It’s normal for fans to want their professional sports team to draft players from their favorite college. In the Falcons’ case, that’s the University of Georgia.
Over the last several seasons, nobody has produced more NFL players than the talent factory Kirby Smart has built in Athens. Countless number of impact pieces are roaming around the league today, but unfortunately, none on the Falcons.
It might seem foolish that Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith haven’t taken advantage of all this talent less than 100 miles away from them, but that’s not how the NFL works, and generally it’s for the better. There aren’t too many times where Georgia players were available and clearly better options than who the Falcons selected. With that being said, one came up in the first round of this year’s draft, and it might go down as one of the worst decisions of the new regime’s tenure.
By many, Jalen Carter was the top overall prospect in the 2023 draft class. He was projected by nearly everyone to go inside the top five, which would have made him unavailable for the Falcons, who picked eighth. However, a draft day slide due to character concerns allowed Carter to fall right into Atlanta’s lap without even having to make a move, and they passed in favor of the star running back out of Texas Bijan Robinson.
Of course, this is no slight to Bijan Robinson. He’s already one of the best running backs in the league and probably the best player on the Falcons offense. Unfortunately, so is Jalen Carter; in fact, he may be even better along the defensive line than Robinson is at running back.
According to PFF, Jalen Carter has a 19% pass-rush win rate in his rookie season. Just how good is that?
Jalen Carter currently has a 19% pass-rush win rate, per PFF. No rookie DT has had a better mark since PFF started charting the NFL in 2006.
first-team all-pro hands down
— Austin Gayle (@austingayle_) November 27, 2023
Carter is likely on his way to a Pro Bowl nomination as a rookie and could even be named an All-Pro. The character concerns that once surrounded him now seem like a distant memory, and for most Falcons fans — especially ones that are Georgia fans — imagining what could have been is a difficult pill to swallow.
Of course, circumstances matter. Philadelphia’s defensive line was already one of the most fierce in the league before Carter arrived. He’s surrounded by Pro Bowl talent, making life easier for him. It’s also important to note that he’s surrounded by former teammates who may be helping him stay grounded, and getting away from Athens could have been good for his future.
We’ll never know how Carter would have turned out had the Falcons gambled and picked him 8th overall. What we do know is Bijan Robinson isn’t too shabby of a consolation prize, and one of the focal points of next offseason will be finding another playmaker that can get after the passer.
Photo: Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire