It’s time. We need to have a real conversation about Jalen Carter and his fit with the Atlanta Falcons. Going into the pre-draft process, it was agreed upon that Jalen Carter was a top-two prospect in this draft. For some, including myself, he was not two. But ever since the initial report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about his alleged role in the death of his teammate Devon Willock and staffer, Chandler LeCroy, it has been a rocky road for the former Georgia Bulldog.
Now, he not only looked bad at his pro day, he didn’t even finish it. We’ll discuss if he still fits what Terry and Arthur are trying to build in Atlanta and if all of these “character concerns” warrant a slide to, and potentially past, the Atlanta Falcons pick at 8.
How Realistic is a Potential Slide Past the Atlanta Falcons For Jalen Carter?
A Little Backstory
Let’s start from the beginning. Last season, Georgia hoisted the national championship trophy for the first time in over 30 years. They did it behind the play of their stellar defense — specifically, their ridiculous defensive line.
They held the Crimson Tide run game to 30 yards rushing total on 28 rushes. A backfield headlined by Brian Robinson, Jr. who, in his rookie year, averaged 6.7 yards a rush for the Washington Commanders. That line included three first round picks, including the first overall pick, in the following draft but the main catalyst of this was then-sophomore Jalen Carter.
He then rode that success into this last year as he amassed 32 tackles, 31 quarterback hurries, and 3.0 sacks in 13 games, while continuously fighting off various injuries, helping lead Georgia to another national championship. His incredible season included 2.0 sacks against LSU in the SEC championship game, and a moment to show off his incredible strength to fans and scouts alike.
Carter was the dream prospect. A consensus All-American, a key cog to multiple national championship teams. He had a top-five selection all but locked up, if he wasn’t first off the board. So, why are we talking about him possibly falling past the eighth pick in this year’s NFL draft?
On December 14, 2022, Todd McShay brought out two words that you never want to hear when discussing draft prospects: “Character Concerns”. He didn’t go into detail, but he stated that teams should be wary of them. He caught a ton of scrutiny, both on the internet and around the mediasphere, about his comments and lack of detail before making such an accusatory statement.
A month later, the horrendous tragedy following the national championship game occurred. We don’t need to go into detail. But, as far as Jalen Carter’s draft stock is concerned, we thought nothing of it. Hell, we didn’t know he was involved at all.
But then, minutes before he was scheduled to speak at the scouting combine, Athens police issued a warrant for the arrest of Carter. The NFL world all held its collective breath as the podium in Indianapolis remained empty. He was charged for racing and reckless driving, both misdemeanors in the state of Georgia, and was released the same day on $4,000 bond, according to multiple reports.
He also has had trouble with speeding before. CNN reports that months before the tragedy, Carter was issued three citations, all related to speeding and reckless driving. Were these the “character concerns” McShay was talking about? How much of a concern is Carter’s propensity for driving faster than the speed limit?
Now, he’s shown up to Georgia’s pro day nine pounds over his weight from just two weeks ago at the scouting combine. All 32 teams were in attendance. All eyes were on Athens for this event. Carter opted to not do any tests. Just on-field drills, and he struggled to finish those.
Is Jalen Carter a Good Fit For The Atlanta Falcons?
On the field, without a doubt. Jalen Carter would be the perfect defensive lineman to bring in with Nielsen’s “attack-style” defense. But that’s not what we’re discussing.
The craziest part of all of this is that, if it were just the misdemeanors, I don’t think we’d be having this discussion. Teams have overlooked worse circumstances from draft prospects, and honestly, for less talent. But now that he has shown up unprepared to Georgia’s pro day, his one chance to solidify his status as a top prospect after all of this scrutiny, we may have a problem.
I may not know the pressures of being a five-star athlete. I may not know the pressures of having to prepare myself mentally to perform physically in front of NFL scouts. But I have been to a ton of job interviews. And I know that you have to show up prepared for anything that may be thrown at you. Not only did Carter come unprepared, the weight gain gives off the vibe that he doesn’t care.
Terry Fontenot makes it clear that he needs 53 of the “right guys” on the field and on the roster. With as many questions as Carter has provided, with the only answers being on the field, it begs to wonder whether Carter is one of those guys. Does he fit?
Carter has some legitimate reasons to not be fully focused on football right now. There is no timetable on dealing with tragedy, especially one you may feel somewhat responsible for. There is no telling what that can do to a person’s psyche. Then, the timing of his arrest warrant and the media circus that followed. It’s been a rough March for Jalen Carter and teams like the Atlanta Falcons understand that.
This is not an excuse for his behaviors as much as it is a question of understanding. Understanding why he wasn’t prepared for his pro day. Understanding how all of this occurred in such a short amount of time and what that can do to somebody’s state of mind.
There’s a great chance that this all means nothing and Carter goes top-five like everyone predicted before the draft process began. Hell, McShay still projected him to go #2 overall at the time of his “character concerns” comment. But this is a situation that the NFL world needs to keep their eye on, both up to the draft and beyond. Hopefully Jalen gets the help he needs and he has the successful NFL career we all expect from him.