Eagles analysis

Eagles' top draft pick takes high spot on most important list

Eagles top pick Jalen Carter takes a prime spot on list of most important Eagles in 2023

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Over the next few weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 25 most important Eagles for the 2023 season.

25. Nolan Smith
24. Quez Watkins
23. Kenny Gainwell
22. Marcus Mariota
21. Reed Blankenship
20. Brandon Graham
19. D'Andre Swift
18. Avonte Maddox
17. Cam Jurgens
16. Fletcher Cox
15. Landon Dickerson
14. Jordan Davis
13. Nakobe Dean
12. Jalen Carter

In the last two drafts, the Eagles have landed five players from the University of Georgia. Carter is the most talented one.

Now, it doesn’t always work out that the most talented players have the best careers, but it’s a good push in that direction. And there’s no question that Carter has an incredibly high ceiling in the NFL.

Entering the 2023 NFL Draft, most top draft analysts thought Carter was one of — if not the — best players in this entire class. But he slipped all the way to No. 9 and the Eagles made a modest trade up to snag him.

In the pre-draft process, character concerns stemmed mostly from an incident in January. Carter was eventually given 12 months probation and a $1,000 fine after pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and racing in a crash that killed his teammate Devin Willock and recruiting staff member Chandler Lecroy.

And then there were concerns because Carter was reportedly out of shape for the Georgia pro day shortly after the combine.

But the Eagles did their homework and felt comfortable with the selection.

“We understand that all these players, they need to be developed,” Eagles GM Howie Roseman said. “They're coming into the league at a very young age. They're not finished products. I think all of us when we were 21 and 22 hopefully have grown a lot from that time, and you just really want to get to know the person and what's in their heart. I think when we got to know Jalen, we just felt like here's a kid that he does love football. Obviously, he's a winner. He won in high school, he won in college.

“We feel like we have really good people in this building. We have really good support staff. We have really good players who are good people. We have really good coaches. We felt like it was a good fit for us.”

There was so much talk about Carter’s off-field concerns and his personality in the pre-draft process but if he checks out in those areas, the Eagles got an absolute stud. Even when the Eagles drafted Jordan Davis in the first-round of the 2022 draft, the guy who really popped on tape was his teammate Carter.

Carter began the pre-draft process as Daniel Jeremiah’s No. 1 prospect in the class. He finished sixth but that was mostly for all those reasons we mentioned above. Here’s what the NFL Network’s top draft analyst wrote about Carter:

“On the field, Carter is a difference maker and must be accounted for on every snap. He has the versatility to line up at any position along the defensive front. Against the pass, he has an explosive first step and understands how to work through the edges of blockers. He jars opponents with his initial strike before clearing his hips and closing in on the quarterback. He has the change-of-direction ability of a player 40-to-50 pounds lighter. He can use pure power to run through single blocks and possesses the quickness to split double teams. Against the run, he is firm and strong at the point of attack and has the range to make plays on the perimeter.”

While Carter’s college teammate Nolan Smith finds a soft landing spot as the fourth edge rusher behind three guys who finished with double digit sacks in 2022, Carter will have more pressure on him. He’ll be trying to fill the shoes of Javon Hargrave, who left in free agency on an $84 million deal with the 49ers.

If all goes well at training camp, Carter could be a starter as a rookie next to Davis and six-time Pro Bowler Fletcher Cox in the middle of the Eagles’ defensive line. That’s a lot of expectations for a rookie but Carter was the No. 9 pick for a reason and the Eagles are going to be relying on him from Day 1.

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