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NFL Draft: Eagles trade up to select Georgia DT Jalen Carter at No. 9, take teammate Nolan Smith at 30

The Philadelphia Eagles traded up with the Chicago Bears to select Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter with the No. 9 pick of the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday.

The Bears dropped down one spot to Philadelphia's No. 10 pick (via Saints) and received a fourth-round pick in 2024 in return. They took Tennessee offensive lineman Darnell Wright at No. 10.

Eagles load up on Bulldogs

The Eagles then selected Carter's Bulldogs teammate Nolan Smith with the 30th pick of the draft. The edge rusher projects to line up on the defensive line alongside Carter. Philadelphia has now taken four Georgia defenders in the last two drafts after selecting defensive tackle Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean in 2022.

Rated by Yahoo Sports' Charles McDonald and other analysts as the draft's No. 1 prospect, Carter saw his stock take a hit due to his alleged connection to a fatal car crash in Athens and a disappointing pro day in March. Now he's going to the defending NFC champions.

"It's a lot," Carter told ESPN with tears in his eyes after his selection. "I just want to thank God, thank my mom, thank my family for being out here for me and supporting me. It's time to work. The Eagles got the best player in the draft, for sure."

Carter projects as an elite backfield disrupter

Carter arrived at Georgia having played basketball and lifted weights competitively in high school. He exceeded his four-star prospect status as an elite defender for a team that won consecutive national championships.

He earned All-America honors in 2022 while anchoring the front seven of college football's best defense en route to Georgia's second straight national title. Georgia allowed college football's fewest rushing yards per game in 2022. Carter tallied 18.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks in two-plus seasons as a starter in Athens.

Listed at 6-3 and 314 pounds, Carter projects as a high-level run stopper who can rush the passer and disrupt the backfield thanks to his unique blend of strength and athleticism.

Carter joins NFL with off-field concerns

Carter found trouble shortly after Georgia's season concluded. He was charged on March 1 with misdemeanor reckless driving and racing related to a fatal crash that left offensive lineman Devin Willock and recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy dead. The crash took place on Jan. 15 in the early morning after Georgia's parade in Athens celebrating its national championship.

Carter pleaded no contest to both charges. He was sentenced to 12 months probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, perform 80 hours of community service and complete a driving course.

An elite prospect, Jalen Carter entered the draft surrounded by concern due to his alleged connection to a fatal car crash. (Brett Davis/Reuters)
An elite prospect, Jalen Carter entered the draft surrounded by concern due to his alleged connection to a fatal car crash. (Brett Davis/Reuters) (USA TODAY USPW / reuters)

Police allege that Carter was driving at high speeds while racing a car driven by LeCroy after the group left a strip club in downtown Athens. According to police, the 2021 Ford Expedition containing Willock and driven by LeCroy crashed through two utility poles before colliding with a tree and an SUV, eventually coming to rest next to an Athens apartment building.

Carter was allegedly driving a different car that did not crash. Police say that LeCroy was intoxicated and that she and Carter were "operating their vehicles in a manner consistent with racing shortly after leaving the downtown Athens area at about 2:30 a.m."

Carter's attorney, Kim Stephens, wrote in a statement on the day of his sentencing that Carter "had not been drinking alcohol and was not under the influence of alcohol or any other illegal substance at the time of the wreck."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Carter left the scene of the crash before emergency personnel arrived and returned when a Georgia staffer relayed a request from police for him to do so. Stephens wrote that "Carter never left the scene of the accident without being told that he could leave."

Carter has declined to publicly address the incident, citing the advice of his agent Drew Rosenhaus.

In March, Carter reportedly showed up to Georgia's pro day nine pounds over his listed playing weight, then struggled to complete position drills. He left the NFL scouting combine earlier in March after the warrant was issued for his arrest for his charges in Athens. He left Indianapolis for Athens to address the warrant, then returned to the combine after posting $4,000 bail. He did not participate in any drills.

Despite the off-field concerns, Carter's upside as an elite NFL defender remains high.