This will be the first in a series of articles breaking down certain players that the Chicago Bears may be interested in for the 2023 Draft next April. Today we will discuss Georgia's dominating interior defensive lineman Jalen Carter.
Carter is a true junior who plays inside mostly as a 3-technique in Georgia's 4-3 scheme. Georgia always rotates their defensive linemen, so seldom do these players play more than 50-60% of the defensive snaps in a given game. In recent years Georgia has been dominant on defense, especially along the defensive line. Last year, three defensive linemen were drafted in the first round, including two in the top 10. Two of those three DLinemen were interior players (Jordan Davis, DeVontae Wyatt). When comparing tape of those two and Carter, Jalen is easily the best player.
As we all know, the 3-technique is one of, if not the most important position in the Bears' 4-3 scheme. That person has to be big, strong, athletic, penetrating, and disruptive and provide a strong interior pass rush.
When I was with the Bears during Lovie Smith's tenure as Head Coach, we played a similar scheme and drafted three very good 3-techs, two of which became Pro Bowl payers. In 2004, Lovie's first year, we had to totally revamp the defensive line because of the change of scheme. We only had one interior defensive lineman going into the draft, so we used our first two picks on 3-tech players.
The first was Tommie Smith from Oklahoma, who became one of the best 3-techs ever. Tommy wasn't that big at about 6025 – 288, but he ran a 4.68 at the Combine and was very explosive. During most of his career as a Bear, he played between 285 – 290 and dominated, as he was voted to the Pro Bowl several times.
In the second round, we selected Tank Johnson, who was about the same height as Tommy but a little bigger. His skill set was similar to Harris'. Like Harris, Tank could run, having run the 40 in the low 4.7s at the Combine. Because of his bulk and strength, Johnson could play either of the two interior line positions.
Henry Melton was drafted in 2009 and was initially drafted to play as a defensive end because of his size and speed. At Indy, he measured 6032 – 269 and ran a 4.64, which was ideal for defensive end. Once we got Henry signed and into the program, we saw that he had growth potential and may be best as a 3-tech. He played DE his first season but then was moved inside as he put on about 20 pounds and didn't lose speed. Like Harris, Melton became a Pro Bowl player.
Watching tape of Jalen Carter, I see a player very similar to Tommy Harris but better. Carter has more size than Harris at about 6'3 – 300 with long arms, but I doubt he will run as fast. However, he totally dominates as an interior player. He can't be blocked one-on-one. As for timed speed, I would estimate that Carter will run in the 4.7 range. He is one of the most explosive players I have ever evaluated along the DLine.
Carter is very quick off the ball, stays low, has excellent hand use, and easily sheds blocks to get penetration and break up the run game. As a pass rusher, he again stays low, has both top hand use, moves to re-direct, and easily defeats blockers. While he only has six sacks in the last two seasons, he has several pressures and hits, and this is despite often being double-teamed.
Comparing Carter to Harris, I would say that Carter has more upside than Tommy's coming out of college. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say that Jalen Carter is the most dominant interior defensive lineman coming out of college in years. He should become an excellent NFL player.
Will the Bears get a chance at Carter? That's hard to say. Right now, the Bears have the second overall pick in the Draft. They will stay at that position if they do not win any more games this season. The key is, what do the Houston Texans do with the first pick? Yes, they have a huge need at quarterback, but they also have a second first-round pick that they could use to get one of the better quarterbacks in the Draft.
Regardless of position, I feel that Jalen Carter is the best player in this Draft, and if Houston feels the same, they may be stupid not to select Carter. That said, they may feel they have to fill the quarterback position first and draft the QB they feel is the best in the Draft. Since it is only late December, it will be months before we know what Houston may do. Don't forget, Houston plays a similar scheme as the Bears, so Carter could be just as important to the Texans as he is to the Bears.
Getting back to Carter, I see few negatives in his game. If there is one, it's that he has missed game time in each of the last two seasons with injuries. This year he reportedly had a knee sprain. We don't know how serious the injury was, but I'm sure the doctors will look at him closely at the Combine.
Recently, Todd McShay, a draft analyst with ESPN, questioned Carter's character. I have talked to a few scouts I trust who have made school calls at Georgia. They say McShay's statement is unfounded. In fact, when you evaluate a defensive lineman, you don't want an alter boy. It's a tough position to play, and the people playing it have to be tough, physical, and rugged individuals. My definition of a defensive lineman is he needs to be a "thug." To be good, he must win the majority of several three to four second street fights in the course of a game. I don't want a nice guy playing the position; I want a nasty SOB!
In short, if everything checks out, Jalen Carter has a very good chance of becoming a Chicago Bear.