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091722 Columbia: Georgia head coach Kirby Smart confers with defensive lineman Jalen Carter while while taking the field to play South Carolina in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Columbia. “Curtis Compton / Curtis

NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. high on Jalen Carter, Georgia star competing to become No. 1 overall pick

ATHENS — Georgia football could end up with back-to-back No. 1 overall picks if Jalen Carter finishes this season strong.

Carter, regarded by most to be the most athletic and disruptive defensive tackle in the college ranks, was recently ranked No. 2 overall in the 2023 NFL Draft by ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

Carter is one of several Bulldogs who will be watched closely down the stretch starting with the 3:30 p.m. showdown with No. 1-ranked Tennessee at Sanford Stadium.

Kiper noted that Carter returned to play against Florida last Saturday and made a difference.

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“Even though he was on a snap count, his impact was apparent on passing downs,” Kiper noted in his ESPN pay site article.

Carter played 20 snaps in the 42-20 win over the Gators, derailing Florida’s last-gasp fourth down play while they were still in contention.

“Georgia had vice defenders picked in Round 1 last April, and Carter arguably was more disruptive than all of them last season.”

Indeed, former Georgia interior defensive linemen and first-round picks Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt said the same things.

Defensive end Travon Walker was the NFL draft’s overall No. 1 pick last season, while linebacker Quay Walker and safety Lewis Cine were the other first-round picks.

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Carter’s return from the sprained MCL allows him to show the sort of consistency that NFL teams are looking to see in a potential No. 1 overall pick.

“He has a big Fram and can play as a 3-technique tackle,” Kiper said. “I want to see him be a little more consistent, but NFL teams will bet on his ceiling.”

Kiper currently has Alabama star Will Anderson as his projected overall No. 1 pick ahead of Carter, with Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud projected as the No. 3 overall pick.

Kentucky QB Will Levis and Alabama QB Bryce Young round out the Top 5.

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