2023 NFL Draft: Eagles select Georgia DT Jalen Carter originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The Eagles might have just landed the best player in the 2023 NFL Draft.
The Eagles on Thursday night traded up one spot from No. 10 to No. 9 and drafted Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter. They gave up a 2024 fourth-round pick for the modest trade up but landed an absolute stud.
Thought to be one of the most talented players in this class, questions about his character surfaced during the pre-draft process. The Eagles did their homework on Carter and obviously felt comfortable taking him. If they got that part right, the Eagles might have just landed a cornerstone piece for the next decade.
“It’s everywhere right now,” Carter said to NFL Network after being drafted by the Eagles. “I’m just happy that the Eagles trust me right now and I’m ready to work, put in the work and win the Super Bowl with them guys.”
Because Carter, 22, was a dominant player for Georgia over the past few seasons. He had 15 1/2 tackles for loss and 6 sacks over the past two seasons as an interior pass rusher. And as important as edge rush is in the NFL, it’s even harder to find interior game-wreckers like Carter.
Before those character concerns surfaced, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah ranked Carter as the best overall prospect in this class. Here’s what Jeremiah wrote about Carter then:
“Carter is a highly disruptive player with the versatility to line up at any position along the defensive front. Against the pass, he has an explosive first step and understands how to work through the edges of blockers. He jars opponents with his initial strike before clearing his hips and closing in on the quarterback. He has the change-of-direction ability of a player 40-to-50 pounds lighter. He can use pure power to run through single blocks and possesses the quickness to split double teams. Against the run, he is firm and strong at the point of attack and has the range to make plays on the perimeter. The only negative is that he ends up on the ground a little too much. Overall, Carter is a real difference maker and must be accounted for on every snap.”
The questions about Carter’s character stem from an incident in January and they surfaced just before Carter was supposed to take the podium at the Combine in February.
Eventually, Carter was given 12 months probation and handed a $1,000 fine after pleading no contest misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing in a crash that killed his teammate Devin Willock and recruiting staff member Chandler Lecroy in January.
“We talked a little bit about the people in this building, and there’s no one we rely more on than [Senior Advisor to the General Manager/Chief Security Officer] Dom DiSandro and we rely on him for things like this,” Eagles GM Howie Roseman said when asked about Carter last week. “At the end of the day, [DiSandro] does a tremendous job of getting us all the information and putting us in a position to make decisions.
“I think every decision is unique to the player and the situation, and so we’ll have every piece of information at our disposal and be ready to make a decision on anyone who has a situation that’s maybe a little bit outside the norm.”
In addition to his legal issues, Carter also bombed his pro day, which can perhaps be explained away knowing the situation his life was in at the time. And if you’re not worried about the pro day, the game tape speaks for itself. Carter was dominant at the college level. In fact, when the Eagles drafted his two teammates Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean in the first and third rounds last year, it was Carter who really stood out from that championship defense.
Now, the Eagles have done their best to recreate one of the most dominant defenses we’ve seen in recent memory at the college level.
And if there are legitimate character concerns, the Eagles will likely be confident in the culture they’ve built in Philadelphia. The Eagles have veterans who have created and established that culture and likely feel like they have the parts in place to get just about anyone to buy in. They have some key leaders on this roster and it’ll be up to them, in part, to keep any newcomer in line.
The Eagles this offseason lost veteran defensive tackle Javon Hargrave in free agency when Hargrave signed a four-year, $84 million deal with the 49ers. In addition to losing Hargrave, older veterans Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph were also on expiring contracts. That left the Eagles pretty light at defensive tackles, even after bringing back Fletcher Cox on a one-year, $10 million deal.
After bringing back Cox, the Eagles’ other top two defensive tackles were Jordan Davis and Milton Williams but they really lacked depth beyond that. Adding Carter will give the defensive line an immediate boost and he can be an eventual replacement for the 32-year-old Cox, who was a first-round pick way back in 2012.
If Carter ends up having a similar career to Cox, then the Eagles just made a fantastic decision.
This is the second straight year the Eagles have used their first-round pick on a defensive tackle after taking Davis in the first round in 2022.
Including his two teammates from last year’s draft, Carter is the 24th player all-time the Eagles have selected from Georgia. Before last year’s draft the last Georgia player the Eagles drafted was Brandon Boykin in the fourth round in 2012. Now the Eagles have selected three Bulldogs in the top three rounds in a two-year span.
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