As Andre Carter II showed his ability to shove past offensive linemen and obliterate plenty of quarterbacks for 15.5 sacks during the 2021 college football season, his steady rise as the integral member of Army’s defense led to momentum for a possible NFL career as well. Should he stay healthy in the foreseeable future, there’s no doubt to multiple parts of Carter’s future.
The rising Black Knights senior outside linebacker is one of the most unique prospects likely to hear his name called in the 2023 NFL Draft. Carter’s slotted at No. 15 overall by Pro Football Focus in an early mock draft for next year. Should Carter be chosen in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, he’d easily be the highest-drafted player from a service academy in more than 60 years.
The last top-100 NFL Draft choice from a service academy was Navy’s Bob Reifsnyder, a defensive end taken by the Rams 45th overall in 1959. It’ll be nearly impossible for Carter to break the service academy and Army’s all-time record for highest NFL Draft pick as 1946 Heisman Trophy winner Glenn Davis was selected No. 2 overall by the Lions in the 1947 draft. Carter’s still a juggernaut who should smash the Super Bowl-era record currently held by Napoleon McCallum at No. 108 overall in 1986.
Carter was feasting on the competition as a junior, but don’t let Army’s status as an FBS Independent fool you. The Black Knights played Power Five Conference competition and some of the best from the Group of Five. Remember all the hoopla made about Liberty’s Malik Willis ahead of this year’s NFL Draft? Carter put him on the turf and also had a sack against both Missouri and Wisconsin. Carter’s 15.5 sacks was second in the nation last season, only trailing Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr., the probable No. 1 overall pick in 2023, who notched 17.5.
The NFL Draft hasn’t seen a modern-day prospect from a service academy with as much hype as Carter. Because he attends school at West Point, much like the Naval Academy or Air Force, Carter may be required to serve on active duty after receiving their diploma. That restriction hasn’t stopped NFL teams from selecting players from those schools. Five players have been drafted from an FBS service academy over the last decade, including this year in Air Force defensive tackle Jordan Jackson, a sixth-round selection of the Saints.
Recent precedent shows exceptions being given to players to delay military service for gridiron careers, such as Air Force graduate Nolan Laufenberg, who is currently signed with the Commanders. Davis didn’t play for the Rams for two years after his selection. Navy legend Roger Staubach (a 10th-round pick was a part of the 1964 NFL Draft and didn’t suit up for the Cowboys until 1969. Carter getting that waiver is a needed part of this process but one that should be easy to finalize. If his desire is to play on Sunday’s before honoring his agreement with the Army, that’s exactly what he’ll do. The limelight being brought to his ability shouldn’t complicate the matter.
If Carter’s draft stock doesn’t heavily decline, the parameters of his future will be well known to NFL teams and the public by next spring. None of the 32 NFL teams would shell out millions of dollars to anyone who wouldn’t be on their roster in a few months, regardless of reason. According to Spotrac, the No. 15 draft pick’s value is $15.9 million with a near-$9-million signing bonus. Even falling to the end of the first round should earn Carter around $16 million in a contract and signing bonus.
There’s no question about the 6-foot-7, 260-pound Carter’s ability. He’s an NFL-caliber player and would be disruptive as an edge rusher or outside linebacker in the NFL. Carter will put it on full display again this fall as one of college football’s best defenders. He’ll have chances to shine against Wake Forest, UTSA and Coastal Carolina, which won a combined 34 games in 2021. And you better believe he’ll be one of the most intriguing players in the 2023 NFL Draft.