There are numerous high profile NFL Draft storylines, but perhaps the most unpredictable is the one surrounding Jalen Carter. Once a candidate to be the #1 overall pick, there have been multiple stories about teams taking him off of their draft boards altogether because of his off the field concerns. Some think Carter could even fall out of the first-round. I don’t believe that; I still think he will find his way into the top 10, and if he’s there for Atlanta at #8, they would be crazy not to take him. However, not everybody feels that way.
Josh Kendall of The Athletic has already said Falcons fans should get used to the idea of the Falcons passing on Carter, which might cause the fan base to riot. Not only are most Atlanta fans also fans of the Georgia Bulldogs, but the Falcons have also featured one of the league’s worst defensive lines for more than a decade. Passing on the talent Carter possesses with the 8th pick in the draft would feel like malpractice to some, but not to Kendall, who believes the Falcons won’t take Carter because of the culture they are trying to build.
I don’t think Atlanta is going to draft Carter. That is based on what the Falcons say they value in the draft process and what I hear. To be clear, no one in the organization has told me they are not drafting Carter. If they had, I’d write an entire story on it. I just want Falcons fans to be ready for what I believe is the likelihood that the team will pass on Carter if he is available.
To address Scott’s question specifically, if the Falcons drafted Carter simply because they think he’s the most talented football player in this draft (and he probably is) it would go against a lot of things head coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot have said publicly about what they value in terms of culture and team building. I don’t want anyone to think I’m questioning Carter’s character. In fact, I hate even using the word “character” in these discussions. We don’t know what Carter’s character is. Most NFL teams probably don’t either. And “character” has to do with a lot more than football. So don’t ask me to get into a character debate.
For me, this is an availability debate. NFL teams have legitimate reasons to wonder if Carter will be ready to perform at his peak for 17 Sundays every year. It would be hard for me to use a top-10 pick in that case.
Carter showing up to his Pro-Day — which is arguably the biggest interview of his life — ten pounds overweight and out of shape is a red flag. However, can we really blame him after everything he’s been through over the last couple of months? He was ten pounds lighter just a few weeks earlier at the NFL Combine, and then the Athens police department decided to ambush him on the most important day of his career. That wasn’t a coincidence, so I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to judge him for being overweight at his Pro Day, even if some teams will.
As a counterpoint to Kendall’s argument, I would argue that if the Falcons have truly instilled a high quality culture from top to bottom, they should have no problem believing they can make the most out of Carter’s insane talent. There are plenty of elite organizations around the league that have ignored red flags attached to players because they believe their culture is strong enough to keep them on the right track.
Kirby Smart’s program at Georgia is a perfect example. They have one of the best cultures of any organization — collegiate or professional. Carter had no issue putting in the work everyday in college, which is why he is widely regarded as one of the most talented players in the draft. If the Falcons think they have a similar culture, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t believe they can get the most out of Carter at the next level.
Photo: Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire
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