Detroit Lions to host Georgia’s Jalen Carter, still evaluating choices with No. 6 pick

Detroit Free Press

PHOENIX – The Detroit Lions will host Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, one of the most polarizing prospects in this year’s NFL draft, on a top-30 pre-draft visit next month.

Carter is widely considered one of the most talented players in the draft, but his stock has fallen in recent months due to questions about his work ethic and other character concerns.

Carter pleaded no contest to misdemeanor counts of reckless driving and racing in connection with a Jan. 15 accident that killed one of his teammates and a Georgia football staffer. He reportedly showed up 9 pounds overweight to his pro day, then could not finish drills in front of scouts. And ESPN analyst Todd McShay referenced more character concerns, specifically his locker room demeanor, back in December when Carter was considered the possible first overall pick.

The Chicago Bears have since traded out of the No. 1 pick, and quarterbacks are now expected to go 1-2 to the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans, while Carter’s draft range remains a mystery.

The Arizona Cardinals at No. 3 are projected to be the first team to draft a position other than quarterback. The Seattle Seahawks at No. 5 are considered a possible landing spot for Carter. The Lions, owners of the sixth and 18th picks in the first round, need an inside pass rusher to complete their defensive line. And some think Carter could fall out of the top 10.

“I think you have to do your due diligence and it’s every team’s going to have to look into everything that was going on leading up to this year, any concerns,” ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said in a teleconference earlier this month. “Todd McShay brought up the character concerns before anything happened with the tragedy of the accident there. You think about the football player, just the pure football player. Going into the year, where he was, No. 1 on the board. He had the ankle and knee injury in September, then he comes back and he plays really well and ends up still maintaining that No. 1 spot. So for pure football ability, he’s the No. 1 player in the draft.”

Birkett:Mounting character concerns mean Detroit Lions pass on Jalen Carter — for now — in mock draft

Lions general manager Brad Holmes said Monday at the NFL’s annual spring meeting the team leaves “no stone unturned” when it comes to evaluating character risks in the draft.

Asked specifically about Carter, Holmes said he would have more clarity on his evaluation once the Lions finish their position-by-position draft meetings later this spring.

“Honestly, you’ve heard me preach intangibles since Day 1, and I’m a firm believer still that intangibles are the separators of success,” Holmes said. “You look at an Amon-Ra St. Brown, he’s a talented player, but his intangibles are as good as it gets and that’s why he has the success that he has. And there’s countless other players I could name to rattle off, but talent is one thing while the intangible piece, the character piece, are components. But it doesn’t make up the whole picture and the totality of the evaluation.”

Holmes did not attend Georgia pro day, where Carter huffed his way through position drills, due to scheduling conflicts – the Bulldogs workout coincided with the first day of free agency – but the Lions GM was on hand last week to watch the pro day workout of another player in contention to be the first defensive player drafted, Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson Jr.

“Obviously, (they have) very talented prospects, but I wasn’t there just to see one guy,” Holmes said. “There were multiple players that it was good to get up close on, get an eye. Obviously, I saw them live when they played Texas early in the season, but just to get a refresh on those guys was good to get.”

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As for how much the Lions have whittled down their draft board, Holmes said he’s not sure yet who will be in the pool of players the Lions will be picking from at six. Last year at this time, Holmes said there were “multiple players at multiple positions that if we turn the card in today we could turn that card in today and sleep well at night.”

“I can’t say that’s the case right now, just being honest,” Holmes said. “There’s still more work to do. We’ve already done a lot of work, but like I talked about the process, we just kind of surrender the results to that, and we’re still going through the process. Still more work to do. We’ll make sure we’ll get to the point where we’ll make the best decision to add the best football player for us.”

Tracking the Lions’ pre-draft visits

These players are reported or confirmed to have taken pre-draft visits to Detroit: OG Chandler Zavala, NC State; OL Antonio Mafi, UCLA; QB Adrian Martinez, Kansas State; DE B.J. Thompson, Stephen F. Austin.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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