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Draft Decisions: Jalen Carter

Will Ryan Poles take the talented Carter if he’s available with the 9th pick in the NFL Draft?

Kentucky Wildcats v Georgia Bulldogs
Carter putting pressure on Will Levis
Photo by Steven Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Author’s Note: I will be covering the 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City as credentialed media. Follow me on Twitter for real-time coverage @gridironborn. I plan to post my notes here on Windy City Gridiron.

The first major decisions of the draft for the Chicago Bears and Ryan Poles were made long ago. Trading away the number one overall pick with the Carolina Panthers will give Poles and the Bears the draft capital necessary to complete the rebuild Poles likely pitched to George McCaskey to earn the job. When the clock starts next Thursday night, I believe Poles will be staring at Jalen Carter’s name, hoping that he’ll be available at the number nine pick.

Carter’s path to the draft has had some serious ups and downs, including an arrest for reckless driving and racing that ended with a no contest plea, 12 months of probation, 80-hours of community service, and a $1,000 fine. Playing next to Travon Walker (2022 Round 1, Pick 1), Jordan Davis (2022 Round 1, Pick 13) and Devonte Wyatt (2022 Round 1, Pick 28) on Georgia’s 2021 National Championship team, it was actually Carter getting the most hype. While his 2022 wasn’t the banner year many hoped for after his dominant 2021, his physical traits and skill level have drawn comparisons to Jeffery Simmons of the Tennessee Titans. Simmons just signed a 4-year, $94M extension with the Titans.

Without the off-field issues, Carter would be in the conversation for the top defensive player in the draft. However, the NFL Draft is nothing if not thorough and the higher the pick, the bigger the stakes for each and every franchise. Poles, in his second season, must be convinced that Carter is ready to be a professional and grow into the star in this defense desperate for a three-technique defensive tackle.

If we try to see through the smoke coming from Carter’s camp and all the other teams in the top ten, I believe we can make a few assumptions. First, Carter’s camp believes without a doubt that he will be a top ten pick. He started to limit his team visits to those teams in the top ten and one can infer that his camp received some assurances from one or more teams that Carter would be their pick if he were available during their turn. Who might’ve given Carter those assurances? Only Carter’s team knows for sure, but let’s look at the list.

Teams to worry about:

If you’re someone cheering for Carter to be the Bears pick at ninth overall, you’ll want to start holding your breath at pick five with Seattle. Pete Carroll is 71 years old and invested big money in Dre’Mont Jones this offseason to bolster his defensive line. Does that move make them look elsewhere? Or does he continue to add talent there to make an immediate playoff push in a weak NFC? I don’t think Seattle drafts a QB here and instead focuses on immediate impact. I think this is the earliest we could see Carter taken.

The Detroit Lions at pick six could pair the explosive Carter with last year’s first rounder Aidan Hutchinson to create a truly scary one-two combination. The need for talent at corner may drive them to focus their first pick there, but I believe Dan Campbell believes in his locker room enough to feel comfortable bringing in a guy like Carter.

I’m not worried about the Raiders at seven (no smoke, which could mean nothing, but doesn’t make as much sense for them). The Falcons at eight make sense in terms of proximity. It would be a popular pick amongst Falcons fans but the talent deficient Dirty Birds could go multiple directions to improve the roster. The recently signed Calais Campbell pairs with Grady Jarrett along the defensive front. Those two veteran leaders serving as mentors may be the key to making a case for drafting Carter.

Still, I’m not sure any of those teams would have given Carter’s camp assurances that he would be drafted in the top ten. I’m also not sure that Ryan Poles has the level of comfort on the job to telegraph that to an agent, even if he seems to be on good terms with Drew Rosenhaus, but I absolutely think Howie Roseman of the Eagles (pick 10) would. So let’s assume that Carter’s camp knows that the backstop is 10 to Philly. He’s going to try to convince the three teams ahead of the Bears discussed above along with Ryan Poles and the Bears that he’s ready to be a professional. What if the teams above the Bears all pass...

Would the Bears take him?

If you gave me even odds on this one, I’d put a double bet down on yes. Heck, I might even put down a rare triple bet. Poles has been looking for that dominant three-technique for Coach Matt Eberflus ever since the Larry Ogunjobi deal fell through last year. He’s done his homework and is still in the honeymoon period with new team president Kevin Warren. Assuming Carter’s interviews with Poles went well, I think the talent is too much for Poles to pass up. It could be a dream scenario for Poles to land the most talented player at the most important position on his defense after already making a huge score in the trade down with Carolina. I believe this is the Ryan Poles dream draft-day scenario.

As you might imagine, the Windy City Gridiron / 2nd City Gridiron crews have been all over the prospects of Jalen Carter to the Bears. I’ve linked to some of our stories below. Check out what our Building the Board team had to say about Carter:

Taylor Doll’s interview about Jalen Carter on Making Monsters:

Lead Draft Analyst Jacob Infante ran a mock draft with Carter as the top pick for the Bears and Bill Zimmerman discussed the high likelihood of Carter at 9 if he’s available. Greg Gabriel gave a detailed breakdown of Carter’s game from the scout’s perspective.