Dannehy: Jalen Carter, The Risk vs. Reward

| April 13th, 2023

If the Chicago Bears deem Jalen Carter’s tape good enough to warrant being selected with the ninth overall pick, they shouldn’t hesitate to turn in the card.

The conversation regarding Carter’s “off the field concerns” has gone way beyond logic. Carter pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing and was sentenced to 12 months of probation, a $1,000 fine and 80 hours of community service. The charges stem from an incident last January in which Carter was involved in a race that led to a crash that killed Georgie football player Devin Willock and recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy. Carter’s lawyer said the Georgia standout did not cause the crash, nor was he under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And there’s no evidence to suggest otherwise.

Yet, he is being treated as if he is a hardened criminal.

Last week, ESPN 1000’s David Kaplan compared Carter’s situation to a player who was “kicked out of the NBA for cocaine.” Doing the math on Kaplan’s story, he’s possibly talking about Duane Washington, who was 24 years old when he was suspended for two years after testing positive for cocaine in 1988.

Another possibility is Mitchell Wiggins, who was 28 when he tested positive for cocaine and was suspended for two years.

Carter is a 21-year-old college student who raced a car.

Not to minimize Carter’s mistake, but those are not similar infractions.

After finding out he was being charged with a crime at the NFL Combine, Carter raced down to Georgia to turn himself in. He has done everything he could reasonably be expected to do since that moment.

Before Carter was charged there were rumblings about maturity issues. Longtime NFL Draft analyst Bob McGinn released his scouting report on the talented three-technique that suggested weight was an issue for Carter in college. That might cause some alarms considering Carter reportedly showed up out of shape at Georgia’s Pro Day. Then again, he just had his life turned upside down so, perhaps, a little weight gain isn’t something to worry about? That is something the Bears will have to figure out.

Carter’s talent is undeniable as his college coach, Kirby Smart, referred to him as a “generational talent.”  Considering the talent Smart’s program has sent to the league in recent years, it’s a comment worth noting.

The chances Carter flops aren’t considerably greater than they are for any other player. Who doesn’t remember how safe Aaron Curry was supposed to be in 2009? Seattle took Curry with the fourth pick and by 2013 he was out of the league. Jeff Okudah was supposed to be a megastar when the Detroit Lions took him with the third pick in 2020 — yesterday they traded him for a fifth-round pick.

When it comes to the NFL draft, sure things simply don’t exist. If the work ethic concerns check out and the Bears love Carter’s tape, there shouldn’t be anything that prevents them from taking him.

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