We’re down to the final day of our NY SOS 2011 Prospect Profiles.

One of the most intriguing story lines for me as the Draft unfolds is how teams will view Bruce Carter of North Carolina. Entering the 2010 college football season, Carter was viewed as a sure top-15 pick – possibly top-10. Unfortunately, Carter suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on November 20th against NC State, which required reconstruction surgery on December 14. Now, his projections vary depending upon who you ask. Before the injury, Carter was a tremendously gifted, athletic, play-making linebacker; the question that now lingers is whether or not that athleticism has been compromised as a result of the injury.

Scouting reports after the jump.

Bruce Carter
Senior, OLB
North Carolina
6-3, 235

Keep in mind that these reports are sort of skewed as a result of the injury.

Big Board Rankings
Drafttek – 83
Walter Footballl – 21st overall before the season started
Mocking The Draft – 5th-ranked OLB, 42nd overall

The Reports
National Football Post (5th-rated OLB, 62nd overall):

One of the more gifted athletes you’re going to see at the position. Possesses a long, athletic-looking frame and is at his best when asked to click and close and make plays in pursuit. Showcases great explosion once he locates the football and quickly is able to get from point A to point B. Exhibits impressive length and range when asked to break down and wrap up on contact. At times will overrun his man, but for the most part is able to wrap up and get the ball carrier to the ground. Possesses above-average natural anchor strength for a guy his size. However, he isn’t real violent into blocks. Doesn’t exhibit a real snap/pop from his lower half, isn’t a real impressive puncher and looks content to simply anchor instead of using his length — which he extends well — in order to shed and try to make a play off his frame.

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. Puts himself in position to make plays on the football, but is slow to get his head around in the pass game and adjust to the throw.

However, has a real savvy for blocking kicks, is explosive, can cleanly change directions and does a great job dropping his pad level and accelerating after the football. Could have a real impact as a special teams guy early in the career.

Impression: 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. However, tore his ACL toward the end of the year and is now a major medical risk.

Pro Football Weekly (2nd-rated OLB, 28th overall):

Positives: Passes the eye test and worked out like a phenom prior to injury. Rare athlete with an explosive, quick-twitch, short-area burst and natural knee bend. Outstanding balance and lateral agility. Functions in space. Adept at slipping and avoiding blocks. Ranges to the sideline to track down ballcarriers. Can run and hit and shows burst to close and finish. Drops effortlessly into zone coverage and has loose hips to shadow backs and tight ends. Has special-teams value and stood out in this area—seven career blocked kicks.

Negatives: Lacks bulk. Not stout or physical at the point of attack—plays too soft and too many tackles come down the field. Overruns some plays. Lassos too many tackles and can do a better job squaring up ballcarriers. Does not take on blocks with force or accelerate off them. Has to be schemed free as a blitzer. Has a finesse temperament and lacks killer instinct.—does not play violently. Inconsistent compete level and urgency—plays when he wants to. Lacks confidence and an innate feel for the game. Durability could be an issue.

Summary: Has very clear first-round talent but could slide out of the first round coming off knee surgery. Converted from safety and still covers like a defensive back and has special traits in coverage. Fly-to-the-ball, finesse, run-around ‘backer with exceptional physical tools who could be very productive as a 4-3 weakside linebacker where his range and athletic ability would play best.

The Sporting News – full report here – (3rd-rated OLB, 50th overall):

Against the inside run: Does a good job of using his hands to stay free from offensive line blocker on the second level, closes quickly and makes tackles consistently on inside runs. Is smooth filling the hole, can take on lead blocker in the hole and can defeat blocker to make the tackle, but is not aggressive or explosive filling the hole, which limits his ability to blow up plays in the backfield. Moves easily through traffic and flashes good use of hands to keep low blocks from getting into his legs, which enables him to move to the ballcarrier and make tackles on the inside run.

Against the outside run: Has the size, playing strength and athleticism to make plays on both sides of the field on outside runs. Does a good job of taking on the lead blocker at the point of attack. While he takes on blocker strong at the point of attack, he needs to press and squeeze blocker to close the hole quicker. Reads the play quickly and gets started toward the ball quickly to finish plays.

Blitz/coverage: Does not explode off the ball when rushing the quarterback and has not shown the hand-use and pass-rush skill to defeat pass blocks. Can get to full speed before encountering a blocker and can use his size and strength to drive blocker backward with a strong bull rush. Can be an adequate straight-line pass rusher, but lacks the explosiveness off the ball to consistently pressure the quarterbacks of the NFL. Does not stand out as a pass rusher, but is a versatile pass defender. Lack of quick twitch, explosiveness hinders his ability to close on receiver in time to make a play on the ball.

Run/pass recognition: Is a smart and instinctive defender who reads and reacts to the play quickly and does not get fooled by play-action fakes. Instincts and foot quickness help him get started to the ball fast. Has nice technique tackling with good knee bend, balance and use of hands. Shows instincts and field awareness in his pass drops

Pursuit/tackling: Reads the play quickly on running plays away and has the explosive closing burst to finish plays. Chase speed is deceptive, but passes other defenders and makes a lot of tackles in backside pursuit. Does a good job of keeping his knees bent and staying under control when running to the ball, which enables him to be a good open field tackler. Can adjust and tackle elusive ballcarriers with ease.

Bottom line: Carter will likely become a consistent linebacker in the NFL, even if he does not make as many game-changing plays. However, his draft status will plummet because he underwent reconstructive ACL surgery in December and won’t be working out before the draft.

Entering the season, numerous prognostications pegged Carter as the No. 1 senior outside linebacker in the Draft. Following the ACL injury, Mocking The Draft said in December his injury could have a big affect on his draft stock, possibly causing him to fall all the way to round three. Carter was unable to work out this offseason, further hurting his stock, but his past production and physical tools are difficult to ignore. He’s an outstanding athlete; a sideline-to-sideline, run-and-chase linebacker with ability to make plays all over the field. You can see the athleticism and playmaking ability on display in game tapes against Florida State, Virginia Tech, and LSU.

Another outside linebacker with supreme physical tools who had ACL issues ended up being one of the best linebackers in Giants history – Jessie Armstead. Armstead suffered a serious knee injury to his anterior cruciate ligament – exactly like Carter, except it was Armstead’s sophomore year and not his senior year – but Armstead battled back onto the field a year later and helped lead the Miami defense to their second national championship in three years. The injury, though, was still enough to scare teams off, until the Giants selected him with the 207th pick in the eighth round of the ’93 Draft. Obviously, Carter isn’t Armstead yet, but the similarities – a bit undersized, serious knee injury, falling stock – are certainly there.

It’s unknown at this point how well Carter will bounce back from his injury, and he probably won’t be able to participate at full-speed for another few months – I’d have to guess until August. The fact that, as a linebacker, he needs to exert his physical dominance following a serious knee injury will have many teams turned off. If he does recover and returns to form, Carter could be the steal of the draft in round two or three.