Is Jalen Carter the real deal or a potential NFL bust?

Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter celebrates in the closing minutes of their win against TCU in the 2023 College Football Playoff National Championship at SoFi Stadium, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, in Inglewood, Ca. Georgia won 65-7. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter celebrates in the closing minutes of their win against TCU in the 2023 College Football Playoff National Championship at SoFi Stadium, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, in Inglewood, Ca. Georgia won 65-7. (Jason Getz /

Here’s the sixth story in our position-by-position NFL draft series. Today, we’ll look at the top defensive linemen.

Former Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter is considered by some as the most talented player in the 2023 NFL draft, which will be held April 27-29 in Kansas City.

He starred on Georgia’s back-to-back national championship teams, earned All-American honors last season and gained national notoriety when the photo of his one-arm tackle of LSU QB Jayden Daniels went viral. On the field, Carter is dominant - but his off-the-field actions might cause him to slide down the first-round draft board.

Two items in particular have been well-documented:

- A plea of no-contest to a pair of charges related to a Jan. 15 car crash that killed a former teammate and a football recruiting analyst.

- A poor performance during UGA Pro Day in March, which took place two weeks after he decided not to perform at the NFL combine.

So, where’s Carter in the eyes of NFL types with the draft rapidly approaching? Depends on who you talk to.

“Jalen Carter, defensive tackle from Georgia may be one of the most dominant defensive tackles that I’ve seen come out in the draft in a long, long time,” said former NFL general manager Rick Spielman during an interview with “Why I think he has a potential bust factor in him is when you watch him on tape, when he wants to play, there is no one on the collegiate level that can block him. The issue that I have is that I don’t think he plays hard every snap.”

Carter’s camp also rubbed some teams the wrong way by announcing they wouldn’t visit any teams outside of the top 10 in the draft.

“Well, if I’m team No. 12, or if I’m team No. 14, and I’m thinking about moving up and that player is not thinking about coming to visit us because we’re out of the top 10 right now, why would I take him if he drops out of that,” Spielman said. “I have too many questions, not about his ability, but about all of the other things.”

On the other hand, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper believes that Carter’s talent will trump all of the outside concerns.

“As time goes by, it’s more so, basically what he did on the field,” Kiper said. “He was the best player in college football when he was healthy. A dominant interior presence, which is what teams need.”

Some don’t believe that Carter will slip past Seattle, which currently owns the fifth pick in the draft.

“Stopping the run was a huge issue (for Seattle),” Kiper said. “They were gashed and destroyed against the run last year. They had no run defense whatsoever. If you’re Seattle picking at five you can get the No. 1 player who fills a key positional need area for you.”

The Falcons have the eighth pick and are expected to pass on Carter if he’s available. The team is stressing “character” and “makeup” as it continues to reshape its roster under general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith, and Carter’s off-the-field incidents might raise a red flag.

“Every team has to work through that and figure out, the locker room, do we have a strong locker room,” Kiper said. “Look into it and do your due diligence. Everyone has a different opinion based on everything that has transpired. I certainly think he goes in the top five to seven or eight.”

Two other intriguing defensive line prospects that are mentioned as possible first-round picks - former Clemson star Bryan Bresee at defensive tackle and former Georgia Tech star Keion White at defensive end. Bresee was a second-team All-ACC selection in 2022 (15 tackles, 5.5 for loss with 3.5 sacks, two pass breakups in 10 games, seven starts).

“I really enjoy watching Chris Jones,” Bresee said. “JJ Watt growing up. I like watching Ryan Kerrigan, Aaron Donald, obviously, some of the things that he’s able to do is incredible to watch.”

The 6-foot-5, 285-pound White played tight end earlier in his career at Old Dominion before transferring to Tech. White led the Yellow Jackets with 14 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks among his 54 total stops in 12 starts.

“(Having played tight end) it makes you understand how they want to block you and the things they didn’t want you to do,” White said. “I just did those. That really showed when I moved to defensive end.”


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