By: Robert Craft
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
Many talent evaluators around the NFL believe Jalen Carter is the best player available in the NFL draft.
Whether he goes first or fifth or somewhere significantly south in the draft depends in large part on whether: 1) He has a significant turnaround from his current physical and mental state , or 2) a team locks onto his raw talent only.
The best version of Jalen Carter was not on display at Georgia’s Pro Day. NFL personnel officials, coaches and media members in attendance saw an overweight Carter huffing and puffing through drills that were set up for defensive linemen. He did not participate in any other skills tests, nor the 40-yard dash.
Carter weighed 323 pounds, that’s 13 pounds heavier than he was listed at during Georgia’s season. It’s also nine pounds heavier than the 314 he weighed at the scouting combine two weeks ago. It was clearly not nine pounds of muscle. He looked flabby. He looked like a risk for any team that decides to hand him a $20 million-plus signing bonus.
After arriving in Indianapolis to undergo physical exams and meet with teams (Carter had already opted out of workouts), the arrest warrant was issued in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia. Carter left Indianapolis, turned himself in and was booked and released within hours. Then he returned to the combine and resumed interviews with teams.
No, Carter shouldn’t get brownie points for having to leave the combine in the first place. Yet, he returned when others might have stayed away. Which is an additional point for teams to consider in assessing one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft.
Carter is the most dominant defensive lineman in this draft, who had a viral moment in the SEC Championship Game when he lifted LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels with one arm while throwing up the No. 1 sign with his other hand.
Putting aside Carter’s two misdemeanors, the main questions about Carter that have been out there among pro scouts since during the season related to his consistency and work ethic.
Carter’s Pro Day was not a good look. There already were lingering questions about where Carter might be psychologically after the accident, and how he had handled himself in the suddenly negative spotlight.
All 32 NFL teams attended the Georgia pro day, including Falcons Head Coach Arthur Smith, Bears Head Coach Matt Eberflus and General Manager Ryan Poles and Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin and GM Omar Khan.
Carter helped lead the Bulldogs to back-to-back national championships and played at a dominant level despite dealing with knee and ankle injuries.
He has a month before the draft to get into shape and ease concerns. He has a month to realize he is in the midst of a job interview.