Jaylen Carter could serve as a Rorschach test for general manager Ryan Pauls and this Bears regime.
There is no doubting Carter’s immense, perhaps innate, talent. Carter is a force to be reckoned with in speed and quickness with three techniques. Over the past two seasons at Georgia, Carter has recorded 66 tackles and seven sacks in 27 games.
Two months ago, Carter was the top pick in the 2023 NFL draft, and many believed the Bears could stick with the No. 1 pick to avoid missing out.
But questions about his character, maturity and love of the game caused Carter’s stock to slide. It was a pro day flop that saw Carter plead no contest, two fouls, and nine pounds weighing him down and failing to finish a position drill.
The Bears took Carter for a top-30 visit, hoping the Georgia star would give them all the necessary answers to ease any concerns they may have had about drafting him at No. 9.
There is a chance Carter is still on the board when the Bears go on the clock at No. 9. If this happens, it will put Pauls in a difficult position to find out who is the general manager. And a roster builder.
Does Carter fall into his lap and see it as an opportunity? When the football gods gave head coach Matt Eberfuss a perfect three-technique defense? Is the talent and star potential of the youngster far beyond the questions asked about his love of the game? Does a veteran leader in the defensive line department see Carter as someone who could flourish in Halas Hall, the temple of HITS principles?
Or do politicians see something different? A very dangerous gamble to make? Or could a player at No. 9 help the Bears continue to accumulate the draft capital needed to build into team prospects?
Either way, Carter’s presence at No. 9 is both a blessing and a curse for the Poles and Bears.
“I think, if I were a rebuilding team like the Bears, the best thing would probably be a challenge to not be at No. 9,” the AFC member told NBC Sports Chicago. “Carter is hands down the most talented player in this draft. He fills the biggest hole on the roster. Are they really going to pass up that opportunity even with the red flags if he’s there? But if you take him, you’re making a big bet on the guy’s valuation. It’s a big gamble, but I think there’s a good chance they’ll be there and they’ll have to make a tough choice.
There’s still a good chance Carter goes at No. 5 to the Seattle Seahawks or No. 6 to the Detroit Lions. That might be the best situation for the Poles, as it removes the weight of the decision from the equation.
However, Carter’s slide to No. 9 could bring something else into play.
The Bears are very open to trading starting at No. 9. Their roster still needs a lot of work, and top-60 picks, in this draft and future iterations, are the best for the health of the rebuild. But the Poles don’t go down just for the sake of going down.
The deal must be right.
Carter falling to No. 9 could give them a second swing at a major draft trade.
” if so [Carter] It starts to slide out of the top 10, I think you’ll see a lot of teams at the back of the first round — winning teams with veterans and an established culture — see it as an opportunity to step up and grab it. A staff member told NBC Sports Chicago. If you don’t want to gamble on the player, you can at least use his presence to your advantage.
There are whispers of teams looking to move up to No. 9 for Carter with the draft 10 days away.
In his “Football Morning In America” column, NBC Sports’ Peter King reported that many around the league believe the Seahawks will draft Carter at No. 5. That allows the bears to breathe and make some brutally tough decisions.
Related: Schrock’s Bears Mock Draft 6.5: Getting the best fit at every pick
But King said it’s interesting to hear that the Pittsburgh Steelers are willing to move up from No. 17 to No. 9 to take Carter if available.
In that case, could the Poles trade Carter for the No. 17 pick and No. 32 overall pick the Bears sent to the Steelers for Chase Claypool in November?
As it stands, the Bears only have one pick out of 50. By sliding down eight spots, the prospect of adding one will still have Darnell Wright, left tackle Anton Harrison and possibly edge rusher Nolan Smith. It might be the best scenario for the Bears as far as Carter is concerned.
But you can still pass on the best player in the draft if the “red flags” look like he’s no older than 21 years old, who has shown poor judgment at times but has no issues. Behavior?
If the Bears pass on him and he’s great, that’s an early blemish on Paul’s top. But if they push their chips on Carter and things fall apart, the rebuilding timeline could be tough.
What happens with Carter on draft night will be the draft’s most intriguing subplot. Depending on what they see in Carter and what they build in Halas Hall, it could change everything in a big way for the Bears.
It can be a blessing. One that provides Poles with a key position of birth talent or a ticket to another business trip. But it also asks him to make a tough choice.
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