Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter was finally taken with the No. 9 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft after the Philadelphia Eagles traded up for the polarizing prospect. At one point in time there was a very real chance Carter could have been the No. 1 pick in the draft, had the Bears not traded out of the top slot — now Philadelphia gets a player with incomparable talent, but question marks off the field.
Much of this stems from a January car accident which left a Georgia staffer and player dead, with two others injured. Carter initially left the NFL Combine to answer charges filed in Georgia, before accepting a plea deal where he accepted 12 months of probation, was fined $1,000, and required to do 80 hours of community service.
What we know about the car accident
On the morning of January 15, 2023 a 2021 Ford Expedition being driven by Georgia staffer Chandler LeCroy crashed in Athens-Clarke County. The crash resulted in the death of LeCroy and Georgia player Devin Willock. Georgia player Warren McClendon and recruiting staff member Victoria Bowles were also injured in the accident.
Police had reason to believe Carter was present at the scene as well and brought him in for questioning. Carter told investigators he was a nearly a mile behind the car when it crashed and denied that he was racing LeCroy’s car at the time of the accident, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Initially the crash was recorded as a single-vehicle accident caused by LaCroy driving too fast, but the investigation broadened, and included Carter himself.
What are police saying?
According to a press release in March Athens Police issued a warrant for Carter’s arrest stemming from the accident, alleging that the player was present at the time of the accident and that evidence indicates that he was racing LeCroy’s car.
“The investigation found that Chandler LeCroy, driver of the 2021 Ford Expedition, and Jalen Carter, driver of a 2021 Jeep Trackhawk, were operating their vehicles in a manner consistent with racing shortly after leaving the downtown Athens area at 2:30 A.M. The evidence demonstrated that both vehicles switched between lanes, drove in the center turn lane, drove in opposite lanes of travel, overtook other motorists, and drove at high rates of speed, in an apparent attempt to outdistance each other. Evidence indicated that shortly before the crash the Expedition was traveling at about 104 miles per hour.”
The statement went on to add that LeCroy’s blood alcohol concentration was .197 at the time of the accident, and that crash investigators found that alcohol impairment, racing, reckless driving, and speed caused the accident.
This wasn’t the only concern about Carter
As the draft process progressed there were emerging concerns about his motor and desire to play football. Not only did he struggle in individual workouts, but Georgia coaches reportedly weren’t complementary of the effort Carter gave on the field.
This, paired with the off-field struggles, resulted in Carter sliding out of the top 5, and landing just before a dangerous slide that could have happened if the Eagles didn’t select him. Agent Drew Rosenhaus notably cancelled visits with teams outside of the top 10, confident his client would be selected.
That prediction was accurate, and now the Eagles have one of the best defensive players in the draft.