On Jan. 8, the Seattle Seahawks secured both a playoff berth and the fifth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
On Jan. 9, the Georgia Bulldogs won the National Championship.
On Jan. 15, two people connected to Georgia’s program died in a single-car accident.
What ties these events together?
Carter is intrinsically connected to the Bulldogs’ second consecutive National Championship and the tragic loss of life six nights later.
Come April 27, Carter could be tied to the Seahawks as well.
How do the 12s feel about that?
As a 12 myself, I have
some A LOT of thoughts. Many of them conflicting. I will share those thoughts when I think it’s appropriate to do so (aka mostly in the Bonus Coverage section at the end).
For the most part though, this article follows the same format as my first “Frank discussion” article and focuses on providing information that (hopefully) helps lay out the arguments for and against the Seahawks drafting Jalen Carter.
Let’s begin . . .
Seattle’s defensive line is a work-in-progress.
Since the 2022 season ended, this is what the Seahawks have done in regard to their Interior Defensive Line (IDL):
- DT Poona Ford (free agent)
- DT L.J. Collier (free agent, signed with the Cardinals 3/21)
- DT Shelby Harris (released 3/13)
- DT Quinton Jefferson (released 3/14, signed with the Jets 4/7)
- NT Al Woods (released 3/20)
- DT Dre’Mont Jones (3 years, $51.53M)
- DT Jarran Reed (2 years, $9M)
- DT Myles Adams
- NT Bryan Mone (rehabbing a knee injury; will miss some/most/all of the 2023 season)
- DT Jarrod Hewitt (Futures contract)
Five players gone, two players added, and only one of the three players that are still here is likely to see a meaningful number of snaps this year.
Clearly, the Seahawks need to add some players on their defensive line.
Might Jalen Carter be one of those players?
Jalen Carter is better than any Georgia player selected in last year’s draft, including No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker
The No. 1 pick in last year’s draft was a Georgia Bulldog. So was pick No. 13. And pick No. 22. And pick No. 28. And pick No. 32.
That’s five first-round picks from the University of Georgia, and all of them on the defensive side of the ball.
When all was said and done, 15 Bulldogs heard their name called in the 2022 NFL Draft, including eight defenders.
And yet the best player on Georgia’s defense that year was Jalen Carter.
Yeah, probably . . .
. . . but there are a fair number of people who believe that to be a statement of fact.
A less hyperbolic statement would be that . . .
Jalen Carter is one of the most talented players in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Here’s a sampling of where Jalen Carter is currently ranked, along with some of the write-ups about him:
No. 1 in Mel Kiper’s rankings:
The reality is Carter’s stock hasn’t dropped in the eyes of NFL teams, and so I’m not dropping him in my rankings. On the field, he is a fantastic prospect.
No. 2 on PFF’s Big Board:
Carter is neck and neck with Quinnen Williams for the best defensive tackle prospect we’ve graded at PFF (since 2014). Williams was a touch quicker, while Carter is a bit more powerful, but it’s darn close.
No. 3 on Dane Brugler’s Big Board:
Carter led SEC defensive tackles with 32 QB pressures last season and was not flagged for a penalty.
No. 4 on the 33rd Team’s Big Board:
Jalen Carter is a quick-twitch and powerful defensive tackle who owns the speed to puncture the pocket and the strength to manhandle blockers. He has a rare skill set for his size with an ability to make an impact on defense from Day 1.
No. 5 on Daniel Jeremiah’s Top-50 list, v4.0 (NFL.com):
On the field, Carter is a difference maker and must be accounted for on every snap. He has the versatility to line up at any position along the defensive front.
Carter’s highlights speak for themselves.
Don’t believe the hype? Watch the highlights and judge for yourself.
Or take in some film study with “The Football Scout” . . .
Talent aside, Carter does have some red flags
Red Flag No. 1
In mid-December, ESPN’s Todd McShay raised some eyebrows (and got a lot of pushback from Carter’s teammates) when he said:
“With Carter, there are 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 everybody out there, Carter is going to be a hot-button name when we talk about some of the intangible aspects of it.”
At the time, it was easy to brush off McShay’s comments.
Now, they’re looking sort of prophetic.
Red Flag No. 2
Jalen Carter left the NFL Combine on March 1 and issued a statement:
“This morning I received a telephone call from the Athens Georgia Police Department informing me that two misdemeanor warrants have been issued against me for reckless driving and racing. Numerous media reports also have circulated this morning containing inaccurate information concerning the tragic events of January 15, 2023. It is my intention to return to Athens to answer the misdemeanor charges against me and to make certain that the complete and accurate truth is presented. There is no question in my mind that when all of the facts are known that I will be fully exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing.”
Carter returned to the Combine the following day (March 2), but did not participate in any on-field testing.
Note: Carter had previously announced (on February 27) that he would not participate in the workout portion of the Combine and would instead do so at Georgia’s Pro Day.
Red Flag No. 3
Jalen Carter made headlines again in mid-March by:
- Showing up at Georgia’s Pro Day weighing nine pounds more than he had at the combine two weeks earlier.
- Opting to skip the physical tests (40-yard dash, cone drills, etc.) and only doing position drills.
- Not finishing the position drills, and (per USA Today) ending the session “flat on his back, appearing exhausted as he received treatment from an athletic trainer apparently tending to muscle tightness or cramping.”
