I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
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Alex Carter, CB, Stanford - 6'0, 196 - Junior - 4.51 40
So, when is a good year to get a corner back? All of them. Now, more than ever, the NFL is a league where you better have more corners than you have ever needed. First, there are now essentially 3 starting corners per team, so when you discuss how you allocate your funds when setting up your team, you should understand that many teams had 3 corners play at least 800 snaps last season. The two starters might play over 1,000, but now the nickel corner - against 11 personnel in so many situations (3 WR) - is well over 800 snaps. 800 snaps is 50 snaps per game (out of about an average of 65). So, yes, you have 3 starting corners.
This makes you look at your roster differently when you start prioritizing where to allocate your resources - money and picks - and that is why many of us say you take a corner every single year. Sometimes it might be late in the draft to just fill in the gaps, but other times, the value is right at a certain point. For this year, Dallas has Orlando Scandrick entrenched, Brandon Carr with a huge cap hit, and Morris Claiborne playing out his rookie deal and trying to salvage his value before he needs another contract. Beyond that, Tyler Patmon and Corey White might be depth, but the Cowboys should absolutely consider a corner on Day 1 or Day 2. And this is why the buzz about Alex Carter is growing. Alex is the son of NFL veteran and 1st round pick (Washington '93) Tom Carter, and is another 6-foot tall Stanford corner. He had a fine NFL Combine and to examine his work, I grabbed Notre Dame, Arizona State, and Oregon State from 2014.
Carter is #25 in these videos:
What I liked: Alex Carter is large enough to press cover and get physical with his long arms and also fast enough to run with most receivers. He has a fantastic vertical leap that allows him to really be a tough player to attack in the red zone with his ability to high-point the ball. He is a willing and able tackler who moves well north to go get a bubble screen or a run to the edge and not only gets the guy down, but also can do so with some level of force. He plays the outside WR and generally looks like he is composed and aware of the scheme around him and able to peek at the QB while keeping his man in check. If you are looking for a solid zone corner who plays off and then goes up and corrals the man, Carter can fit the bill. I have heard it said and I agree - he doesn't do anything amazing, but does everything well. Very solid.
What I did not like: As you may surmise from reading my reports on corners, I am not a huge fan of the "off and soft" corner, and much prefer the aggressive and antagonistic corner, which is not Carter's forte. He is not going to get the ball very often as in over 30 games for the Cardinal, he totaled just 2 interceptions. His change of direction is also not the quick-twitch that I look for as well. This allows him to occasionally get beaten on a slant to the inside when he doesn't secure that inside leverage, the broken off route was one where Arizona State was able to attack him on. He plays a rather conservative, safe corner spot for Stanford and while that is often the way the Cowboys want their scheme to look as well, it is tough to say that he could run a tight press-man if you ever wanted to ask him to do that.
Summary: Corner is a spot where you need to get guys who fit your style, and it does seem that Carter fits what Dallas does. He is big and physical and able to win in the red zone. He also seems ready to compete against the big receivers who are all over the league and can battle for the ball. He is a "high makeup" player as well where teams that meet him and look in his eye can't wait to get him into their room as he certainly interviews and tests very well. He is good, not great, but you need good corners now more than ever. He is not the type of guy to push himself into the top round (I don't believe) and he might never be your #1 corner. But, When you need 3 solid corners, he fits the bill of adding quality to your secondary at the right spot and at the right price. Also, it seems he could be a fine candidate to convert to free safety, which I believe was his original position at Stanford out of high school. That might actually be his best fit. If he is there late in the 2nd, don't be shocked if this guy is the play for the Cowboys.
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