INDIANAPOLIS — A bombshell dropped Wednesday morning, just 30 minutes before top draft prospect Jalen Carter was slated to speak with reporters at the NFL scouting combine.
An arrest warrant was issued for Carter, a former All-American defensive tackle for the University of Georgia, by the Athens-Clarke County Police Department on two misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing in a January crash that took the lives of Georgia offensive lineman Devin Willock and team staffer Chandler LeCroy. Carter later posted a statement on his Twitter account saying that he was headed back to Athens to face the charges that have been filed against him.
The primary focus should remain on the loss of young lives here. But there’s also the plain reality that this situation leaves Carter’s draft stock in a little bit of limbo.
Carter has been talked about as the potential No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, with many analysts flat-out calling him the best player in the 2023 class. That potential is now a key part of how this plays out.
According to a source that works for a team in the top five of the draft, speaking on the condition of anonymity, Carter’s situation is firmly in the “wait and see” portion of the draft proceedings as teams receive more information on Carter’s involvement in the crash.
Another source told Yahoo Sports that the blunt truth of the matter is Carter may not fall at all if the two misdemeanors are the extent of what happens legally. “He’s one of those players that is special enough to survive something like this if this is the worst of the news,” the source told Yahoo Sports.
When Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer was asked about the Carter arrest warrant, he said that he didn’t want to jump to any conclusions. That sentiment is going to be repeated a lot, because Carter is such a highly touted prospect for this year’s class.
Right now, it’s unclear exactly if teams knew the arrest warrant was coming this morning, but it does seem to have at least caught the NFL combine a bit off guard. Following the announcement of the arrest warrant against Carter, the podium interviews with the other defensive linemen present in Indianapolis came to a pause and Carter never appeared at his podium session with reporters.
We're still early in the process of figuring out exactly what role Carter played in the crash back in January. But this is the slimier part of the NFL business that viewers should be acutely aware of by now. If a player is talented enough at what they do, sins of the past can be forgotten. On the sliding scale of acts that cause NFL prospects to fall down draft boards, two misdemeanors for a prospect that profiles as a future All-Pro at his position can get ignored fairly easily.
Assuming the police’s accounts of the events are true, then this appears to be a tragic incident that was totally avoidable. That also doesn’t necessarily mean Carter's draft stock will tank.
Have some grace for the young people that lost their lives, but don’t be surprised if Carter still hears his name called early in the 2023 draft proceedings. The NFL is still the NFL.