According to a report from Justin Rogers of the Detroit News, the Detroit Lions will be bringing in Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter for a pre-draft visit.
Carter represents one of the bigger enigmas of the 2023 NFL Draft. There is little doubt his talent on the field is worthy of the sixth overall pick. In fact, there was early talk about Carter being the top talent in this entire draft class. And with the Lions having a somewhat pressing need at defensive tackle, Carter would be the perfect match of talent and need for Detroit.
However, there are off-field questions Carter has to answer before a team is going to be willing to spend high draft capital investing in his future. Carter was involved in an alleged street racing incident that eventually ended in the death of two people. Carter eventually pled no contest to two misdemeanor charges and will serve 12 months probation.
Shortly following that, Carter drew heavy criticism for his performance at Georgia’s Pro Day. Reports from those on hand suggest Carter was not well conditioned and could not even finish some of the drills laid out for him.
At this week’s owners meetings, Lions general manager Brad Holmes was asked about how important player character was in their evaluation, and he did not mince words.
“You’ve been hearing me preach intangible since Day 1, and I’m a firm believer still that intangibles are the separators of success.” Later adding, “talent is one thing, but the intangible piece, the character piece, those are components.”
But Carter’s two biggest question marks are completely different concerns. While not talking directly about Carter, Holmes mentioned that they are dealing with young players, and inexperienced men are going to make mistakes. Obviously, Carter’s off-field mistake involved extremely serious consequences and that matters. But the tougher hurdle Carter is going to have to clear for the Lions is the questionable pro day performance, because football character is a separate manner for Detroit, and that does not seem negotiable for Holmes.
“Football character is probably the biggest thing in terms of your passion for the game, your mental toughness, leadership, work ethic, accountability,” Holmes said.
There are plenty of potential rationales for Carter’s pro day performance, and that’s why the Lions are doing their homework on him. A visit to the facility will allow them to vet Carter as a player and as a person, and all of that is critical to the Lions’ process when evaluating a player—whether there are character concerns or not.
“Talent’s easy to find. It is,” Holmes said. “I always say from an evaluation standpoint, talent—I’m very confident in myself as an evaluator, but I have a great staff and we have great coaches that are good evaluators. We have so many people looking at the coherent stuff you see on tape, but you’ve got to do your just due on the intangible piece.”
And Holmes is very confident in the team’s process of vetting those intangible pieces.
“We’re very thorough when it comes to that. There is no stone unturned, and we’re very thorough in that.”