Former Georgia Bulldogs defensive tackle Jalen Carter is widely regarded as one of the best prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. However, the reigning All-American might not be drafted as high as his peers due to non-football concerns.
Carter, age 22, was one of the most dominant players in college football last season. He earned unanimous All-American honors, leading Georgia to its second national championship behind a defense that allowed just 12.8 points per game.
While there were some early NFL Draft rumors regarding concerns about Carter’s maturity before the pre-draft process, he was still viewed as the best prospect in the 2023 draft class. Heading into the NFL Combine, Carter had an opportunity to secure his status as a top-three pick.
However, an arrest warrant was issued for him shortly after his arrival. The 6-foot-3 defensive tackle received two misdemeanor charges, counts of racing and reckless driving, tied to racing on the same night of the crash that killed teammate Devin Willock and recruiting staff member Chandler LeCroy.
Carter agreed to a plea deal to avoid jail time, maintaining his innocence during the entire process. He later met with NFL teams to discuss his off-field issues including reports that he was warned about reckless driving by an officer in 2022 and was cited for going nearly twice the speed limit.
While Carter reportedly didn’t ace the interview process and a poor showing at Georgia’s Pro Day heightened concerns regarding his work ethic, many still projected him to be a top-five pick. While that might still be the case, scouts around the league clearly still see issues with the All-American defensive lineman.
Scouts who spoke to Bob McGinn of GoLongTD.com praised Carter’s skills but were extremely critical of his work ethic, conditioning and lack of consistency. Of the scouts that McGinn spoke with, one called ‘lazy’ with a motor that ‘runs hot and cold’ with another scout being even more critical.
“They put him on the treadmill damn near every day. He doesn’t love football, doesn’t love the weight room. Horrible family background. Not a leader. He’s phenomenally talented…He’s the epitome of star or bust.”Anonymous NFL scout on Jalen Carter
The off-field concerns with Carter are something that NFL teams certainly must exhaustively research, speaking to Carter, his former coaches and law enforcement in Georgia. However, he has only been charged with misdemeanors or received warnings based on public reporting.
The concern with Carter’s effort level and work ethic as a football player are another tough evaluation. At 314 pounds, Carter is one of the heaviest players on a football field and the Bulldogs’ coaching staff wanted to keep him fresh all season. Given Carter also dealt with injuries, taking a few plays off per game and managing his reps were reasonable measures to take in 2022.
If NFL executives and coaches heard from Georgia’s coaching staff that Carter doesn’t love the weight room, it is a reason for concern. However, he is already one of the most talented young players in football and his poor showing at the Bulldogs’ Pro Day could be explained by Carter still being in the grieving process months after a teammate passed away.
Even with the red flags multiple NFL teams evidently see with his decision-making and maturity, Carter will still be a top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. While there is risk for the team that drafts him, the upside is an All-Pro defensive tackle who disrupts the game like few others at his position.