The eyes of the law vs. the court of public opinion . . .
The day after Carter’s poor Pro Day performance, he pleaded ‘no contest’ to the two misdemeanor charges for reckless driving and racing stemming from the fatal crash that killed Georgia recruit staffer Chandler LeCroy and Bulldogs offensive lineman Devin Willock.
Carter’s punishment was/is:
- 12 months of probation
- $1,000 fine
- 80 hours of community service
- Completion of a state-approved defensive driving course
Per Carter’s attorney (Kim T. Stephens):
“With entry of his plea, the State is forever barred from bringing any additional charges against Jalen Carter for conduct alleged to have occurred on January 15, 2023.”
In the eyes of the law, Carter’s case is resolved.
The court of public opinion, however, is not so easily satisfied.
Malik McDowell 2.0?
Let’s jump in the Field Gulls Way-Back Machine for a moment . . .
- July 30th, 2017: Malik McDowell injured in vehicular accident, Pete Carroll unsure if he’ll play this season
- November 27th, 2017: Malik McDowell’s rookie season won’t happen until 2018 at the earliest
- July 16th, 2018: Seahawks waive Malik McDowell
Is Seattle’s experience with Malik McDowell the cautionary tale that proves drafting Carter would be a mistake?
The times, they are a-changin’ . . .
John and Pete met with the media at the NFL Combine and talked about how they’ve changed their approach to the draft.
USA Today: Seahawks’ change in draft philosophy was out of necessity and by design (2/28/2023)
The difference, as both men said, was the focus on both now and the future. The Seahawks knew they had to stop getting cute with their personnel moves, thinking that they still had what they had built before. Now, it was about building it again, and as Carroll concluded, the architecture seems to be on point.
A few days later . . .
Sports Illustrated: ‘I Beat Myself Up!’ Seahawks GM John Schneider Reflects on Draft Lessons Learned (3/3/2023)
. . . it’s evident the Seahawks have placed a greater emphasis on the character element of player evaluation (since Malik McDowell). They haven’t taken chances on prospects with red flags, instead stockpiling mature rookies and preferencing former team captains, including second-round pick Boye Mafe, third-round pick Abraham Lucas, and fourth-round pick Coby Bryant in last year’s decorated class.
Taken at face value, the obvious takeaway is that character matters more to the Seahawks than it did a half dozen years ago.
Some question whether that’s true.
Red flags don’t always scare the Seahawks.
2010: Raise your hand if you knew (and/or remember) that Marshawn Lynch was on probation for a misdemeanor gun charge when the Seahawks acquired him in a trade with the Buffalo Bills.
2012: Seattle used the 15th overall pick to select DE Bruce Irvin — a player who had previously been arrested (but not prosecuted) for burglary, carrying a concealed weapon, and destruction of property.
2015: DE Frank Clark was selected with the 63rd overall pick despite having been dismissed by the Michigan Wolverines after a hotel night manager reported that Frank Clark had threatened and admitted to hitting his girlfriend. (Clark was never charged.)
For those thinking, “that was before Malik McDowell” . . .
2018: The Seahawks signed free agent linebacker Mychal Kendricks a week after he pleaded guilty to insider trading.
2020: Bruce Irvin returned via free agency.
2022: Round three with Irvin.
2023: Seattle signed Jarran Reed in free agency.
Note: For those that may not know/recall, Reed was investigated for domestic violence in 2017 (while with the Seahawks), and although he was never formally charged, the NFL suspended Reed for the first six games of the 2019 season.
This section was about 300 words longer before Monday’s report that the Seahawks will host Jalen Carter on a pre-draft visit.
By my unofficial count, this brings the number of face-to-face meetings with Carter to three:
- February combine meeting (prior to news breaking on March 1 about the charges).
- Closed-door meeting at Georgia’s Pro Day in March.
- April visit to Seattle
Was Carter’s Pro Day as bad as we’ve heard?
At right about the 25-second mark of a recent YouTube video that’s primarily focused on the top QBs in this year’s draft, NFL reporter James Palmer shared what he’s heard from folks who were at Carter’s Pro Day:
I talked to four or five guys that were right on the field for Jalen’s workout, and what I was told was that it wasn’t nearly as bad in their eyes . . .
. . .
(One of them) was like, “These dudes running these drills ran him into the effing ground.” ... “The guy who was running the first three drills, I think his goal was to kill Jalen. I think that was his goal.”
. . .
His first seven were great drills. Eight and nine were a disaster because he had nothing left. Now, there is a thing going around, because of the off-the-field stuff, that the polite thing - I guess “polite” is the right word - instead of knocking him on the off-the-field stuff, you knock him for his Pro Day . . .
The $34 million dollar question . . .
The prospect selected with the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft will receive a signing bonus of $21,734,892 as part of a fully-guaranteed $34M contract.
That is life-changing money for anyone.
Is Jalen Carter worth the risk?
When I read the reports on March 1, I mentally removed Jalen Carter from my version of Seattle’s Big Board and decided that the Seahawks should not draft him.
Not at No. 5. Not at No. 20. Not at No. 37.
Okay, maybe at No. 37.
Roughly six weeks later, my stance has softened.
I’m not yet to the point of saying, “Welcome to Seattle, Mr. Carter, please don’t let us down.”
Nor am I comfortable with taking him with the fifth overall pick.
But I might be by April 27.