Draft Spotlight: Tank Carder, ILB, TCU

April 18th, 2012 | Written by Kip Earlywine

Written by Kip Earlywine

Tank Carder played middle linebacker in TCU’s 4-2-5 defense.  Carder was voted an All American by ESPN and the AFCA in 2010.  In 2011, Carder was a consensus All American.

Defensive coordinators at both the NFL and college levels are beginning to lean towards nickle defenses as a base defense due to the advent of the elite pass catching TEs we’ve seen the last few years.  TCU is one such team that has already gone there.  Because of this unconventional base scheme, TCU used Carder in a very aggressive role that had him attacking the line of scrimmage very often as opposed to a more typical 4-3 Mike who lets the play come to him most of the time and acts as the second level’s safety net.  The result of using Carder so aggressively was fewer tackles but a greater number of big plays.

There is a lot to like about Tank Carder, and if not for the unconventional role he played in college I’d wonder why so many experts have Carder in the 4th or 5th round.  Carder’s forty time is average, but his field speed is better than average.  His vertical jump is average, but his short area quickness is one of his biggest strengths.  Carder’s 1.57 ten yard split is very close to the numbers put up by Mychal Kendricks or Zach Brown.  Carder’s 6.89 three cone drill is also one of the fastest among all linebackers.  On tape, I thought he looked every bit as quick as those measurements would indicate.  He has very quick feet and can drop his hips and accelerate as fast as any linebacker in the draft.  He also really impressed me with his stop and go agility.  Its very hard to run by Carder in the open field because he breaks down with his lower body so well.

TCU used Carder as an attacking linebacker which is smart because like Aaron Curry, Carder is at his best when he’s allowed to be aggressive.  And while I know its tempting to assume any comparison to Curry is a bad thing, it’s not.  There were certainly some areas where Curry had a lot of ability, he just couldn’t overcome some weaknesses that cancelled out his strengths.  Carder is a natural downhill linebacker and he could probably play any of the linebacker spots if he added weight.

Carder is a fun player to watch and in particular I love watching him lay out on a tackle or a sack, which he does several times a game.  Carder may not have the strongest upper body, but he knows how to explode into a tackle.  On the downside, he dives after tackles a bit too much for my liking, and I’ve also noticed that he tends to leave his feet sometimes and forgets to drive his legs through the tackle.  There are also times where he goes for the hit and sometimes forgets to wrap up, but when he does hit, they can be quite spectacular (check out the Wisconsin video at the 3:30 mark).

Only a week younger than Demario Davis, Carder also has the “old” prospect label.  It’s nothing worth holding against him as a prospect, but he’ll have fewer years before his 30th birthday than most other prospects, which diminishes his total value slightly.

I only have one significant concern with Carder, and that is his ability to give run support.  A couple times a game he’ll let a runner escape untouched through his gap.  Carder also needs to refine his tackling as he’s currently relying on the big hit too much and doesn’t wrap and drive consistently.  He’s also disturbingly prone to being blocked out of plays.  For as hard as he can hit, he gets pushed out of a lane in a hurry.

In conclusion:

I don’t want to get into a guessing game about what Seattle’s 2012 defensive scheme will look like, because I’m not an X’s and O’s guy, but I can tell you this:  I think Seattle’s defensive scheme will probably make a major shift of some sort next year.  Why do I think this?  First, I think this because Rob and I have it on good authority that the team has some interest in Courtney Upshaw and Melvin Ingram, and there is almost no way you could pencil in a guy like that on 2011′s defense without changing the scheme in some way to make it work.  Second, we know that Seattle wants to “get faster” at linebacker even though their previous three linebackers had decent speed (when healthy).

I think when Pete Carroll says he wants to get faster at linebacker, he’s telling the truth, but that lesser truth serves to disguise a greater truth, which is that Pete is looking for a fundamentally new kind of linebacker corps with completely different skill sets-  just like how TCU’s linebacker corps are very different from most 4-3 teams.  David Hawthorne was PFF‘s #2 free agent inside linebacker this year, and Seattle (who had plenty of money) barely even tried to retain him.  When a team lets a good player go when they could have very easily retained that player, that is often a sign that the team has something new in mind scheme wise.

My hunch is that Seattle will prefer a “safety net” middle linebacker who can cover a lot of ground, which would make Zach Brown and Bobby Wagner prime candidates in round two.  Carder is good in coverage- zone coverage- because he reads quarterbacks well and has the acceleration to jump routes.  If Seattle is looking for that kind of middle linebacker, then Carder could be a great value in the mid rounds for Seattle.

I don’t know if Carder fits what Seattle wants, but he’s a player I really like.  His upside is pretty close to Lofa Tatupu, and his downside is pretty close to Matt McCoy.  I think at the least, Carder will be a good special teams player and backup inside linebacker.  Depending on what Pete envisions for the middle linebacker role, Carder could make a lot of sense for Seattle in rounds four or five.

Compilation videos:

JMPasq:  Tank Carder vs. Wisconsin (2010)

TMBDraft:  Tank Carder NFL Draft Analysis – 2010 Season

13 Responses to “Draft Spotlight: Tank Carder, ILB, TCU”

  1. Kevin S. says:

    What’s with TCU producing good inside linebackers? :P David Hawthorne, Darryl Washington with the Cards, and now this guy all within the past 5 years.

  2. Kip Earlywine says:

    Hah, I hadn’t thought of that. It would be pretty funny if the Seahawks ditched one good TCU MLB for another.

  3. D says:

    That is one great picture.

    Saw the W vs. TSU clip. Tank looks like he loves football and loves to hit ball carriers.

