General manager Terry Fontenot has been setting his draft board in the last few weeks, thanks in part to the recent completion of the NFL Combine and the start of free agency. The team has hit on multiple needs early in free agency, landing players like Jessie Bates, Jonnu Smith and David Onyemata while retaining both Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary.
It has been a good start and helps Fontenot reach his goal of grabbing the best players available in the draft. Hitting needs in free agency gives the Falcons the most flexibility to grab the top player available.
Per Josh Kendall of The Athletic, that best player won’t be UGA defensive tackle Jalen Carter. Kendall, who has been measured in his reporting, goes so far to say it is a “fact” that Carter won’t land with Atlanta.
It once seemed a pipe dream that Carter would fall to Atlanta at No. 8. It now looks likely, and it looks equally as likely that the Falcons will let him go right by if he does. Atlanta fans need to start getting their minds wrapped around the fact that Carter is not coming to Flowery Branch.
If true, that would indeed a huge fall for Carter, once discussed as the top player of the draft. He was often the most dominant linemen for the best defense in college last year, with a mix of both on-field performance and athletic traits at a premium position — he should be in the running for 1st overall since helping to win the national championship.
What’s changed? His very serious legal issues aside to which he pleaded no contest and will reportedly not see jail time, Carter had an extremely disappointing pro day where, among other things, he showed up out of shape. That is certain to do more than just raise eyebrows during the most important interview process of his life. Per Kendall, the concern around the league is Carter’s work ethic.
A common pre-draft concern with defensive lineman, particularly the hefty tackles, is work ethic. It is tough work playing in the middle, and making the transition to more snaps and more games in the pros is one that lots of players can’t effectively make. Those players frequently struggle to stay in shape, are rumored to take off snaps, and fail to reach their potential. Albert Haynesworth wasn’t the first but he sure is the most popular of recent memory.
If the Falcons are passing on Carter, and if rumors are true the team is out on quarterbacks, the team could be looking at players like RB Bijan Robinson, CB Christian Gonzalez, OL Peter Skoronski, and EDGEs Tyree Wilson and Lukas Van Ness.