The New York Jets' focus on offense continued at the start of Round 4 of the 2021 NFL Draft that began shortly after noon ET today, when they used the second pick of the day and the 107th overall to take North Carolina running back Michael Carter. It was the Jets' fourth offensive player they've selected in their first four picks.
Coming after the Jets tabbed QB Zach Wilson and OL Alijah Vera-Tucker in Round 1 on Thursday and WR Elijah Moore in Round 2 on Friday, the Jets have taken four offensive players to start a draft for the first time in 38 years, or when they took QB Ken O'Brien, RB Johnny Hector, WR Jo-Jo Townsell and TE Wes Howell in the first four rounds of the 1983 draft.
And like the threesome that were selected by the Jets before him this week, Carter is happy now to be wearing the green and white.
"It's a dream come true," he told Jets reporters. "I had a feeling all along I was going to be in New York, or New Jersey, really, I guess. But I'm just excited to be a Jet.
"Just the appreciation, the interest they had in me," he said of why he had that feeling. "I feel like it was just like a match made."
Carter, who measured an eighth of an inch shy of 5-8 and 200 pounds at UNC's pro day, stood tall as the starter for the Heels and served a team captain last year as a true senior. He had 1,000 rushing yards for the second straight season, finishing with 1,245 yards on 156 carries (8.0 yards/carry) and 9 touchdowns and added 267 yards and two more TDs on 25 catches (10.7 yards/catch).
Carter averaged 113.2 scrimmage yards/game last year, compared to Williams' 103.6 yards/game. He was named All-ACC first team and All-America third team, then had a great week at the Senior Bowl.
For his UNC career, Carter played in 44 games (24 starts), had 514 carries for 3,404 yards (6.6 yards/carry) and 22 touchdowns, and caught 82 passes for 656 yards and six TDs. He's the fourth Tar Heel to eclipse 3,400 rushing yards in his career and set the school records for most rush yards/carry in a game (12.8), season (8.0) and career (6.6). He also averaged 20.3 yards on 32 career kickoff returns.
He describes his running style in a few words before expanding on the analysis.
"Explosive ... fun," he said. "I try to score every time I get the rock. I love to have fun when I play football. It's a fun game. It's something that can change your life."
Carter's also familiar with the wide zone offensive scheme being installed by head coach Robert Saleh and coordinator Mike LaFleur.
"I think my change of direction and stop-start ability complements their system well," he said. "I've been running pretty much wide zone since I was born, so it comes natural to me. We ran a lot of it in college. Even in high school I did it, even in youth football I did it. So I'm very familiar with it."
North Carolina HC Mack Brown, serving as something of an nfl.com draft analyst at the Tar Heels' pro day, has compared Carter and backfield mate Javonte Williams to Southern Cal's Reggie Bush and LenDale White of 2004-05 "because of their amount of yardage. I would say they've got to step it up to make sure they live up to that level of expectation. But both of them are great people, they stayed healthy, they didn't turn the ball over, they can block, they can catch, they're smart, they're really good in space but powerful enough to run inside. Javonte will run over you and Michael has that patience. They're both guaranteed NFL backs.
Carter becomes the ninth Tar Heel drafted by the Jets in franchise history. The highest and most recent was DE Quinton Coples (Round 1, No. 16 overall, 2012), who played 56 games and made 32 starts as Jet. The last four UNC players drafted by the Jets played for the Green & White: LB/ST Eddie Mason in 1995, DT Rick Terry and RB/KR Leon Johnson in 1997, and Coples.