Over the next few months, we’ll be providing an in-depth scouting report for each of the Jets’ undrafted free agents. We continue today with defensive back Shyheim Carter.
The 22-year old Carter, who went to college at Alabama, is listed at 5’10” and 194 pounds. He started 23 games for the Crimson Tide, racking up 100 tackles, 18 passes defensed and three interceptions.
Carter played quarterback in high school but was a four-star prospect at cornerback and eventually chose Alabama over LSU.
Playing in a rotational role, Carter recorded a total of 14 tackles and one pass defensed over his first two seasons, but started 23 of 27 games over his last two years.
In his junior year, Carter was 10th in the SEC in pass breakups and returned two interceptions for touchdowns, although his production was down slightly in his senior year.
Carter was invited to play in the East West Shrine Game and attended the scouting combine, although he opted not to work out due to a minor injury.
The Jets signed Carter as a priority undrafted free agent, guaranteeing him a total of $62,000 in his three-year deal.
Let’s move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Carter brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.
One of Carter’s main issues is that he lacks size and length. His arms are just over 29½ inches long, which is the 7th shortest measurement for any defensive back in combine history and the 3rd shortest for any safety. His hand size is above average though.
Carter opted not to take part in the workout at the combine due to a slight injury, but is generally considered to be average at best athletically. However, he had told the media that he expecting to surprise everyone with his workout numbers and was targeting a 40-time in the 4.3 range.
Carter played the “Spur” position at Alabama, which is a kind of hybrid safety role which saw him matched up in the slot on the majority of his snaps. He also had snaps in the box, on the outside, up at the line and in center field.
At the Shrine Bowl, Carter was employed as a free safety, lining up deep a lot more often than he did at Alabama.
The first thing worth noting about Carter is that, as a defensive back from Alabama, there might be an adjustment period required for him to succeed at the NFL level. Nick Saban is notorious for teaching some different techniques which often lead to former Alabama players taking a while to learn how most NFL coaches prefer things to be done.
The Jets saw this first-hand with Dee Milliner, although it has perhaps been less of an issue in recent years with Marlon Humphrey being solid from the get-go in Baltimore and the undrafted Levi Wallace starting games for the Bills by the end of his rookie year.
Carter’s coverage numbers in his limited role over his first two seasons weren’t great as he gave up a few big plays. However, in a full time role in 2018, opposing quarterbacks completed less than 50 percent of their passes into his coverage. He also added two interceptions, both of which were pick-sixes.
In 2019, Carter gave up a higher percentage when targeted and was beaten for three touchdowns in coverage. As you can see, he is in position here, but a perfect throw is always likely to be completed because he lacks the size to disrupt on a high throw.
Due to his lack of size and the questions over his top-end speed, Carter probably isn’t suited to playing on the outside at the pro level and has some hip tightness which can limit how smoothly he comes in and out of his transitions. This will mean he concedes separation in off coverage down the field.
Carter seems to be most comfortable in more of a read-and-react type of role, where he can keep everything in front of him.
Carter has had some good production in terms of breaking up passes, especially in 2018 where he was in the top 10 in the SEC. He can turn his head to locate the ball, is competitive at the catch point and capable of jumping routes or closing to break up a pass with a hit.
However, he can be out-muscled at the catchpoint, especially when going up against bigger receivers.
Although he had three interceptions in his career, Carter’s hands are questionable. In one 2018 game alone, against possible new Patriots starter Jarrett Stidham, he dropped three potential interceptions.
Carter is not a big hitter and his lack of length can compound some of the bad habits he has in terms of taking bad angles and closing on the ball.
On this play, he and the linebacker both overpursue, allowing the back to cut back for a touchdown.
Carter didn’t miss many tackles in his first three seasons, but missed eight last year, again displaying some bad habits.
He had one penalty, that was offset anyway, for grabbing the ball carrier’s face mask on a tackle and forced two fumbles in his career.
Carter is a scrappy player who gives a good effort. However, he plays with good discipline as he had no penalties in coverage during his career.
In coverage, he understands how to reroute and disrupt but is overmatched at the catchpoint against bigger receivers.
In the box, Carter lacks a presence and doesn’t have the strength to get off blocks, but does have a knack of being able to navigate through traffic.
He was flagged for this late hit in the Auburn game in 2018, but escaped a possible ejection for targeting because he led with his hands.
Despite not having much of a presence in the box, Carter has made some contributions against the run over the past few seasons, including six tackles for loss officially.
He will help in clean-up on runs up the middle but is more likely to make a play when a run gets bounced outside.
Carter didn’t have a sack in his college career despite blitzing a few times per game from the slot. He did have several pressures, though, and batted down two passes at the line.
The majority of Carter’s contributions on special teams have come when covering kickoffs. His most productive year was in 2017 when he made three special teams tackles.
Carter has also been employed as a blocker on the kickoff return unit and rushing punts. He played as a vice in his freshman year but has not done so since then.
Carter’s history as a high school quarterback is probably a factor in his football IQ, which has been praised by Saban who said it was one of the best on the team and that Carter would make a fine coach one day.
This makes him versatile enough to play multiple roles and his preparation work feeds into his ability to make quick reads and blow up plays.
He generally plays a disciplined role with good gap integrity and won’t lose contain. However, he has been considered to be too conservative at times.
In coverage, Carter’s skill-set is best suited to a role where he can display good his positional sense and anticipation.
In addition to having impressed Saban with his off-field preparation, Carter is described as having a relentless effort and formed a close bond with Wallace in an effort to keep improving and get more reps.
Carter, a team captain at Alabama, was said to have impressed during interviews at the combine and is viewed as a player who can become a leader at the next level.
Carter played in 50 games during his career at Alabama, so injuries haven’t been a major issue for him, although he did have to play with a heavily-wrapped hand for several weeks in 2018 after having banged it on an opponent’s helmet.
He also had off-season surgery for a sports hernia before last year and missed his combine workout with a slight hamstring pull.
Carter is yet another player who seems to fit the mold of what the Jets are doing on defense as this time. His football IQ makes him ideally suited for a zone-based system, while also masking any limitations in terms of size and athletic ability.
He was a teammate of Quinnen Williams while at Alabama and was on fellow rookie James Morgan’s team at the Shrine Bowl.
Carter is one of the best known of this year’s undrafted free agent crop and comes from a school which has had a lot of success in developing players that become NFL contributors even if they were late round picks or undrafted.
He’s another player who seems like he will fit well into Gregg Williams’ system, in a secondary where there are a lot of roles up for grabs, but also plenty of competition for those spots.
If what Carter says about his combine numbers being much better than you might expect is true, then he was probably unlucky not to be drafted and the Jets may have found themselves a bargain.