Jalen Carter sunk, and sunk, and sunk on Thursday in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. The Georgia 6-foot-3, 314-pound defensive tackle received rave reviews on the football field, while brandishing red flags galore around him when it came to off the field.
It was reason enough for eight teams to pass on him, despite being considered by some the best player in the 2023 NFL Draft class.
The Eagles, however, felt that they did their due diligence when it came to vetting Carter, enough to move up and trade with the Chicago Bears to take Carter with the ninth overall pick.
The Eagles apparently felt Carter, who in March pled no contest to misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing and arrived nine pounds heavier for his pro day two weeks after the NFL combine, put his dubious issues behind him.
To many draft prognosticators and NFL experts, they thought Eagles’ general manager Howie Roseman pulled off a coup in getting Carter at No. 9 and his Georgia teammate Nolan Smith at No. 30.
But the character issue hovered over much of the discussion about Carter. The Eagles saw something many other NFL teams didn’t—and it pertains to the “character issue.”
Bleeding Green Nation went and sought input from former NFL general manager and NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock and asked what goes into an NFL team’s character evaluation.
“I think Howie is operating at a really high level, and the entire team is operating at a really high level right now,” Mayock said. “They got the guy they wanted. They moved up a pick to ensure they got him, and they gave up a fourth-round pick, which won’t matter in the overall scheme. At the other end, they were patient and a guy fell to them (Smith) who is a carbon copy of Haason Reddick.”
When you are in the position of weighing character against ability, what does go into the debate, how is the criteria evaluated?
Mayock has been in those draft rooms when that tug-of-war was waged.
“There are three different ways teams look at both medical concerns and character concerns,” Mayock said. “All 32 teams have access to the same information. With character issues, you do your homework. You gather all of your information. You sit down with your owner. You scrub everything in this young man’s life.
“Based on everything gathered, this is where the kid is, and this is how we’re going to handle it if we bring him into our build. That’s point one. You gather your information and you go to your owner and say, ‘We don’t think it affects who he is. We have him ranked as the No. 1 defensive player and we ought to go get him.’
“Number two, is the complete opposite. You go through the same exercise. You gather all of your information; you sit down with your staff and your owner and decide to take him off the board. He’s not for us. Those are the two opposite ends of the spectrum.
“Where most teams operate is in the gray middle. If a player is the second-rated guy on the board, but maybe we don’t take him that high, but we’re going to discount him to a point where if he’s available at 15, or 18, or in the second round, there is going to come a point where the risk is worth the reward. So, it’s either we’re all in, we’re all out, or there is a risk-reward scenario where we are paying less money and we’re going to go after it.
“Those are the three ways teams deal with their first-round talent. The second piece of it is with some of these players, if we get them in our building, we better have a plan. The Eagles are really good at having plans. The Eagles have resources to handle players.”
The Eagles have Connor Barwin within that group, and they have Senior Advisor to the General Manager/Chief Security Officer Dom DiSandro looking deep into player’s backgrounds off the field. They look at things like if a player arrives on time or not, who’s around him when the player is away from the building.
They look into the decisions a player makes when they’re out socially.
“They have a really good security guy in Dom, and here’s the rule of thumb that a lot of people agree with, and the Eagles do very well with this, 10-15% of the players in the building will do the right thing, because that’s who they are,” Mayock said. “They’ll have 10-15% of the guys in the build that do the wrong thing, because that’s who they are. Then, there is this big group in the middle, 70, 75% of the players that go either way, based on who you place them in the position group with.
“The Eagles have a big decided advantage with that. They’re going to be bringing Jalen Carter into a room with Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, his former Georgia teammate, Jordan Davis, Haason Reddick, that’s their d-line group.
“Tracy Rocker is their d-line coach. Jeremiah Washburn is their d-ends coach. Those are strong guys. The Eagles are bringing Jalen Carter into a veteran-laden group that does the right thing and they’re going to bringing these young players with them.
“His former Georgia teammates are quality guys. Jordan Davis will be in the room with Jalen Carter. The first influences he will have will from his d-line room, and then his Georgia teammates. The Eagles have the infrastructure in place both in the building and people outside the building that will give him the best chance to be on time, in shape and take care of his business.”
Finally on the field, Carter has the rare blend of power and quick feet to anchor the middle of the Eagles’ defensive line and the explosiveness to reach the quarterback and bend back the pocket.
“The point came a year ago. Georgia had 15 players drafted, and five went in the first round,” Mayock said. “They had five players drafted in the first round and when you watched the tape, No. 88 is who you kept going back to. I thought he was the best of the group last year when he was only a sophomore.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.