NFL Draft 2023: Who Will Be the First Linebackers/Defensive Linemen Taken?
There was a time Georgia’s Jalen Carter was a sure-thing top five pick and in contention to go No. 1 overall in this year’s NFL Draft.
But Carter’s on-field dominance has been overshadowed by character concerns and a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving and racing.
How have the best NFL betting sites reacted?
Jalen Carter's Off-Field Incident Looming
Carter was linked to a wreck that killed Georgia teammate Devin Willock and recruiting analyst Chandler LeCroy. He later pleaded no contest and took a plea deal of 12 months probation, a $1,000 fine, 80 hours of community service and had to complete a driving course.
In addition to the off-the-field concerns, questions remain about his work ethic. Former Minnesota Vikings General Manager Chris Spielman noted Carter was taking plays off during the season.
“One obvious issue on tape is he doesn’t play hard every snap,” Spielman said on The 33rd Team. “Teams are also likely asking themselves what type of guy he is off the field. How many hours of manpower and how many resources are teams going to expend to ensure Carter will be the player seen on tape?”
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Carter didn’t help his case when he showed up nine pounds overweight to his pro day workout and could not finish all the drills.
Despite all the concerns, there is still no doubting his production at Georgia. Carter led all SEC interior defenders with 32 quarterback pressures and had a 92.3 grade from Pro Football Focus despite dealing with injuries throughout the 2022 season. The 6-foot-3, 314-pound Carter can eat up double teams and clog lanes in offense’s run games, allowing his teammates to clean up and make tackles.
ESPN Draft analyst Mel Kikper Jr. still believes Carter is the top prospect in the draft.
“As time goes by, it’s more so now as you get to late April what he did on the field,” Kiper said. “He was the best player in college football when he was healthy. A dominant, interior presence, which is what teams need, particularly Seattle.
“Stopping the run was a huge issue. They were gashed and destroyed against the run last year. They had no run defense whatsoever. So, if you are Seattle picking at five, you can get the No. 1 player who fills a key positional need for you, you can understand why that’s the projection there.”
Jalen Carter Betting Odds
Carter believes he is going in the Top 10 since he has only visited teams with a first-round pick in that range. DraftKings Sportsbook isn’t as optimistic on his odds, listing Carter’s Over-Under draft prop at 6.5 with the over at -190 and the under at +140.
The reporting on where Carter has been all over the place, with Peter King and Tony Pauline saying Carter will be targeted by the Seahawks, reiterating what Kiper said, and others such as Peter Schrager and Daniel Jeremiah insisting Carter will fall further down the board.
There seems to be a disagreement on Jalen Carter's draft stock...— Connor Allen (@ConnorAllenNFL) April 24, 2023
Peter Shrager: Jalen Carter won't fall out of the top 6
Daniel Jeremiah: "Teams I’ve talked to do not expect Seattle to pick Carter."
Tony Pauline: "Belief around the league that the #Seahawks will target Jalen…
Given that some reports say Seattle is in play, Carter going No. 5 at FanDuel Sportsbook could be worth looking at a longer odds play for the draft. Carter is currently +550 to get drafted at that spot.
Jack Campbell, Drew Sanders Favored to Move Up
You’d be hard-pressed to see many mock drafts with more than one linebacker going in the first round. CBS and NFL.com have just one inside linebacker going in the first round, while ESPN doesn’t have any.
Regarding the betting odds, it’s down to three players who could be the first linebacker selected in the draft. Iowa’s Jack Campbell is the favorite at DraftKings at +100, Arkansas’ Drew Sanders is second at +110 and Clemson’s Trenton Simpson is third at +380.
NFL.com has Simpson going at No. 26 to the Cowboys after being a third-team All-ACC selection because of his 72 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 12 starts. Simpson is one of the fastest players in the draft, recording the second-fastest 40-yard dash time of any linebacker at 4.43 seconds.
CBS’ latest mock draft has the Cowboys taking Campbell, who was the Butkus Award winner in 2022, which is given to the best linebacker in Division I college football. Scouts say Campbell makes up for his average athleticism with his ability to dissect plays and react quickly.
Sanders has impressive size and mobility for a 6-4, 235-pound linebacker. He recorded 11 sacks which means he can rush off the edge in addition to playing inside and finished with 39 total pressures as a blitzer alone in 2022.
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