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NFL Draft 2011: Raiders LB Search—Bruce Carter Edition

As we have rolled through this 2011 NFL Draft search for free safety and now into linebacker it is becoming apparent that there is a real log jam of talent between the mid second-round and early sixth. It is really hard to get a good feel for when some of these guys are going to go. This next guy is certainly no different.

University of North Carolina linebacker Bruce Carter was widely considered the best pure outside linebacker in the 2010 Draft class—then he blew his ACL in November. At 6'2" and 241 pounds he has decent size, but he is a little on the light side.

It is his off the charts athleticism that made Carter such an intriguing prospect. But therein lies the crux of the Carter conundrum. He is a linebacker that relies on his athleticism and he is recovering from knee surgery. Who knows these knee problems will follow him through his career and strip him of his athleticism?

And now you see him being projected anywhere from the early/mid second to the fourth. We don't have any measurable on him, but we can be confident that he is the most explosive of all the linebackers we are likely to look at. Carter should also receiver a huge draft boost as he just received a letter clearing him medically from the ligament overlord himself, Dr. James Andrews.

Here is a snipet provided by the

"Overall, we are very happy with his progress," Andrews wrote. "He has been progressing well on his weights and has been getting his quad strength back very quickly. His running has also progressed at an exceptional rate."

Carey said the recovery time from the procedure is normally 7 to 9 months; Carter's ACL reconstruction, for a partial tear, was performed four months ago. Carey said doctors expect Carter to be cleared to resume football activity for the start of training camp.

Andrews wrote: "At this point in time we can, without question, say that Bruce is more than meeting out expectations in his recovery from ACL reconstruction and we expect a full recovery, and clear him for eligibility for any workouts he may need to do leading up to the NFL draft."

If this is 100 percent accurate, and Carter can prove he is close to 100 percent it will likely push Carter out of the Raiders range. Jump over to see what scouts say about Carter skills.

"Carter is an excellent athlete, but he tore his ACL in November and has a long road to recovery. He is an explosive athlete that takes proper angles in run support and has excellent speed to make plays from sideline-to-sideline. He is a very fluid, transitions with ease and is very effective dropping into coverage. He struggles to disengage from bigger blockers in and must add more bulk to become stouter against the run. If Carter recovers fully from his injury, he has the athleticism to develop into a very productive weak side linebacker and may still be an early Day 2 pick."

Carter has the frame to add some bulk. So NFL teams probably will not be overly concerned with his lack of it. However, our next analysis raises a legitimate on-field concern.

National Football Post:

"Exhibits impressive fluidity and balance in his drop, cleanly getting out of his breaks and generating a burst for himself toward the football. Definitely has the ability to turn and run down the seam with NFL-caliber tight ends, as he's consistently asked to line up over the slot in zone coverage, holding up pretty well vs. college receivers. However, the biggest knock on him is his inability to quickly react to the football. Isn't real instinctive, doesn't consistently trust what he sees and rarely gets an early jump on the pass.

"A gifted athlete who has the makings of a starting weakside backer in the NFL. But I do have some questions about his instincts, which could end up holding him back from ever becoming a real impact player at the next level."

While players certainly can improve in their ability to diagnose plays, football instincts are not something you typically an area you find players making big gains. And, of course, these issues take a back seat to his medical issues. And with Carter it could be especially concerning.

Joel Welser of

"Carter has not been able to work out for scouts since his injury and that is hurting his draft stock. However, his past production and physical tools will be hard to overlook. But it is his need to use his physical dominance that has scouts so scared. If he does not fully recover, Carter will not be nearly as productive as he has been. Yet, if he does recover, Carter will be an absolute steal in the second or third round. "

Carter is the definition of a high risk/reward player. While he could potentially be an ideal fit for the Raiders he would likely cost them their second selection. Unless he is not quite ready to go physically, and then we are dealing with a whole new set of concerns.

This video does a great job of showing the immense potential of success and liability with Carter. He would probably be the riskiest pick, but he may have the highest ceiling.