After cornerback Kaiir Elam marked the first former Gator selected in the 2022 NFL Draft Thursday, Florida fans eagerly awaited the next alumni who’d head to the pros.
They got their answer Friday in the third round, as defensive tackle Zachary Carter was selected 95th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals. The pick was the Bengals third, with all three having been defensemen.
Carter, a Tampa, Florida, native, spent five years in Gainesville after redshirting his first year. After a quiet redshirt freshman season, he exploded onto the scene in 2019. In that campaign, he racked up 30 total tackles, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
In his final two seasons at UF, Carter registered over 20 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and 68 total tackles. Despite deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball for the orange and blue, Carter anchored the front line.
His final season at Florida was highlighted by a monster performance in the 2021 season opener against FAU, where Carter registered three sacks.
At the NFL Combine, Carter put forth 19 reps on the bench press and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.99 seconds. His collegiate resume, combined with his metrics at the combine, were enough for the Bengals to pull the trigger in the third round.
Carter joins a group of Bengals defensemen seeking to return to the Super Bowl this season; this past February, Cincinnati made it to the 2022 Super Bowl before it fell to the Los Angeles Rams.
Defensive end Trey Hendrickson, who totaled 14 sacks in the 2021 season, will occupy the defensive line with Carter. He will reunite with former Gators kicker Evan McPherson, who recorded multiple clutch kicks for the Bengals in last year’s playoff run.
As Cincinnati looks to build on last year's surprise success, Carter provides depth to the defensive line. For Florida, the loss of Carter creates a large hole on the defensive side of the ball in Gainesville for next season.
Carson Cashion is a third-year sports journalism major at UF, and the sports editor at The Alligator for the 2022 summer semester. A native of Altamonte Springs, Carson spends his free time walking his dog, Baxter, and listening to good music. He is an avid Tennessee sports fan, and eagerly awaits watching one of his teams win a championship for the first time.