Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Jalen Carter walks during the Dawg Walk before their game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in a NCAA football game at Sanford Stadium, Saturday, November 26, 2022, in Athens, Ga. Jason Getz /

NFL veteran coach explains why Jalen Carter’s off-field issues won’t affect his NFL Draft stock

ATHENS — Jalen Carter left Georgia with two national championships, but the value of his time in Kirby Smart’s program goes beyond the trophy stand.

Carter, of course, has been a popular target in pre-NFL Draft talks as analysts debate his value in the wake of a plea bargain that enabled him to avoid jail time after he was charged with racing and reckless driving related to a fatal crash that killed two program members.

The Georgia All-American was once projected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, but there are now some who have suggested he could fall outside the Top 10 despite his potential as an impact player.

“We are talking about another guy that’s a very talented football player … the guy is coming from a top-notch football program,” he said. “He’s coming from a very respectable school, a very respectable head coach.

“From as societal standpoint, it will bother some people, but from a whole, it won’t bother those (NFL) people.”

Carter was most recently projected to be selected No. 6 overall in the NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, according to ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

ESPN analyst Todd McShay, who found himself embroiled in controversy early in the draft evaluation process after suggestion Carter had character issues, said he hopes the best for the Georgia star.

But he’s not coming off his assessment, and he explained why.

“I have seven difference sources on Jalen Carter, and this is prior to the (racing and reckless driving) incident,” McShay said on a Ryen Rusillo Podcast.

“It’s my job to let fans know if a player is going to move up or down the board because of an injury or character concerns.”

But where Carter is concerned, McShay points out there is no question about his football character.

“He had an ankle injury, missed a couple of games in the middle of the season, and he (was) gonna be a Top 5 pick at that point,” McShay said.

“But he doesn’t shut it down. People will say, well he was going for a national championship. Well, (Ohio State WR) Jackson Smith-Njigba was going for a national championship … but I’ve heard from so many different sources that there was a chance he could have come back and played.”

Indeed, McShay pointed out the Ohio State receiver’s NFL Combine numbers suggested his injury might not have been serious enough to keep him off the field.

“A month or so later after the semifinal game … he has a 35-inch vertical, 10-5 broad jump 6.57 3-cone and a 3.93 20-yard shuttle, so it couldn’t have been that bad,” McShay said.

“My point is, Jalen Carter, from the football character perspective when it comes to wanting to be there for his team, he chose not to shut it down. He came back and played his best football the last four or five games of this season.”

Robiskie said that’s representative of the program Smart has built at Georgia.

“There’s a lot of guys in Canton Ohio that came out of college …. a lot of questionable guys, something happened their junior year or senior,” Robiskie said. “But when they got to the NFL, we looked that they were coming from a good program, and you have that in Georgia.”

Robiskie said Smart’s growing reputation as “That Guy” in college football, along with strong NFL performers like Hines Ward, Ben Watson and Champ Bailey, have benefit Carter via Georgia’s strong reputation and brand.

“It’s not an issue, it won’t be an issue,” Robiskie said, discussing Carter’s off-field issues. “People will talk about it, but at the end of the day, people are trying to win and be up there with Kansas City Chiefs and win the Super Bowl.”

“They will take him and groom him and go, and it’s all because of his background and his educational background.”

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