Jan 9, 2023; Inglewood, CA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Jalen Carter (88) against the TCU Horned Frogs during the CFP national championship game at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
- Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr is favored to be the first defensive player off the board at the 2023 NFL Draft at odds of +650
- Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter is thought to be the best defensive player in the draft, but is facing legal troubles following a recent arrest
- Carter’s current betting line is +2500 in the NFL Draft odds
On pure talent alone, NFL Draft pundits will tell you that Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Jalen Carter is the best defensive player available in the 2023 NFL Draft class. If you scour through the many mock drafts, you’ll even find some projecting Carter to go first overall in what is a quarterback-rich draft class.
NFL Draft Odds First Defensive Player
|Will Anderson (Alabama)||+650|
|Jalen Carter (Georgia)||+2500|
|Tyree Wilson (Texas Tech)||+5000|
|Will McDonald IV (Iowa State)||+10000|
|Bryan Bresee (Clemson)||+15000|
|Myles Murphy (Clemson)||+15000|
|Devon Witherspoon (Illinois)||+15000|
|Kelee Ringo (Georgia)||+20000|
|Lukas Van Ness (Iowa)||+20000|
Yet it’s Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Will Anderson who’s given the shortest odds of being the first defensive player off the board come draft day. Anderson is given a betting line of +650 in the NFL Draft odds. Carter is at distant odds of +2500.
There’s reason for that. Carter was recently arrested and is facing charges of reckless driving and racing in an incident that resulted in the death of a Georgia teammate and team staff member. Carter was the +750 chalk to be the first defensive player selected prior to his arrest.
It was a Georgia defensive lineman who came off the board first overall last year when Travon Walker went to the Jacksonville Jaguars. In three of the past four NFL Drafts, a defensive lineman has gone as high as #2 overall.
Is Carter Worth the Risk?
According to published reports, Carter is facing accusations of racing his 2021 Jeep Trackhawk against a 2021 Ford Expedition being driven by Georgia recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy on January 15. A crash resulting from that race killed LeCroy and Bulldogs offensive lineman Devin Willock.
Georgia DL Jalen Carter was booked on Wednesday night and was released after posting bond. pic.twitter.com/wVxN7AwbtV
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) March 2, 2023
Carter posted $4,000 bond and was in attendance at the NFL Combine. His arraignment hearing is set for April 18. That’s nine days prior to the April 27 date for the first round of the NFL Draft. He could be facing as much as 12 months in jail. In a social media post, Carter was expressing confidence that he’ll be cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.
There’s no questioning Carter’s talent. Often dealing with double teams that opened up lanes for teammates to make big plays, Carter still finished with 32 tackles. That number included seven tackles for loss. He was an All-American selection.
Anderson Is a Difference Maker
They call Anderson the Terminator and it’s an appropriate handle. Anderson is a guy who makes plays that brings offense to a halt.
In three seasons at Alabama, he was responsible for 34.5 sacks, 62 tackles for loss and a pick-six. In 2022 he won the Bonko Nagurski, Chuck Bednarik, and Lombardi Awards, as well as the Lott Impact Trophy.
Fancy footwork from @AlabamaFTBL LB Will Anderson Jr.
— NFL (@NFL) March 3, 2023
At the NFL Combine, the 6-foot-3, 253-pound Anderson ran an impressive 4.6-second 40 time. His time of 1.61 seconds in the 10-yard split was faster than the 1.64 recorded by longtime NFL star Khalil Mack in 2014.
Any Others Offering Value?
Texas Tech edge rusher Tyree Wilson (+5000) provides a unique blend of length and athleticism. His draft stock is certainly rising in the eyes of NFL player personnel staff.
However, he’s also coming off a season-ending foot injury and wasn’t able to participate in physical testing at the NFL Combine. It’s feasible to believe he could be #2 off the board, but not likely Wilson goes first.
Which Defender Comes Off Draft Board First?
It’s the Chicago Bears who are holding the first overall pick. With Justin Fields already under center, they aren’t in need of help at QB. The Bears will be looking for help on defense. Last season, Chicago finished with an NFL-low 20 sacks.
Carter probably won’t slide as far down the first round as some are predicting, but he won’t be the first defender off the board. Regardless of whether they pick first or opt to trade down, the Bears will be taking the first defensive player. And it will be Anderson.
Football people are making comparisons of Anderson to former Chicago star Mack, and the Bears’ defense hasn’t been the same since they foolishly traded Mack away.
Pick: Will Anderson Jr (+650)
An industry veteran, Bob literally taught the course on the history of sports at Elder College. He has worked as a Sports Columnist for Postmedia, appeared as a guest on several radio stations, was the Vice President of the Society For International Hockey Research in Ontario, and written 25 books.