There was a time when you could’ve written Jalen Carter’s name in Sharpie at the top of the 2023 NFL Draft board. Now, however, a tumultuous offseason has brought a cloud over his stock. Is Carter falling down boards as the 2023 NFL Draft approaches, and could we see a dramatic slide in April?
Off-field Issues Haunting Jalen Carter Ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft
Purely based on talent, there aren’t many 2023 NFL Draft boards you’ll find that don’t have Jalen Carter as a top-five — or even top-three — prospect. Since even before the 2022 NFL Draft, it’s almost been a foregone conclusion that he’d be one of the first picks in the 2023 cycle. But with each passing day, Carter’s security at the top of the board grows weaker.
Concerns first began to mount, albeit slowly, in mid-December, when ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Todd McShay referenced under-the-radar character concerns surrounding Carter while on-air.
McShay said the following of Carter at the time: “With Carter, there’s some character issues: Does he get along with everybody? What’s he like to deal with in the locker room? Those sorts of issues. I know it’s early in the process, but I’m forewarning everyone out there — Carter’s going to be kind of a hot-button name when we talk about some of the intangible aspects of it.”
The initial report was met with skepticism from many, and criticism from some, who saw McShay’s words as vague and unsubstantiated. Many also pointed to contrasting evidence that put Carter’s character in a better light. Carter used his scholarship money to buy meals for a walk-on teammate, Weston Wallace. And in the 2022 offseason, he gave supplies to youth in his hometown of Apopka, Florida, and hosted a football camp.
As the offseason went on, however, more issues began to come to the forefront. Most notably, during the NFL Combine, an arrest warrant was issued for Carter, on misdemeanor charges of racing and reckless driving. Carter abruptly left the Combine at that time to return to Georgia, where he was briefly booked in jail, before being let out on bail.
To make the arrest warrant more concerning, it was in relation to a fatal crash that killed teammate Devin Willock and Georgia recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy, hours after the Bulldogs’ national championship parade. LeCroy’s vehicle was traveling around 100 miles per hour at the time of the crash. While Carter is not directly implicated, the police department stated that Carter had been racing with the other vehicle.
Carter’s Georgia Pro Day Brings More Questions
At the very least, the saga involving Carter’s connection to the fatal Georgia crash brings questions surrounding his judgment and maturity. And Carter’s pro day only drew in more uncertainty.
At the Georgia Pro Day, Carter weighed in at 323 pounds, nine pounds heavier than he weighed at the NFL Combine, and almost 20 pounds heavier than his listed playing weight with the Bulldogs. That elevated weight could call into question Carter’s preparation and body maintenance.
Carter then chose to forgo testing, to the surprise of many, and did not look sharp during positional drills. He was relatively sluggish and uncoordinated running around bags. Juxtaposing his drill tape to that of his 2022 teammate Devonte Wyatt, the difference is stark.
Behind the scenes, Carter undoubtedly spoke with teams at his pro day, but even those conversations won’t put to bed all of the questions that have piled up regarding the Georgia DT in recent weeks.
Carter Is a Blue-Chip Talent on the Field but Concerns Are Valid
Carter didn’t necessarily need to test at his pro day. His tape shows off elite athleticism that doesn’t need numerical confirmation. However, the iffy pro day performance, combined with the rising weight, the off-field whispers, and the misdemeanor charges hovering over his head, leads forward a sort of domino effect for NFL evaluators.
NFL.com Draft Analyst Lance Zierlein said as much on Twitter during Carter’s pro day. Zierlein commented on Carter: “He’s still the best player I’ve studied, but teams get really concerned when too many things start to add up. The question is always ‘What will this player do with more money, more access, and more time on his hands?’ They ask that of every player.”
For Carter, there’s no other way to put it. Everything is adding up at this stage, and at this point, there’s no denying that his character will be a question for teams moving forward. On film, he’s a blue-chip prospect. But teams are deciding whether or not to add an employee to their workforce — a teammate to their team. A misstep — especially early in Round 1 — can be costly.
Will Jalen Carter Fall in the 2023 NFL Draft?
As we stand, nothing is definitive. Carter will be arraigned on his charges in April, and that situation will develop at its own pace. It’s unlikely that the charge will impact Carter’s on-field availability, but it will factor into each team’s evaluation of his character.
The silver lining for Carter is that there’s nothing malicious about the charges presented. And there is evidence to the contrary, regarding his character — chief among those his documented acts of generosity.
Humans are complex. Character is complex, and it’s entirely possible that Carter is a well-meaning young man who’s still maturing and has had lapses in judgment in the past. Those are experiences that he’ll need to learn from, and it’s ultimately up to teams to decide if they want to help him along the way or remain risk-averse.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
The important part is this: Each team’s philosophy regarding risk aversion is different, and each team’s evaluation of Carter as a person will be different. Those two factors combined invite a very high degree of variance across the board. Some teams might take Carter off the board entirely, while others might be willing to take him or be willing to trade up for him at a certain point.
A draft-day slide was once a distant possibility, but with each added concern, it grows more and more likely. In a 2023 NFL Draft class that lacks blue-chip talent, Carter’s concerns probably aren’t enough to push him out of Round 1. It only takes one team to take a chance on him. That team will inherently be content with the risk and opportunity cost.
Listen to the PFN Scouting Podcast
List to the PFN Scouting Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Scouting Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms. Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Scouting Podcast on our Scouting YouTube channel.