Jalen Carter’s draft stock is the talk of the town among NFL executives


INDIANAPOLIS – Jalen Carter’s world was rocked Wednesday when a warrant was issued for his arrest and he had to leave the NFL scouting combine to turn himself in to police in Georgia.

A day later, he returned to the combine, where his NFL future may not change at all.

Carter, 21, was considered one of the top three prospects and one of the best defensive players in the NFL draft before his arrest, and that general opinion hasn’t changed — at least not yet. There are concerns Wednesday night after Carter was charged with reckless driving and racing in connection with a crash last month that killed a Georgia football teammate and employee.

But multiple NFL sources told FOX Sports that while they believe teams will take a wait-and-see approach in case dangerous details emerge later, most shouldn’t completely give up on the 6-foot-3, 310-pounder. a defensive action that is a potential dominant player.

According to some sources, Carter could still be a top 10-15 pick, if not in the top five, where some expect him to go all the way.

The exact spot will depend on each team’s risk tolerance and what happens between now and the April 27 draft. So far, Carter has only been charged with two misdemeanors for his role in the fatal crash.

The NFL has a long history of tolerance for more serious criminal activity.

Several league executives and coaches addressed the events surrounding Carter on Thursday.

“First of all, it was a terrible tragedy. Let me tell you this,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said. “I don’t really want to comment on how this affects somebody’s draft status because there’s a lot more information out there and I don’t know about it. I might be there when the draft comes. It’s a terrible thing to happen here, and I feel terrible for the families.”

“Lives were lost,” added DeMeco Ryans, the new Texans head coach. “You just think about the families that have lost a loved one and you put that first. That’s the most important thing.”

That’s the bottom line, but it doesn’t change the NFL’s reality that the draft is only eight weeks away and the team is about to make a big investment in Carter. If he goes in the top five, he will get a guaranteed contract worth $30-40 million. Even if he goes in the top 20, his contract is worth more than $15 million, guaranteed.

That’s a lot of money to put into a player who has legal issues, not to mention other character issues. So it’s clear that teams want to know everything about the story before drafting Carter as a first-round pick.

It doesn’t help that his story has changed. According to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week, Carter initially told police he was within a mile of the crash that killed teammate Devon Willock and employee Chandler LeCroy.

But a Thursday news release from Athens-Clarke County (Ga.) police accused LeCroy and Carter, who were driving a 2021 Jeep Trackhawk, of “driving their vehicle in a manner that is inconsistent with the competition” at the same location. Outside Athens, January 15, the day of the accident, at 2:30 a.m.

“Evidence indicates that both vehicles changed lanes, entered the center turn lane, entered opposing traffic lanes, overtook other motorists, drove at a high rate of speed, and attempted to distance themselves,” police said. He added that LeCroy’s expedition was traveling at 104 miles per hour at one point.

An NFL source said Carter returned to the combine after posting a $4,000 bond and intends to continue at the combine. He was not scheduled to practice, but he underwent medical evaluations and measures and had to interview several teams who asked him about the incident.

In a statement posted on Twitter, Carter pledged to “ensure that the full and accurate truth is presented.” He added, “I have no doubt that when all the facts are established, I will be fully exonerated of any wrongdoing.”

That’s unlikely to happen before NFL teams make their decisions. Carter will be arraigned on April 18 – just nine days before the start of the NFL draft.

“The media will be scrutinizing it and we’ll be following it,” Commanders general manager Martin Mayhew said. “We have a background research company. We have a very thorough analysis of these guys, especially any criminal activity or criminal behavior.

“I don’t know what happened to him. I don’t know, I’m not saying he did anything wrong. But we will find out. We will find out.”

Even if NFL teams know what happened to Carter the night of the fatal crash, they still have to decide what to do about it. Carter’s size and talent are staggering. He was consistently ranked as one of the top three defensive prospects in his class, along with Alabama tight end Will Anderson and Texas Tech running back Tyree Wilson, and often as the best of that trio.

Every top 10 team could use a player like him. But will the accusations against him and the revelation that he was involved in a fatal accident lead any of them to decide that all that talent is too much of a risk?

“You know, the funny thing is, very few guys have too many problems,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who usually talks about problems with outfielders. “So it doesn’t come up very often. But I think when that happens, you have to decide where you draw the line. Our organization sets limits on certain things that we do not cross. After that, we try to figure out who they are as people.”

That line, of course, varies from organization to organization, and sometimes from player to player. So for teams considering Carter, deciding which side of that line he falls on is a personal choice.

That may depend on what happens over the next eight weeks, what other information comes out, and how his legal issues are resolved.

Ralph Vacciano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY Television in New York, and 16 years before that covered the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him on Twitter @RalphVacchiano.

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