    He has a really funky technique when meeting an OL. I am not sure I saw a single three-point-hit-and-shed or any extension of the arms at all. He manages to side step and run around and behind linemen while maintaining speed but he won’t get away with that in the NFL.

    He seems to read OK and has decent speed.

    I guess he has the persona and mentality of a MLB but not the technique. Better that way than the other way around.

  4. Darin says:

    Love this kid, he is a football player. I’ve been a TCU fan for years, ever since I was a little kid and thought the Horned Frog Mascot was so cool.

    Carder is a guy I’d keep my eye on if I were a Hawks fan, I really see Carroll looking at a 4-2-5 base hybrid defense. This could be where the Kam Chancellor to OLB rumors started, Chancellor would move to the rover spot, which Atari Bigby played in the “nickel” package, it allows Chancellor to stay in a safety roll, but it allows him to play closer to the LOS where he loves to mix in up against the run.

    I think Pete and Gus have something up their sleeve when it comoes to the defense, like Kip said, and Backers like Zach Brown, and Lavonte David are looking better and better.

  5. akki says:

    I’m not sure if I’d go as far as saying 4-2-5 base defense, but there’s definitely something to it. You play a ball control team like the Ravens, you might be in 4-3-4 most of the game, If you go up against the Saints or Steelers that always run 3 WRs, you might still have a 4-3-4 base, but in reality you might spend the game 30% in 4-3-4, 50% in 4-2-5, and 20% in 4-1-6. Chancellor essentially is your 3rd LB in such a game as the DB that’s most responsible for run support. And you’ve got to go find linebackers that can be effective in both 4-3-4 and 4-2-5.

    I believe last year, the 4-2-5 mostly had Hill and Hawthorne as the the linebackers. Wright and Curry were more likely to be off the field, due to inexperience and instincts respectively. I’m not sure even Hill was who Carroll ideally wanted on the field. McCoy was playing a much larger role last year than he had in 2010, especially was playing in nickel and dime situations before his injury. Hill might have just been plan B after McCoy went down. As for Hawthorne, I think general sentiment is he was better in the base defense than in the nickel or dime. He survives, but he can be improved upon in the hybrid roles.

    That’s where the fast linebackers come in. I don’t think the Seahawks have anyone right now who they’d ideally have on the field for all three downs, regardless of MLB/ILB or OLB. Based on these reviews, it looks like there are a good number of LBs in the draft who could fill the role of being a 3-down LB. I’d also argue that someone like Hightower also fits the 3-down mold in a different way if he can play LB in the 4-3-4 and stay on the field by flipping down to DE in 4-2-5. I’m less sure how Ingram and Upshaw fit in there, and that’s where I let the coaches project the transitions.

  6. Ralphy says:

    Rob what do you think of Kiper’s article on what the Hawks have to do o receive an A grade?

    Top needs: DE, LB, WR, RB

    Rd 1(12) DE Quinton Coples
    Rd 2 (43) LB Ronnell Lewis
    Rd 3 (75) WR Keshawn Martin

    Analysis: Coples has dropped a bit in the last month, as I sense a lot of personnel folks aren’t of the belief that he has a really high ceiling. But at No. 12, you’re still talking about getting the guy who most saw as the most complete 4-3 defensive end prospect in this draft class for the better part of two years. Coples can play. Lewis is a pretty dynamic physical talent who struggled a bit when Oklahoma asked him to play linebacker. However, Pete Carroll can work magic with these types. As a “Leo” LB, he can use his good size and athleticism in the same way Carroll has used Chris Clemons. Lewis can be a pass-rusher for the Seahawks. This defense is turning into something with these pieces. Martin is a quick receiver who could work all over. He’s not a deep threat, but he turns tight spaces and press coverage into wide-open passing lanes because he’s really proficient at creating space with quickness and smarts. Keep an eye on him.

  7. Kevin S. says:

    Ralphy, it’s not questions about coples ceiling that has people worrying but his work ethic and passion. That is what has him dropping on draft boards.

  8. Jazz says:

    Kevin S I believe the analysis is what Kiper wrote. I have not read the article though, that’s just what i took away from the post.

  9. Seatown80 says:

    I think Kiper may be slipping a little bit. I am perplexed as to why anyone would believe Cople’s ceiling is not high. He has immense talent (size, speed, long arms) and many think he could be a 10+ sack performer if motivated properly.

    His floor is probably the more worrisome aspect. I would not be opposed to getting Coples but would prefer one of the more prototype elephant DE/LB.

    Kiper and McShay seem to be wrong more often than not these days unless something is painfully obvious. I will listen to Mayock instead. He devalues Coples, but only becuase of character concerns.

  10. Ralphy says:

    Yeah that is Kiper’s assessment and not mine. I personally think Coples ceiling is very high.

  11. Bobby Cink says:

    Thanks for doing this Kip. I was going to email Rob about doing something on Tank, but you beat me to it!

    By the way, 23 really doesn’t seem like that old for a prospect. And as far as undersized goes, he weighs 236. Pretty close to 240…

  12. Rob says:

    Ralphy – I think Kiper is right on the team needs (maybe he reads the blog? Hi, Mel), but not necessarily right on the players he has the team taking. Coples – I’m still not convinced Seattle takes a guy like that after signing Jason Jones. I think they’re looking for a different type of pass rusher. Ronnell Lewis is more of an aggressive, pass rushing OLB/DE than a guy you can plug in. He’s a bit of a project. I love Keshawn Martin in round three but think the team will almost certainly to the point it’s nailed on take a running back in the first three rounds.

  13. Soggyblogger says:

    It’s amazing to me that a guy can win all-american honors from multiple sources and still be rated a fourth or fifth round prospect, but if that is so then let’s wait till at least the fourth for this guy. Seems like a great bargain.