Could Talented but Problematic Jalen Carter Take a Randy Moss-like Fall to Vikings?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Next Tuesday, April 18, will be the 25th anniversary of my favorite draft as Vikings GM when we selected Randy Moss at No. 21 in the first round after he fell from a top-five talent due to character concerns. I’m going to tell the story of how that draft unfolded next week, but I’m reminded of Moss’ draft process as I follow the self-inflicted difficulties of Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter during the current pre-draft period.

Many NFL GMs and scouts consider Carter the most talented player in the draft, which is now two weeks away. But he has significantly damaged his draft stock with a series of bad decisions over the past few months.

Could Talented but Problematic Jalen Carter Take a Randy Moss-like Fall to Vikings?

There already was concern about Carter’s injury history following his junior year, in which an ankle injury hobbled him much of last season and a knee injury sidelined him for nearly a month. He only produced 32 tackles and three sacks in 2022. 

Could Talented
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports.

Then his off-field troubles began in earnest with the January street racing accident that resulted in two deaths, with the Athens, Georgia police believing heavy drinking was a major factor. There’s no doubt an incident such as this leads NFL teams to question whether a player has a drinking problem and is making bad decisions due to immaturity. 

Carter initially said he would be “fully exonerated” but then pleaded no contest to charges of reckless driving and racing and was sentenced to 12 months of probation, 80 hours of community service, and a mandatory defensive driving course. 

He had to leave the NFL Combine to face the charges in Athens, and two weeks later, his Georgia Pro Day was a fiasco as he was nine pounds overweight and couldn’t finish the drills.  

Now is the time when draft prospects visit NFL teams for physical re-checks, additional workouts, and more interviews with team officials. Carter compounded his problems and poor image with most NFL GMs by having his agent Drew Rosenhaus announce that Carter is only willing to visit teams in the top 10 of the April 27 draft.

It’s just the latest misstep for a player with a problematic image. He continues to make mistakes that are causing his draft stock to very possibly drop out of what once looked to be a sure-fire top-five spot and perhaps top three.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

I think it’s a very poor decision for Carter to have Rosenhaus—who should know better as a long-time agent—restrict teams outside the top 10 from having access to him at this critical juncture. It’s quite possible such a team would consider trading up for Carter, but that probably wouldn’t happen without an in-person meeting to gain more insight into his personality and character issues.

Carter also should be trying to show as many teams as possible that he’s fully healthy and in better condition than at his Pro Day. It’s been reported that several teams have taken him off their draft boards due to the many red flags against him that included being cited for three previous traffic violations last fall (one of which involved speeding at 89 miles per hour in a 45 mph zone in Athens). 

Part of my role with the agent firm IFA is to talk with our rookies about never doing anything to shine a negative light on themselves through an off-the-field incident that can cause their draft stock to drop. I add that they really need to be model citizens and highly motivated players throughout their NFL careers as there’s way too much at stake financially, image-wise, for endorsement opportunities, and in some cases, it can be life-threatening, as in Carter’s street-racing.

Many players have lowered their draft stock with off-field incidents pre-draft. There was offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil before the 2016 draft when the video surfaced of Tunsil wearing a gas mask and smoking a substance from a bong. Tunsil had other issues, including a domestic violence charge from an incident with his stepfather. He fell from an expected top-three pick to No. 13 overall by Miami, costing him over $13 million in his rookie deal.

Dak Prescott’s pre-draft DUI contributed to a drop to the fourth round in the 2016 draft before the Cowboys picked him. Warren Sapp fell from a potential top-five pick to 12th overall by the Bucs in 1995 due to reports of multiple alleged failed drug tests. 

In Moss’ situation, as I will relate next week, the character issues stemmed from things that happened in high school and early college. They caused him to wind up at smaller-school Marshall. But we had a scout in Conrad Cardano who had coached with the Marshall coaches, and they spoke highly of Moss to Cardano regarding his on and off-the-field actions during his Marshall years, so we drafted him with great results.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

Could Carter take a precipitous drop on draft day all the way down to the Vikings at No. 23? I never thought Moss would make it to us at No. 21, but it happened. I believe Carter probably will still be a top-10 pick, but he clearly has not helped his cause and is creating more red flags by restricting the teams he is talking with on top of the already present character questions.

If Carter makes it to No. 21, Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Coach Kevin O’Connell would likely pick him as a bargain at that spot, and there is a need at defensive tackle after Dalvin Tomlinson left in free agency for Cleveland. In that unlikely scenario, the Vikings will need a veteran defensive front-seven player such as Danielle Hunter or Harrison Phillips mentor Jalen Carter as we had Cris Carter take on that role with Randy Moss.   

Jalen Carter’s poor decision-making will likely cost him significant money on his rookie deal. Dropping from third overall to No. 10 would result in a loss of over $14 million over four years, including $10-11 million less in signing bonus. Even if Seattle takes him at No. 5, that’s an estimated $3.3 million less in his first four years than if Arizona (or another team trading up) picked him No. 3 overall.

It’s just the latest case of a rookie not understanding what’s at stake as they enter the real world of the NFL.

Around the NFL Observations: 

1. Vikings cornerback and special teams ace Kris Boyd has signed a one-year deal in free agency with the Cardinals. He’s the latest corner to depart after Patrick Peterson (to the Steelers) and Duke Shelley (to the Raiders) left in free agency, and Cam Dantzler was released. Chandon Sullivan also has not been re-signed by the Vikings, who are counting on free agent addition Byron Murphy along with Andrew Booth Jr. and Akayleb Evans, to successfully return from injuries that ended their rookie seasons early. 

Minnesota also is likely to pick a corner in the first round from a talented draft class and perhaps add a corner in the late rounds and/or from the priority college free agent group post-draft. 

2. Odell Beckham Jr. has signed a one-year, $15 million contract (plus $3 million in potential incentives) with Baltimore. It seems a bit pricey for a 30-year-old player who did not play last season after sustaining an ACL injury in the Super Bowl (in the 2021 postseason with the Rams). But the Ravens appear to be trying to extend an olive branch to their disgruntled quarterback Lamar Jackson who has been hit with the franchise tag after he and the team have not reached an agreement on a long-term deal. 

Jackson reportedly helped recruit OBJ to Baltimore, so despite his request to be traded, Jackson seemingly plans to be the Ravens’ QB in 2023 with Beckham as a key receiving target. Beckham did have 21 catches for 288 yards and 2 TDs in that 2021 playoff run for the Rams, so he can still be a big contributor if he can stay healthy (which is the same story for the recently injury-prone Jackson, who has missed 11 games over the past two seasons including the playoff loss in Cincinnati this past January).   

Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings GM, former Tennessee Titans President and was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the NFL agent group IFA based in Minneapolis and does other sports consulting and media work along with college/corporate speaking. Follow him and direct message him on Twitter– @jeffdiamondnfl