Concerning Details Emerge on Bears’ Potential 1st-Round Target

Eberflus Carter Pro Day

Getty Bears head coach Matt Eberflus was in attendance for Georgia's pro day on March 15.

The Chicago Bears have been doing their due diligence on Georgia standout defensive tackle Jalen Carter in hopes that the “blue-chip” prospect might fall to them at No. 9 overall in the 2023 NFL draft next month, but Carter’s rough workout at the Bulldogs’ college pro day may cause them to pump the brakes.

According to ESPN senior writer Mark Schlabach, Carter arrived for Georgia’s pro day workouts “nine pounds heavier” than he was two weeks ago at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, weighing in at 323 pounds. Carter was also unable to finish his position drills because he was “cramping up and breathing heavily,” despite skipping other aspects of the workout, including the 40-yard dash.

A rough pro day workout may cause Carter’s draft stock to fall even further after it already took a dive back on March 1 following his arrest for his alleged connection to a fatal crash that took place in Georgia on January 15. The crash in question killed Bulldogs offensive lineman Devin Willock and team recruiter Chandler LeCroy.

But while Carter’s legal troubles could be resolved before draft day — he has maintained his belief that he will be “fully exonerated of criminal any wrongdoing” in his March 1 statement — his lackluster performance at Georgia’s pro day workout could have a harsher impact on his stock in terms of being an early first-round selection. Teams may be willing to take a chance on character issues with a prospect, but less so when the physical side of things fails to live up to what he put on tape in college.

Still, not everyone walked away from Carter’s workout with a negative impression. NFL Network insider Sherree Burruss heard from a number of NFL personnel in attendance and received mixed reviews from them on what they thought of Carter’s outing.

“This was the first chance for teams to see Carter work out since the end of the season,” Burruss said, via NFL Network. “Today, he did position drills after not working out at the Combine but also dealing with legal off-the-field issues. Some NFL personnel told me they were impressed with his performance today, saying he is what he shows on tape. Others thought he struggled toward the end of the day.”

Jalen Carter Might Not Fit Bears’ H.I.T.S Principle

Jalen Carter Pro Day

GettyJalen Carter of Georgia looks on during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 02, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Bears had healthy representation at Georgia’s pro day on Wednesday with general manager Ryan Poles, head coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy all in attendance to watch Carter and some of Georgia’s other top-level prospects. It stands to reason, though, that Eberflus may have walked away from the workout thinking Carter is not a fit for his H.I.T.S. principle.

H.I.T.S is an acronym that stands for hustle, intensity, takeaways (or taking care of the football) and smart play, and it is something Eberflus prided himself on bringing to the Bears in his first season as their head coach. The concept was generally well received by Bears players and is part of the foundation both he and Poles are trying to lay for the future of the franchise, suggesting Chicago won’t bring in players who don’t fit the bill. The question is: Does Carter’s unfinished workout and weight gain over a short period of time suggest to the Bears that he isn’t a fit for the H.I.T.S principle?

Smart money says no, even if he is available when the Bears pick at No. 9 overall.

Kirby Smart Vouches for Jalen Carter’s Character

Kirby Smart Jalen Carter

GettyGeorgia head coach Kirby Smart vouches for Jalen Carter’s character.

The other concern with Carter is his alleged character issues. While most of those issues seem to stem from his arrest in Athens, Georgia, earlier this month, ESPN’s Todd McShay has been warning people about his character issues since the end of December, long before the incident in question that has led to Carter’s legal troubles.

Kirby Smart, Carter’s coach at Georgia, disagrees with the character critique, though.

“I can speak to the competitive character of the young man,” Smart said Wednesday, via ESPN. “I got to see it every day in practice and every day in games. It shows tremendous committed character to have two injuries that you could have quit playing [but came back]. He could have sat out the rest of the year.

“He wanted to come back. He wanted to win football games. One of the greatest traits Jalen has is his teammates, his brothers. He endears himself to his teammates and wanted to come back for those guys.”

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