INDIANAPOLIS – As expected, Jalen Carter has been one of the main topics of discussion at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.
But the reasoning behind the attention is the exact opposite of what Carter and NFL teams who were potentially interested in the defensive prospect could want.
This leads us to the first takeaway of the day.
1. Jalen Carter connected with fatal crash
Roughly 30 minutes before Carter was scheduled to speak at Podium No. 1 inside the Indianapolis Convention Center, news surfaced on Twitter that the Athens-Clarke County Police Department “secured arrest warrants” for Carter because of his involvement for reckless driving and racing that led to the death of former Georgia Bulldogs teammate Devin Willock and team employee Chandler LeCroy.
Carter, to no one’s surprise, never made it to the podium. Two hours after the news broke, though, Carter went to Twitter to address the two misdemeanor charges against him.
Even though Carter believes he “will be fully exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing,” he may have already tarnished his chances of being a potential draft prospect for some NFL teams – including the Chicago Bears who are in desperate need of a dominant three-tech.
Before the news bombshell on Wednesday, the character concerns seemed to have some validation, especially after talking with certain individuals about Carter.
As mentioned before on several previous CHGO Bears podcasts, Carter was the player I thought the Bears should take with their first-round pick. Now, it feels like he is too much of a risk and a potential liability if drafted.
2. Will Anderson Jr. continues to impress
Unlike Carter, Anderson used the NFL Scouting Combine to further solidify his potential for being the first defensive player drafted. In front of large medium scrum at Podium 1, Anderson answered questions with detail, honesty and passion.
The former Alabama Crimson Tide edge rusher sounded like a man who was prepared for every question – and that’s because he most likely was. Anderson and his agent, Nicole Lynn, went through mock interviews and reviewed facts on NFL coaches to make sure he would be the best position to impress off the field.
During his press conference, Anderson characterized himself as a “versatile player that can do just about anything.” There is a reason why he ended his career with Alabama having 34.5 sacks, 58.5 tackles for loss and 204 total tackles.
Still, he knows there are areas of his game that can use improvement. Some of the areas include working in space and continuing to improve his flexibility and mobility. He also understands that if a team like the Bears were to select him, that would require him to do some learning – which sounded like an opportunity for Anderson.
“Yeah, I feel like football is all about embracing the change,” Anderson said. “You know no matter what type of defense I get in, I’m going to adapt to it and be able to embrace the change and embrace the challenge that is there, and learn the lessons that come with it, and that’s what I’m very excited about. Whatever defense I get in, learing how to operate throughout it, and having fun doing it.”
At 6-foot-4, 243-pounds, he may be more suited to play in a 3-4 front, but “The Teminator” – a nickname Anderson received for his play – doesn’t seem too concerned with the change.
If Bears fans needed another reason to be sold on Anderson, he does fit one criteria that coach Matt Eberflus is looking for in potential players: passion for the game.
“For me, nothing has to motivate me to get ready to go play a football game,” Anderson said. “It’s already in me. That’s how much I love the game. You know the biggest thing for me is jumping up and down with my brothers, celebrating, making plays, that is what football is all about and that’s why I love it, because you get to make those memories with those guys in the locker room, long-lasting relationships with those guys and that’s why I love the game so much.”
The Bears have met with Anderson. Along with the meeting going well, he mentioned the culture stood out to him and he could tell that the team is “onto something special.”
3. Peter Skoronski leaves an impression
The offensive linemen are scheduled to speak to the media on Saturday, March 4. But that doesn’t mean certain prospects won’t be brought up before the weekend.
When I asked Iowa defensive lineman Lukas Van Ness about some of the offensive tackles he faced in the Big Ten, specifically Ohio State’s Paris Johnson and Dawand Jones, the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Hawkeye highlighted another player in the conference.
“Yeah, there is a lot of really good competition in the Big Ten,” Van Ness said. “I think that is what prepared me so well to play at the next level. You know there is a lot of really good guys I went against. Every year we had to go against Northwestern. I played guys like Peter Skoronski. You know I played Peter growing up as well. Played him in high school, trained together at the same facility. I know Peter really well, but I think playing against a high-caliber player it challenges me but it also prepares me to play against really high-talented guys at the next level.”
Right now, it’s wide open with how the Bears can attack this draft. General manager Ryan Poles could sounds open to trading the No. 1 overall pick to get a haul of draft capital.
Maybe that means moving back out of the top five and taking a player like Skoronski to help solidify the offensive line.