New charges complicate Jalen Carter’s 'character' question

Former Georgia star and NFL prospect Jalen Carter was expected to be among the first five players picked in the 2023 NFL Draft, but those prospects could potentially be hurt by charges announced on Wednesday for reckless driving and racing.

The charges stem from a deadly Jan. 15 crash which killed offensive lineman Devin Willock and one of the school's recruiters, and injured two others.

Carter, who was attending the NFL Scouting Combine this week, is now headed back to Athens to face those charges.

A empty podium is seen where linebacker Jalen Carter of Georgia was due to speak at the 2023 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 01, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Carter is projected as a top pick in the upcoming NFL draft is now facing charge

Some experts are not sure if recent events will change his draft chances come this April.

"I don’t think overlook would be the case for any of these teams with Jalen Carter. I think it’s going to be vetted very carefully and very seriously," ESPN analyst Field Yates told FOX 5’s Miles Garrett.

NFL teams looking at the 21-year-old prospect will have to weigh the risk to the reward if they are interested.

"When you have an incident that is significant and serious as this, it’s another thing that a team, all teams are going to have to dig in on, and decide how much risk does it incur, and what are the ramifications of this incident," Yates said.

Jalen Carter #88 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrates with a newspaper reading "Perfect!" after defeating the TCU Horned Frogs in the College Football Playoff National Championship game at SoFi Stadium on January 09, 2023 in Inglewood, California. Geor

Yates doesn’t think Carter’s draft stock will fall too far, but it all hinges on the results of the investigation and the outcome of those charges.

"I think it’s probably a reasonable expectation that it won’t be too far after pick No. 1 overall. The further up the boards you are, the more significant the investment both in terms of potential ability and also a monetary value," Yates said. "So, I think teams will probably take a long, hard look at what this incident means, and whether this is reflective of the kind of person Jalen Carter is or if it’s an isolated incident that unfortunately that was tied to something very tragic."

Nolan Smith, one of Carter's former teammates, commented on his character prior to the announcement of charges.

"I just want to go and clear this up to y’all, JC is just misunderstood," said Nolan Smith. "He’s probably one of my favorite teammates to play with. And he’s one of those guys, I look to my left and nod my head and he already knows we are all on the same page, so I love pass rushing with him, just being around him in the locker room. He’s just an amazing friend."

Back in December, another draft analyst called out Carter for what he described as "character" issues.

Todd McShay issued the football world a warning during an ESPN show:

"It's interesting with Carter. We all agree, it doesn't take a super scout to figure out that he's a phenomenal player in the interior. With Carter, there's some character issues: Does he get along with everybody? What's he like to deal with in the locker room? Those sorts of issues.

"I know it's early in the process, but I'm forewarning everyone out there — Carter's going to be kind of a hot-button name when we talk about some of the intangible aspects of it.

"I think, though, with Pete Carroll, sitting here at No. 2, who has a long history of taking guys that have quote-unquote questionable character, and then developing them and having it work out, that makes a lot of sense to me. But that will be the big discussion. It's not about his talent, about his size or his explosive takeoff and finishing as a pass rusher. It's about the character, 'Do we want to bring that guy into the building?’"

Despite those issues McShay had Carter going to the Seattle Seahawks as the No.2 overall pick in his mock draft.

Carter was quick to defend his character during a Sports Illustrated interview ahead of the Chick-fil-A Bowl:

"I'm a really good teammate. You can ask any of my other teammates, and they will tell you the same thing. It doesn't matter who you are, if you're a walk-on, I feel like I'm always going to help you out."

To Carter’s credit, McShay did not offer where his concerns originated. He had hoped to dispel the label at the NFL Combine this week, but instead, he is headed back to Athens to face charges connected to a deadly crash.

This story is being reported out of Indianapolis and Atlanta