During the past two seasons at the University of Georgia, Jalen Carter established himself as the most disruptive player on college football’s best defense, and in January when the 6-foot-3, 300-plus pound defensive lineman led the Bulldogs to straight Carried second in the national championship, Carter had positioned himself as a potential top-five pick in the NFL Draft.
But that changed at the NFL Scouting Combine on March 1 when Carter was booked on two misdemeanor charges in connection with a car crash that occurred hours after the team’s championship parade in January and killed two people, including Carter’s Georgia teammates. It was done.
For two weeks, Carter’s future in the NFL was in jeopardy as the team waited to learn whether he would face jail time. On March 16, he pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing. He was sentenced to 12 months’ probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, perform 80 hours of community service, and complete a state-approved defensive driving course.
Since then, the 22-year-old Carter hasn’t done much to address the concerns teams now have about him. He was criticized when he and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, chose not to take pre-draft visits with teams outside the top 10. He struggled to showcase his skills to NFL scouts and went from a surefire top pick to one of the most sought after. Mysterious prospects in this year’s draft, which begins on Thursday in Kansas City, Mo.
“It’s always a risk-reward balance,” said former Jets general manager John Idjik Jr. “But when you have impact players in a high-impact position, you take a good look at those guys.”
In the 2022 draft, Georgia’s defense drafted a record five players in the first round, including top pick, defensive end Travon Walker. Some evaluators believed that Carter, who was a secondary on that team and not eligible for the draft, was the most talented.
“I started watching Georgia tapes last year,” said Mike Mayock, a former Raiders general manager, who referred to Carter’s jersey number: “And I’m thinking: Who is ’88? He’s not even on the list. ‘”
The Raiders fired Maycock in 2022 after a tumultuous three-year tenure during which several of their top players were sidelined by the league for missteps off the field.
Mayock selected wide receiver Henry Ruggs III and cornerback Damon Arnett in the first round in 2020, and both committed through the 2021 season. Arnett was released that year after a social media post showed him holding guns and making death threats. Arnette has not played in the NFL since. Ruggs was released after being charged with drunk driving in an accident that resulted in the deaths of a woman and her dog.
“I’m not going to get into the personal stuff,” Mayock said. “I will just say that, organisationally, we took a deep dive on each and every player we took and ultimately made the decision.”
Mayock said the decision to draft players like Carter with star talent but red flags including legal and medical problems is typically approached by NFL teams in three ways.
A team may recognize that the risk is worth the reward and a high draft pick may provide additional support. Or the team prefers the player with less risk and less money. Or a team decides that a player’s offense does not merit drafting him.
Rod Graves, former general manager of the Arizona Cardinals, said, “Everybody is comfortable with a great player who doesn’t have character issues, but not everybody packages that way.” “In fact, I would say probably 99 percent of players fall outside that box to some degree.”
Players with off-the-field concerns usually improve or hurt their draft stock through off-season meetings with teams or during college workouts in front of scouts. Carter has so far been criticized for both.
In March on the Georgia campus, Carter worked in front of scouts and coaches from all 32 teams, the first time he did so since he missed the scouting combine. According to a person who attended the workout and was not authorized to speak publicly, Carter weighed 323 pounds, nine pounds more than his measurements at the combine, and did not make it through some exercises due to exhaustion. .
Weeks later, Carter and Rosenhaus decided that Carter would not take any pre-draft travel with teams that selected outside the top 10, meaning that teams lower in the original order that would trade for those higher picks did not meet him. Will be
Mayock said, “I think what you really want with a kid who has off-the-field issues is you want them to finish all the way and put their best foot forward.” “I don’t think you knock them down for it. But I think if you finish and you go to every tour and put your best foot forward, it can only help you.
John Schneider, general manager of the Seahawks, who hold the No. 5 pick in the draft, said on a podcast earlier this month that his opinion “one way or another” on Carter’s choice doesn’t get along with outside teams. But it was not. top 10.
Carter seemed to have made a good impression on the Detroit Lions, who held the No. 6 pick. Detroit general manager Brad Holmes told a news conference last week that after Carter’s visit, he “felt better about him.”
Ultimately, Carter’s talent could prevent him from slipping significantly in the draft. In an interview with HBO, Carter acknowledged that point when he said that his involvement in the crash “makes little sense.”
Carter has had players replaced before, and Rosenhaus has represented some of them, including Warren Sapp, who was projected to be a top pick before reports surfaced of his failing drug test prior to the draft. Was. Sapp fell to the Buccaneers at No. 12, costing him millions of dollars at the start of his 13-year career, but went on to become one of the best defensive tackles of all time and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
“This kind of stuff keeps you up all night,” Mayock said.