Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia | NFL Draft Scouting Report

Is Georgia DT Jalen Carter the best DL prospect to come out over the past two years? His 2023 NFL Draft scouting report provides the details.

Watching Georgia’s dominant defense in 2021, it was impossible not to notice No. 88. The 2023 NFL Draft scouting report of Georgia DT Jalen Carter has generated interest all the way since the 2022 cycle. Now, he’s regarded as not only one of the best defensive linemen in 2023 but one of the best defensive prospects overall.

Jalen Carter NFL draft profile

Some prospects are just meant to succeed. And looking back, it’s very hard to envision any other potential outcome for Carter. Carter was a star at Apopka High School in Florida. He logged 12 sacks in his senior season and drew comparisons to fellow Apopka product and Hall of Fame defensive lineman Warren Sapp.

On the recruiting trail, Carter was expectedly a coveted player. He was a surefire five-star recruit, not only on account of his production but also his athletic traits. Carter logged a 5.15 40-yard dash and a 28.7″ vertical in testing, merely confirming the high-end burst, agility, and play speed that he showed on tape.

Fast forward to now, and Carter is meeting the lofty expectations set by his high school success. In 2021, alongside a slew of talented linemen, the Georgia DT secured 37 tackles, eight and a half tackles for loss, and three sacks for himself. Now that Georgia has lost Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt, and Travon Walker to the 2022 NFL Draft, Carter is the new top dog.

  • Position: Defensive Tackle
  • School: Georgia
  • Current Year: Junior
  • Height/Weight: 6’3″, 310 pounds

Jalen Carter scouting report

Does Carter have the ability to sustain his production with less talent around him? As his 2023 NFL Draft scouting report shows, the Georgia DT most certainly does.

Carter’s positives

A disruptive interior defensive lineman is worth his weight in gold in the modern NFL. That’s exactly what Carter can be with his tools. It feels right to start with the physical traits. Carter flashes the elite first-step quickness to invade gaps just as plays materialize, eroding blocking schemes. His first step is consistently great, but he can build up even more speed in tight spaces with his foot quickness.

Beyond his burst, Carter has elite lateral agility, which he can use to create displacement and manipulate angles off the snap. He covers eye-popping amounts of ground as a lateral mover off his initial explosion. The Georgia DT has great change-of-direction ability for his size, along with impressive suddenness and twitch. He can easily redirect momentum and sustain acceleration through transitions.

Carter times the snap well and effectively loads up potential energy in his lower body. When he has a runway, he has excellent build-up speed, and he can quickly close ground in pursuit. Another function of Carter’s build-up speed is power generation. He has good proportional length and frame density, and with his explosiveness and length, the Georgia DT can generate impressive amounts of force at the point of attack.

With his burst, power, and the natural leverage that his shorter frame affords him, Carter can demolish run plays. He’s masterful at exploiting his natural leverage and using it as an accelerant for his physical tools. He excels at dropping his pads, shooting into extensions, and generating straight-line power. But even beyond that, Carter has the high-level upper-body torque to ruthlessly toss blockers aside and surge into space. His amped-up upper-body movement allows for devastating hand usage and torque generation.

Carter has rare amounts of potential energy stored in his frame, and when he unleashes it, bad things happen for blockers. But Carter isn’t a reckless disruptor. He has the play strength to grip and wrench down opposing blocks, and he can also anchor and run with moving blockers. He can absorb contact and forcefully shed with his core strength and torque, as he’s incredibly natural at sinking his pads and gaining superior leverage.

As a pass rusher, Carter’s promise shows up as well. The Georgia DT uses violent extensions to punch inside the torso with force, and he complements his lateral athleticism with brisk, forceful hand moves. He’s able to quickly re-load and re-exert power in congested areas, and his hands carry extraordinary amounts of momentum. Carter has shown he has the capacity to quickly stack counters when facing successive blockers, and he actively employs swims, rips, and power combos. He also has enough ankle flexion to pinch tight angles and sustain acceleration when stunting around the apex.

Carter is a high-effort player who draws double-teams as a pass rusher and chases plays across the field in pursuit. His closing burst and proportional length grant him impressive range and tackling ability on the chase. Not only does he bring great effort, but he also flashes the pre-snap instincts to anticipate blocking angles and position himself accordingly.

Carter’s areas for improvements

While Carter has a strong frame with good length, his lower body is somewhat light, and his functional base could be stronger. He can’t always sustain leg drive or draw power from his base, and he can get moved off his spot a bit too easily in run defense. The Georgia DT’s frame is around average size altogether and can be handled by double-teams.

Carter occasionally struggles to deconstruct blocks against larger linemen and lets his momentum stall as a result. He’ll also pop up too tall off the snap at times. His relatively low-cut frame gives him a longer torso, which sometimes prevents him from shrinking around blocks. Furthermore, Carter loses his balance more often than desired, both when changing directions and attacking blocks. He’ll sometimes sacrifice balance and leverage trying to shoot through gaps.

Going further, Carter’s hands have room for refinement, even if they’re advanced for his age. The Georgia DT’s placement can be cleaner at times, as his strikes don’t always effectively channel his traits. He can be more consistent when stacking counters, and his rushes sometimes die out after initial moves. Carter sometimes fails to keep his feet moving on rushes and can get locked up as a result.

Among other things, Carter sometimes hesitates when reading the backfield and occasionally takes faulty angles in pursuit. He’ll also appear gassed on occasion, and when his stamina runs out, his reps aren’t as clean. However, this rarely happens.

Current draft projection for Georgia DT Jalen Carter

It’s already a popular take to say that, of all the early-round talent on the historic 2021 Georgia defensive line, Carter was the best of the bunch. But looking at the tape, this stance holds up. Each Georgia defensive lineman brought a unique and valuable impact to the front, but Carter could be the most well-rounded prospect of the group, with a comparably high ceiling.

Of the 2021 Georgia linemen, Carter draws the most resemblance to Wyatt. Like Wyatt, Carter is a dense, compact interior defender with high-end explosiveness, lateral agility, and natural leverage. Even then, Carter is longer than Wyatt. He’s a bit stronger and has considerably more power capacity. For his age, Carter already has great hand usage. He can win in several ways and exerts power with devastating suddenness.

All of the Georgia defensive linemen in 2022 were excellent prospects. But Carter appears to rise above the rest, and it may not be a close race. He has the elite athleticism to supplement a boundless pass-rushing ceiling. On top of that, he has the strength, power, upper-body torque, relentless energy, and instincts to be a menace in both phases.

With his physical stature, the Georgia DT profiles best as a 3-technique at the next level. As a 4-3 defensive tackle or a 3-4 defensive end, Carter can wreak havoc with his physical tools and relentless hands. But Carter also has enough athleticism to shade outside, stunt, and be multiple — another important quality for modern defensive linemen. Early on, Carter looks like the blue-chip prospect the 2022 NFL Draft DT class lacked — worthy of early first-round consideration.

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