Jalen Carter was thought to be a near-lock to be a top-five pick in the 2023 NFL Draft leading up to the Combine. Once news broke of a warrant out for Carter's arrest, his stock took a significant hit. ESPN draft guru Todd McShay had spoken of character concerns before that, and multiple teammates had the star defensive lineman's back. Just as Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart and first-round prospect Nolan Smith did today.
Despite Carter publicly stating that he's confident he'll be fully exonerated, the whole situation must be taxing him mentally at least to some degree. It's a cluttered and busy enough schedule for players leading into the NFL Draft. Not long after the college season ends comes training for the Combine and pro days, then the actual Combine and pro days. From there you're doing top-30 visits, private meetings and workouts and anxiously waiting to see where in the country your NFL career will take you.
So while it's understandable that Carter isn't 100% locked in to football and training at the minute, you'd still think for someone with his pre-draft billing as one of the best interior defensive linemen prospects of the past decade or so, he'd still manage to wow spectators with his raw athleticism at that size. Instead, well, you saw what happened in the videos above.
I'm not rushing to judgment on what this pro day performance means for Carter's NFL future. You also have to be sensitive to what's happening outside the lines here. However — and it's only one opinion — it's interesting to see an ex-NFL player in Clay Harbor provide that sort of insider's perspective, which is basically, "No excuses, work out like a champion." Not sure I'm 100% down with that hardline stance.
The hype is real on Jalen Carter. He really is a tremendous football player who can wreck offensive game plans by commanding double teams. Stout as he is against the run, Carter is perhaps even more dangerous in crashing the pocket from the interior. He racked up 48 quarterback hurries over the past two seasons, per PFF.
At this point, it's more about Carter having a good head on his shoulders and interviewing well with teams. As long as he has answers that don't sound boilerplate or overly rehearsed regarding these potential red flags, I'm sure there's one team who'll fall in love with him and draft him somewhat early in the first round. We shall see.
Quick update from Thursday, as there's now more clarity on Carter's legal issues:
Had Carter going 12th to the Houston Texans in my last microwaved mock draft. Any of the teams with two first-rounders (Houston, Seattle, Detroit, or Philadelphia) make sense as potential destinations.