Nebraska has quietly become the NFL's supplier of high-power defensive ends over the past few years. NFL fans know Grant Wistrom's name as he played in Super Bowls in 2000, 2002, and 2006 - although he was recently cut by Seattle. Along with Wistrom there are three other former Husker defensive end starters in the NFL - Mike Rucker (Carolina Panthers), Kyle Vanden Bosch (Tennessee Titans) , and Chris Kelsay (Buffalo Bills). Two more Huskers are backups - Trevor Johnson (New York Jets), and Benard Thomas (Atlanta Falcons practice squad).
Adam Carriker will be yet another Husker defensive end taken in the first round. Carriker has the combination of size (6’ 6", 296 pounds), speed (4.90 forty), and motor that has NFL teams drooling.
Carriker's career at Nebraska was exceptional. In 2005, the Blackshirt defense was first in the nation in sacks and tackles for loss. In 2006, the defense wasn't nearly as good, largely due to injuries to cornerbacks Zachary Bowman and Isaiah Fluellen early in the year when the Huskers were already lacking in depth at that position.
The injuries left the Huskers playing a softer-style defense throughout the season, meaning that Carriker didn't have the number of sacks and tackles for loss that he'd had the year before. He did end 2006 with 52 tackles, 16 of which were tackles for loss. He had six sacks and eleven quarterback hurries. He also had three pass break-ups, a blocked kick, and an interception. He ended 2006 being picked as an Associated Press first-team All Big 12 selection for the second year in a row.
NFL fans are talking about his Senior Bowl performance because that's the only time they've seen him play, but Husker fans know that the bottom line on Adam Carriker is that he did everything he was asked to do as part of the Husker's defense, and did it very well.
NFL Combine Stats
40 yard time: 4.90
This is right around where Carriker was expected to run, although Carriker insists he's faster. His fastest time at the combine was a 4.84. The time is pretty decent given his size. Some may worry about his ability to play in a 3-4, but after looking at his 20 yard shuttle time in combination with his 40 yard time, those fears should be set aside.
Vertical Jump: 33 1/2"
Nothing to complain about there, finishing eighth. This test is more important for receivers and defensive backs.
20 yard shuttle: 4.18
This is an amazing time for a guy his size, faster than most of the wide receivers tested. It should put to rest any reservations about Carriker's ability to move to the outside.
The 20 yard shuttle is meant to test lateral (side to side) speed and coordination. The player starts in a three-point stance, then sprints five yards to a yard line, then ten yards to another sideline, and then finishes at the original starting point.
225 lb Bench Press: 33
The bench press test at the combine isn't a test of overall strength, but a test of endurance and strength. Carriker's thirty-three reps tied for third among defensive lineman.
Three Cone:7.06 seconds
His three cone test ranks him faster than Gaines Adams, considered the top defensive end in the draft.
Broad Jump: 9’ 2"
This is done from a standing position and is meant to see how well players can use lower body strength to gain an advantage on their opponent.
Strengths and Weaknesses
I have seen people talking about Carriker not fitting into a 3-4 very well because of lack of speed. I don't get where that comes from other than Internet rumors, and I've addressed some of that above in the NFL Combine information. John Clayton states that he may be the best choice for a 3-4 defensive end in the draft.
Given his 6' 6", nearly 300 pound frame in combination with his quickness, Carriker keeps his feet very well, meaning that he won't be easily moved off the ball if he's asked to play defensive tackle or end in a 4-3.
Carriker's work ethic is well known and he has no character issues that I'm aware of. He was born in Hastings, Nebraska, and moved to Washington when he was three years old. As some of his family still resides in Nebraska, the Huskers were a natural choice for his college career.
With regards to weaknesses - go find one and let me know what it is because while he may not be the best fit into a very specific scheme, he does everything pretty well. Jamaal Anderson of Arkansas and Gaines Adams of Clemson are ranked above Carriker, but given his physical specimen, work ethic, and character, I'd argue that he's the best all-around defensive end prospect available for the NFL draft.