When you think of the big names heading into the 2015 NFL Draft, you'll come up with Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, not Alex Carter. The underrated cornerback for the Cardinal locked down Pac-12 teams and their air-raid offenses in 2015, and even picked off Mariota; Carter was only one of four players in the nation who could hold that claim to fame. Along with now-departed Wayne Lyons, Carter formed one of the most formidable cornerback tandems in college football. They lead a defense that was eighth in the nation in passing defense, allowing just 178 yards per game through the air while facing many NFL-caliber quarterbacks and receivers, including Cardinal receiver Ty Montgomery in practice.
Beyond just that one play, Carter has the measurables and tools to succeed at the next level. He checks in at 6'-0 and 196 pounds, just a tick above average for an NFL corner. In this day and age, corners need to be big with an extensive reach, and Carter checks both of those boxes when you factor in his long 32 1/8" arms. With his size and patience, he has shown he is able handle the rigors of press coverage on The Farm. He keeps his hips closed long enough on press and is effective in the scheme.
However, he's usually better off letting the play develop and reacting with his great instincts than covering straight up. He does run a solid 4.51 40 time, but doesn't quite have the burst of other athletes because of his long strides. However, this does not stop him from making good open field tackles when playing back off the line. Carter also allows for a fair amount of separation between himself and the receiver. He's not going to play you as tight as other corners, making him a better fit for a zone defense.
When he has to play a receiver tough, he will, especially around the goal line. If you turn to 1:07 in this clip, you'll see a strong physical effort from Carter to get in front of Xavier Hawkins, a much bigger player than Carter, standing at 6'4" and 235 pounds. With his strength and physicality, he can more than hang with an NFL-sized player on jump balls.
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/tktcB0F3W8U" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
His stats won't jump out at you, with 41 tackles, a forced fumble, and just one interception last season, but most teams elected to throw away from Carter to challenge Lyons. When he needed to, he made the plays in the open field for the Cardinal.
Carter needs to work on his deep coverage, an area where he has struggled at times on The Farm, letting receivers getting too much separation off of the line and being forced to play catch-up. He'll mostly avoid that flaw in zone coverage, but it's still something that's holding him back. Despite his underrated potential in a zone scheme and above average measurables, Carter will likely go somewhere in the second or third round. With his skill level, he could be a late first round pick, so any team that picks him up in those later rounds will be getting a corner with major upside potential. Even in a weak cornerback draft class, Carter should stand out more to scouts and NFL teams.