Will Georgia’s Jaylen Carter still be a top NFL draft pick?

Will Georgia's Jaylen Carter still be a top NFL draft pick?

Over the past two seasons at the University of Georgia, Jalen Carter has established himself as one of the most disruptive players on one of college football’s best defenses, and in January the 6-foot-3, 300-plus pound defensive lineman led the Bulldogs to second straight. national championship, Carter 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 indicted on two misdemeanor charges in connection with a car crash that happened hours after the team’s championship parade in January and killed two people, including Carter’s Georgia teammate.

For two weeks, Carter’s future in the NFL appeared to be in jeopardy as teams waited to learn if 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, Carter, 22, hasn’t done much to alleviate the concerns teams have about him. He drew criticism when he and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, decided not to take pre-draft interviews with teams outside the top 10. He struggled to demonstrate his skills to NFL scouts and ended up being one of the surefire top picks. Undisputed prospects in this year’s draft, which takes place Thursday in Kansas City, Mo. will begin in

“It’s always a risk-reward balance,” former Jets general manager John Idzik Jr. said. “But when you have impact players at high-impact positions, you get a good look at those guys.”

In the 2022 draft, a record five players were drafted in the first round from Georgia’s defense, including top pick, defensive end Trevon Walker. Some evaluators believed that Carter, who was the most popular on that team and was not eligible for the draft, was the most talented.

“I started watching the Georgia tape last year,” said Mike Mayock, the former Raiders general manager, who added, referring to Carter’s jersey number: “And I’m thinking: ‘Who’s 88? He’s not even on the list.’

The Raiders fired Mayock in 2022 after a tumultuous three-year tenure, during which many of his top picks ended up out of the league because of their off-field mistakes.

Mayock selected wide receiver Henry Ruggs III and cornerback Damon Arnett in the first round in 2020, and both are gone through the 2021 season. Arnett was released that year after a social media post showed him holding a gun and making death threats. Arnett has not played in the NFL since. Ruggs was released after being charged with drunken driving in a crash that killed a woman and her dog.

“I’m not going to get into the personal stuff,” Mayock said. “I’ll just say, organizationally, we took a deep dive on every player we took and ultimately made a decision.”

Decisions to draft players like Carter with star talent but red flags, including legal and medical problems, are typically approached by NFL teams in three ways, Mayock said.

A team may acknowledge that the risk is worth the reward and provide additional support for a higher draft pick. Or the team chooses a player at a low pick with less risk and money involved. or the team decides that the player’s infractions do not warrant drafting him.

“Everybody’s comfortable with a great player who doesn’t have character problems, but not everybody packages that way,” said Rod Graves, former general manager of the Arizona Cardinals. “In fact, I’d say probably 99 percent of players fall outside that box to some degree or another.”

Players with off-field concerns typically improve or hurt their draft stock through off-season meetings with teams or college workouts in front of scouts. So far, Carter has been criticized for both.

On the Georgia campus in March, Carter worked out in front of scouts and coaches from all 32 teams, the first time he had done 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 he measured at the combine, and missed some drills due to fatigue.

Weeks later, Carter and Rosenhaus decided that Carter would not have any pre-draft meetings with teams picking outside the top 10, meaning teams lower in the original order who traded for those higher picks would not meet with him.

“I think what you’d really like with a kid who has off-field issues is you want him to finish all the way and put his best foot forward,” Mayock said. “I don’t think you can knock them down for that. But I think if you finish and you go to every meet and you put your best foot forward, it can help you.

Seahawks general manager John Schneider, who has the No. 5 pick in the draft, said on a podcast earlier this month that he didn’t have an opinion “one way or the other” about Carter’s choice not to meet with outside teams. Top 10.

Carter seemed to make a good impression on the Detroit Lions, who were the No. 6 pick. Detroit’s general manager, Brad Holmes, said at a news conference last week that after Carter’s visit, he “felt better about him.”

Ultimately, Carter’s talent is likely to prevent him from sliding significantly in the draft. In an interview with HBO, Carter seemed to concede that point when he said that his involvement in the crash would be “little mattered”.

There have been players in Carter’s shoes before, and Rosenhaus has represented some of them, including Warren Sapp, who was projected to be a top pick before reports surfaced that he failed a drug test before the draft. Sapp fell to the Buccaneers at No. 12 early in his 13-year career, costing millions of dollars, but became one of the best defensive tackles of all time, being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.

“This kind of stuff keeps you up all night,” Mayock said.

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