The 2022 NFL Draft officially concluded on Saturday, meaning that social media was littered with early 2023 mock drafts from analysts on Sunday morning.
Fans shouldn’t put much stock in these early mocks, as these players still have an entire season ahead of themselves. Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler was touted as the potential 2022 No. 1 pick last spring; after a disappointing season in Norman, Rattler wasn’t even on the NFL’s radar and had to transfer to South Carolina.
Some players in these mocks will fall due to poor performance, while others will emerge and rise to the top after breakout campaigns. However, it is still noteworthy to see how the NFL views the next crop of elite talent scheduled to enter their ranks.
Upon first glance, it appears Georgia will continue their 2021 ways and send multiple players into the first round. The Bulldogs set the draft record for most defenders selected from one school in the first round of the same draft, with five total.
There is one Bulldog who consistently sits atop these mock drafts. Since the back half of his freshman season, defensive tackle Jalen Carter has been one of Georgia’s most consistent players and projects as a top-5 selection in the 2023 draft.
Georgia had three defensive linemen drafted in the first round, including edge rusher Travon Walker, who went No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, one sentiment echoed across the scouting world in the pre-draft process: the best player on that 2021 front wasn’t even draft eligible.
Scouts are heaping praise on Carter, and while the hype is warranted, he can’t get complacent. The NFL will carefully monitor how he handles the attention; after all, playing defensive tackle at the next level takes an incredibly strong will.
Next season, he will shoulder a massive workload as defenses begin to structure their pass sets to counteract Carter’s impact. That attention should make him a better player in the long run, but this offseason will be crucial in his development.
His development starts with continuing to improve his conditioning. While he plays with maximum effort at all times, Carter looked visibly gassed several times throughout his freshman season.
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That improved during his sophomore season, but he still has room to grow. He no longer has defensive tackles Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt alongside him, meaning Carter should see an uptick in his snap count.
Carter also needs to learn how to play a leading role on a defensive front. It’s easy to play sound gap control and read keys when surrounded by first-round talent; now, Carter has to do those things while commanding more attention.
While he does have areas to improve, it’s easy to understand why the NFL loves Carter. He has the prototypical size and athletic profile, which suggest that he can play in multiple alignments at the next level, and his character evaluation matches the on-field talent.
Head coach Kirby Smart understands that he has a budding superstar on his hands and issued a public challenge to Carter, underscoring that he wanted Carter to become a leader off the field and continue to improve his game.
“I think he has taken a role in Tray’s room of trying to set an example for others. Devonte and Jordan, and really Travon in that same room, did as fine of a job, along with Julian. They set a standard of work ethic, and you want whoever, Jalen, Zion, to control that.”
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