Georgia On Their Minds
Birds Land Bulldog Defense Duo In Round 1
Once again, the Philadelphia Eagles leaned into the nation’s best college football team to help replenish their defense.
For the second straight year, the Eagles moved up in the first round for a standout defensive lineman from reigning national champion Georgia, trading up one spot to No. 9 on Thursday for defensive tackle Jalen Carter, who was widely viewed as the draft’s best overall prospect but tumbled because of some off-field issues.
With their second pick of the first round, 30th overall, the Eagles passed on some trade down opportunities to land another Bulldog, edge rusher Nolan Smith, a prospect who profiles similarly to Eagles All-Pro edge defender Haason Reddick.
Carter is a natural three technique, a pass-rushing interior defensive lineman who can also play other spots along the defensive line and is known for his tremendous combination of power, speed, and strength.
Carter, according to Inside The Birds guest analyst Greg Cosell, is a prospect with few, if any, weaknesses.
He should feel comfortable on the inside of the Eagles’ defensive front, next to his former college teammate Jordan Davis, who the Eagles traded up for last year in the first round at 13th overall.
Smith should likewise feel right at home, with two former teammates in front of him and alongside last year’s third-round pick, former Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean.
Theoretically, the Eagles could put out a defensive formation this season with four former Bulldogs – who were all once teammates – in their front six.
The Bulldogs are two-time defending national champions. The Eagles are defending NFC East champs.
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni noted the winning culture that these former Bulldogs are both coming from and have entered.
“There’s a lot of things that they’re going to come into this league that are unfamiliar to them. There’s countless amount of things. So to have a little bit of sense of familiarity with some of the guys that you’ve gone to battle with and won a lot of games with, that’s huge,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “I think that’s a huge part for these guys to have each other.”
Carter’s drop most likely stemmed from his involvement in a Jan. 15 car crash near the Athens campus that killed teammate Devin Willock, 20, and Chandler LeCroy, a 24-year-old team recruiting analyst.
An investigation determined that LeCroy and Carter were driving “in a manner consistent with racing,” which resulted in the fatal collision.
Other character issues were also raised about Carter going into the draft, especially after an iffy Pro Day in which he participated at nine pounds heavier than his NFL Scouting Combine weight, didn’t run the 40-yard dash, and cramped up during a workout that he didn’t finish.
Carter, represented by Drew Rosenhaus, only visited with teams picking in the top 10, one of them being the Eagles, who haven’t typically used early draft picks on players with off-field concerns.
Howie Roseman, the team’s executive vice president of football operations, said they were satisfied with his character after investigating him thoroughly.
“We understand that all these players, they need to be developed. They’re coming into the league at a very young age,” he said. “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.”
In a Zoom with Eagles media, Carter said he didn’t talk about the fatal car wreck with the Eagles during his visits with them, but also said he couldn’t recall all his conversations with teams.
Carter insisted that he loved football, has always been a winner, and loves to be the reason that his football teams wins.
“My general expectations is that whoever drafts me is going to get the best defensive player in the draft,” he said.
Smith, who was potentially in the mix at 1oth overall, was an easy decision for the Eagles at 30th.
Roseman said his phone rang for trade opportunities but the Eagles didn’t want to pass on a defensive end prospect who ran a faster 40 time (4.39) than Jets running back Breece Hall and flaunted a higher vertical jump (41 1/2) than Seahawks Pro Bowl wideout DK Metcalf.
Smith is also known for tremendous character and leadership, although his slender frame (6-3, 238 pounds) likely scared off some other teams.
Roseman said there were no medical concerns with Smith and the Eagles simply benefitted from favoring a prospect more than other teams might.
“I think when you get into the first round, some teams, you pick who you like and you pick what you’re looking for there,” he said. “It would be hard for me to kind of say what other teams are thinking, and I’m sure every team is happy who they got in the first round.”
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the “Inside the Birds” podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
Watch to the “Inside The Birds NFL Draft Recap” on Jalen Carter:
Watch to the “Inside The Birds NFL Draft Recap” on Nolan Smith: