Sean Pendergast

Top Draft Prospect Jalen Carter Charged With Reckless Driving and Racing on Day of NFL Combine

Jalen Carter has to deal with more than his football abilities now.
Jalen Carter has to deal with more than his football abilities now. Screenshot
As the Houston Texans prepare for the 2023 NFL Draft, with the combine for top prospects in Indianapolis this week, Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter sits as one of the most pivotal prospects in determining what this draft will look like for Houston. Carter is arguably the top player in this draft, and figures prominently either as a future Texan or the pick for Chicago at the top of the draft, which would leave QB Bryce Young for the Texans.

Well, Carter's draft journey became suddenly jagged on Wednesday morning, as he was charged with reckless driving and racing in connection with a crash that killed a teammate and a Georgia recruiting staff member back in January, just days after the Bulldogs won their second consecutive national championship.

The Athens-Clarke County Police Department issued an arrest warrant, which alleges Carter was racing his 2021 Jeep Trackhawk against the 2021 Ford Expedition driven by the staffer, Chandler LeCroy, which led to the wreck. Devin Willock, who was an offensive lineman for Georgia, was also killed in the crash. The two charges against Carter are both misdemeanors.

This all came down on Wednesday morning, the day on which Carter was scheduled to speak to reporters, but Carter instead returned home to Georgia and issued the following statement:
Okay, obviously any accident that involves two people dying, I will preface with the acknowledgment that human life is the most important thing. We know this. That said, there are draft ramifications from this news that will likely continue to be unpacked over the next several days. Here are a few thoughts on this pretty shocking development:

If Jalen Carter was indeed racing his jeep at over 100 MPH, he is insanely dumb
The statement from the authorities provides details on just how dangerous an activity these two vehicles were involved in back on January 15:
If Jalen Carter is out endangering other people's lives by weaving into oncoming traffic at over 100 miles per hour, he is dangerous and dumb. If he is out doing it a month before the NFL Draft combine, when he is essentially sitting on a multimillion dollar lottery ticket, he is ridiculously, mind mumblingly stupid, and if the allegations are true, that would be enough for me to remove him from my draft board, if I were the Texans.

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart's statement doesn't exactly pop for Jalen Carter
If you're wondering about the possibility of "total exoneration" for Carter, for what it's worth, here was Smart's statement about today's news:
Not exactly a statement where it seems as if someone involved will be "fully exonerated," but maybe I'm reading too much into things.

What happens now with Carter, in terms fo the draft?
There's a good chance we are only at the very beginning fo what could be a long saga, depending on what else the police learn about this incident and how exactly Carter was involved before, during, and after. The statement above describing Carter's involvement in the accident says nothing about where he was after the accident occurred. Could he be charged with a failure to administer aid or some other transgression that goes beyond a misdemeanor?

As for the draft, if it were tomorrow, I can't imagine a team would be ready to use the first pick in the draft on Carter, so if Carter remains in limbo for a while, or the details that come out scare teams off, this may actually make the Chicago Bears more inclined to draft the other elite defensive player in this draft, Alabama's Will Anderson, and not mess around with trading the pick. This would be good for the Texans, who could then select Alabama QB Bryce Young without having to worry about trading up to the first pick, or worry about getting leapfrogged by a team who wants Young.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast