ATHENS -- Jalen Carter has NFL types looking back and wondering how he fell to No. 9 in the draft, even beyond his well-documented driving-related issues leading up to the NFL Combine.
“He was the best player in the draft, right?” Popular ESPN morning host Mike Greenberg said earlier this week, leading into a glowing evaluation from analyst Louis Riddick.
“He can really change games from guard to guard,” Riddick said. “He’s one of those guys that quarterbacks sit there and go, ‘Where was number 88? ‘That’s what people were looking at at Georgia,” he said. “They were trying to figure out whether or not this guy was going to beat me to the mesh point when handing it off to running backs or if he would be right in my face when dropping back on 3- 5- or 7-step drop and he’s doing the same things in the NFL right now.”
Former ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay had stirred the pot early in the evaluation process when he suggested Carter “has been a lot to handle.”
While McShay never went into great details, and in fact made it clear that Carter was and is an incredible talent, another ESPN reporter recently did disclose some background.
Per ESPN staff writer Tim McManus, “multiple Georgia coaches declined to go to bat for Carter during the pre-draft process,” per sources, “because they had grown disenchanted with his practice habits and attitude.”
ESPN did confirm that Carter, during a 2020 fall practice, punched former teammate and first-round pick Quay Walker in the face.
Walker confirmed the punch, per the report, and told ESPN: “That always happened on defense. It never became a problem. We can get into it and then after practice we’d be smiling, laughing.”
What happens on the field typically stays on the field on football teams — at all levels — as practice skirmishes break out far more often than most realize.
Regardless of what happened between Carter and Walker on the field, many Georgia players defended Carter’s nature off the field when the issue arose last December.
“A lot of guys were just laughing at it, they don’t know the real him,” Zion Logue said when first asked about McShay’s report questioning Carter’s character. “They are going off what they hear from other people.”
“He’s a very quiet guy, he likes to go about his work. When he gets around his teammate he’s a joking and loving person.”
DawgNation conducted a lengthy interview with Carter leading up to the CFP Peach Bowl Semifinal, where the former Georgia player displayed a playful and peaceful disposition.
One thing is for certain, the Philadelphia Eagles got the football player they wanted, as GM Howie Roseman followed up on drafting three Bulldogs in the last class after telling DawgNation how much faith he had in Kirby Smart’s program.
“We have tremendous respect for Coach Smart and the program he has developed,” Roseman said. “When we’re drafting players, just knowing how they are trained and the background, it’s no different than when you are hiring staff, you look for people who have learned the right way.”