Poles shares thoughts on drafting player like Jalen Carter


The NFL draft is always filled with big questions, opportunities and forks in the road, and the Bears could face all three at once with their No. 9 overall pick. If Jalen Carter is still on the board when Ryan Poles is on the clock, the Bears will have to make a serious decision: do they strike on the opportunity to add one of the most talented players in the draft? Or do they pass because of the numerous red flags surrounding him?

Poles spoke with the media at the NFL owners meetings on Monday and shed some light on the internal decision making that would go into whether or not the Bears would be comfortable selecting a player with character or immaturity concerns, like Carter.

“We’re at a better place (to draft a player with character concerns),” Poles said via Adam Hoge. “I think taking the time here to get to know the guys in the locker room and understanding the maturity level there. But at the same time we also want to be careful, because we’re still young and impressionable. So I think making sure that we continue to bring a good core group in is important. Maybe down the road you want to take a risk like that, I think the locker room begins to run itself so you can take some chances. But right now we need both, we need talent, but at the same time I’m still going to be a little bit cautious of bringing in the wrong type of person.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Carter with just under one month until the draft begins.

Carter was a consensus top-five pick earlier this offseason, but there were questions about his motor and his passion for football. Concerns became much more serious earlier this month when he was arrested and charged with reckless driving and racingー two misdemeanorsー in connection with a car crash that left a Georgia Bulldogs teammate and a Georgia staffer dead. Carter pled no contest to the charges and was sentenced to one year of probation, a $1,000 fine, 80 hours of community service, plus taking a state-sanctioned driving course. Then, Carter showed up to his Pro Day significantly heavier than when he was weighed at the NFL Combine, and was visibly winded going through his drills. He needed to cut short his already lightened Pro Day work load.

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The Bears had an unbelievable opportunity to reshape the future of their organization when they secured the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft. They’ve already taken that pick and turned it into DJ Moore, the No. 9 overall picks, plus several other draft picks when they agreed to their blockbuster deal with the Panthers. Moore immediately helps the offense. But if the Bears want to maximize the opportunity for sustained success, they need to hit with that No. 9 pick. Carter could be the best player to come out of the 2023 class, but the off-the-field concerns could be too risky for the Bears as they continue to build their foundation.

Some team will take a chance on Carter in the first round. He’s still immensely talented. Looking solely on the field, he can raise the profile of nearly every defensive line in the league. But if you take Poles’ comments at face value, it appears unlikely that it will be for the Bears.

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