Georgia Bulldogs defensive tackle Jalen Carter is widely regarded as one of the best prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. However, the All-American lineman does carry some significant concerns off the field in the eyes of NFL teams.
After Georgia won its second consecutive national championship, the pre-draft process began for Carter and his former teammates. He went into the NFL Combine viewed as the consensus best player in the draft class and was projected to be a top-three pick on April 27.
Shortly after Carter arrived in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine, though, an arrest warrant was issued against him. Weeks later, he showed up out of shape for the Bulldogs’ Pro Day which pushed the off-field and character concerns teams had for him into the spotlight.
Speaking to Bob McGinn of Go Long TD, NFL executives speaking on the condition of anonymity all raised concerns about Carter’s commitment to football and his love for the game. One unnamed executive suggested no one on involved in the Bulldogs’ program would endorse the defensive tackle during private conversations with teams.
“The championship is over so he’s out from under their purview and he’s racing on the streets of Athens and people get killed. He had to lie like a dog at the combine. And there’s not one person there at Georgia that will endorse him. What are the red flags here?”Anonymous NFL executive on Jalen Carter, his off-field questions and the January crash
Carter, age 22, plead no contest to two misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing, stemming from his alleged racing on the night of the fatal crash killed teammate Devin Willock and recruiting staff member Chandler LeCroy.
He was previously warned about reckless driving by an officer in 2022 and was cited for going nearly twice the speed limit. As part of his plea deal, Carter was sentenced to 12 months probation, community service and must attend a safe-driving course.
The concerns NFL teams have regarding Carter’s decision-making, maturity and commitment to football are nothing new. However, the executive’s claim that no one at Georgia would endorse the 6-foot-3 defensive tackle contradicts statements made by Bulldogs’ coaches and players.
Following Georgia’s Pro Day, head coach Kirby Smart called Carter a ‘generational talent‘ and one of the most gifted players he’s ever been around in 18 years as a coach. In addition, Bulldogs’ edge rusher Nolan Smith raved about Carter as a person.
“The best teammate I’ve ever been around. A misunderstood person really, just cause he don’t talk to people. I just know me and JC got that special connection…I love JC.”Georgia Bulldogs edge rusher Nolan Smith on Jalen Carter
While some in the NFL have more direct concerns tied to Carter’s effort level this season, Smart noted that Georgia’s top defensive lineman played through multiple injuries this season. He was provided the option to sit out, allowing him to preserve his draft stock, but he chose to play hurt.
Carter reportedly used some of his scholarship money at Georgia to pay for walk-on players’ meals. In December 2022, Carter also provided a military family who supported the Bulldogs with a special gift on Christmas.
NFL teams will still clearly have some hesitation when deciding whether or not to use a top pick on Carter. Based on his talent and production, though, he’ll still be a top-10 selection in the 2023 NFL Draft on Thursday.