much more natural position.  In the Red Zone, he would give Luck another big target to go along with Fleener and Allen, Carter would likely, if he bulks up some, win most jump balls in the end zone…which is good, considering Luck’s maddening tendency to throw the ball high.  In short, I hope the Colts can sign Carter and he shows that he has overcome his maturity issues to become a deadly weapon in Indy’s arsenal; which he can certainly do if he adds some bulk to his frame and becomes a precision route runner.  Most importantly, I would love to see it, if for no other reason, to see this kid complete the turn around from the bad decisions that have defined his football career so far.

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