Top NFL prospect Jalen Carter posts bond, returns to combine

AP photo by Darron Cummings / Defensive lineman Jalen Carter, who starred at Georgia, watches as fellow draft prospects warm up on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium during the NFL scouting combine Thursday in Indianapolis.

Former University of Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter returned to the NFL scouting combine Thursday, after turning himself in to Athens police Wednesday night and posting a combined bond of $4,000 on charges of reckless driving and racing in relation to a fatal crash that killed a teammate and Bulldogs staff member.

Carter, originally projected as one of the top players in next month's NFL draft, could lose millions of dollars if he drops from the top of the first round because of his alleged connection to the Jan. 15 crash that killed offensive lineman Devin Willock and recruiting staff member Chandler LeCroy.

Police allege in an arrest warrant that Carter was racing his 2021 Jeep Trackhawk against the 2021 Ford Expedition driven by LeCroy, 24, at the time of the crash. Willock, 21, was a passenger in the SUV driven by LeCroy.

Carter turned himself in at 11:33 p.m. and was released 16 minutes later, according to Athens-Clarke County jail records. He posted bond of $2,500 on the racing charge and $1,500 on the reckless driving charge. Both are misdemeanors.

Carter issued a statement on Twitter after the warrant was made public Wednesday, saying he intends "to make certain that the complete and accurate truth is presented. There is no question in my mind that when all of the facts are known that I will be fully exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing."

The combine in Indianapolis has been abuzz with talk of Carter's charges.

"All I can do is pray for him," said defensive back Christopher Smith, who along with Carter helped lead the Bulldogs to back-to-back national championships the past two seasons.

NFL teams will be seeking more information.

"We'll track that, obviously," Washington Commanders general manager Martin Mayhew said Wednesday. "We have a company we work with on background investigations. We'll work with that company. We have very thorough analysis of these guys' background, especially criminal activity or criminal behavior or things like that. I don't know what happened with him. I'm not saying he did anything wrong. But we'll know what happened with him. We'll find out."

Carter has been projected to be drafted as high as No. 1. In 2022, Georgia defensive end Travon Walker received a $41.65 million contract from the Jacksonville Jaguars as the top overall pick. The No. 10 pick, Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson, signed a $22.6 million deal with the New York Jets. The No. 20 pick, University of Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett, landed a $15.3 million contract from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I think the character is really important, but I think you have to go into it with the understanding these are typically teenage kids," Mayhew said. "If they made a mistake as a teenager and we condemn every single guy that did that, that's on us. You've got to weigh everything and evaluate everything in the whole person, and that's the way I look at it."

Carter will turn 22 next month.

"I don't know all the details of it," Mayhew added. "It certainly is a challenge for him and something that needs to be explained — thoroughly explained — and something that needs to be investigated in terms of is this the first time it has happened."

As much as the situation could impact Carter's professional future, the loss of life in the crash overshadows it all, Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said.

"First of all, that was a horrible tragedy," he said. "Let me say that. Secondly, I don't know a whole lot about the situation. ... I wouldn't want to comment on the specifics about how that would affect somebody's draft status, because there's a lot more information and I'm not privy to that. I might be by the time the draft rolls around.

"It was a horrible thing that happened down there and I feel horrible for the families, the parents involved. I have children, and it's a horrible thing. That's what I'd say about that."

The crash occurred just hours after the Bulldogs celebrated repeating as College Football Playoff champions with a parade that was followed by a ceremony at Sanford Stadium.

According to the arrest warrant, LeCroy and Carter were operating their vehicles "in a manner consistent with racing" after leaving downtown Athens at about 2:30 a.m. The warrant says evidence shows the vehicles switched lanes, drove in the center turn lane, drove in opposite lanes, overtook other motorists and sped "in an apparent attempt to outdistance each other."