ATHENS — The best on the Georgia football team - by far — is Jalen Carter, according to NFL experts, who are assessing what the 2023 draft will look like.
ESPN expert Mel Kiper said the first-non quarterback off the board will come down to Carter or Alabama outside linebacker Will Anderson, depending on the need of the team picking.
SEC Network analyst and former NFL Super Bowl champ Roman Harper explained why last week in Atlanta, the day before Carter and the Bulldogs beat LSU 50-30 in the league title game.
“He reminds me a lot of Ndamukong Suh with his power, with his ability to still stop all the run plays and still give you pass rush too because of his brute strength,” Harper said.
“When he’s healthy and he wants to play, he’s the most dominating lineman in the country.”
Carter was an All-SEC pick and one of the finalists for the Outland Trophy, re-emerging after missing two games on account of a sprained knee.
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Carter has come back in full force from the injury.
Carter has played more than 40 snaps in each of the past five games after averaging about 16 snaps the four games he played before the knee injury on account of a foot injury.
“It’s going to come down to Anderson vs. Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter,” Kiper said, asked if Will Anderson was the best non-QB in the draft in a recent ESPN pay-site article.
“As for which defender goes first off the board, it’ll come down to team fit. Anderson is atop more big boards right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Carter go to the first team that needs a defensive player.”
ESPN expert Matt Miller says Carter is a good fit for the Seattle Seahawks, who are projected to get Denver’s pick at No. 4 overall in the draft.
“That’s a team desperate for help on the interior of the defensive line, and Carter is a plug-and-play 3-technique starter,” Miller said. “Yes, there were the knee and ankle injuries this season, but Carter has looked like one of the best overall players in this class since returning.
“And in the NFC West, he’d be facing Kyler Murray and Trey Lance, two QBs not known for their ability to hang in the pocket and throw on time. An interior pass-rusher is key for those situations … "
Harper has noted Carter’s explosion off the ball.
“His ability to come out of his hips and just shed guys, most of these college linemen don’t want to see Jalen Carter,” Harper said. “I don’t care if it’s a guard, center, tackle, it doesn’t matter, he destroys them all.”
Coach Kirby Smart explained how Carter’s strong second-half surge and snap volume has added literally millions to his value while giving the junior a chance to leave a priceless legacy.
“In all his years playing here, he never got to play that many snaps, so he’s creating value for himself with the way he’s playing,” Smart said, noting how Carter played behind 2022 first-round picks Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt last season.
“And, you know, if you look at the top-end of the draft, it’s one of those things where it’s a huge difference between pick 3, and pick 10, and pick 14. It’s a lot more different than it is down there toward the end.
“So it’s not about that for him. It’s about, you know, being with his teammates, wanting to do something special. He was really close in a brotherhood with those guys last year. And they’re gone now, and he’s trying to do something that they didn’t do. You know, and he’s given us all he’s got.”