Some analysts don’t view Fresno State Bulldogs product Derek Carr as a lock for the first round, but I think Carr deserves to be a top-ten selection in this year’s draft class. Carr has gained some more momentum during the pre-draft process due to poor performances by most of the other Senior Bowl QBs, positive reports regarding how teams view him, positive reports backing up his leadership and football acumen, and an excellent pro day in which he showcased both velocity and accuracy on his throws. There is no doubt in my mind that Carr has all the physical tools to succeed in the NFL, and I also think it’s clear he has the mental tools and coachability, too.
Let’s take a brief look at some stats on Carr:
- Completed 68.9% of his passes last year with an NCAA-leading 5,083 yards and 50 touchdowns
- Averaged 7.7 yards per attempt and threw just eight interceptions
- Per Second Round Stats, Carr had the lowest completion percentage among the “big four” QBs in this class on third downs, easily the lowest completion percentage when under pressure, and the lowest completion percentage on deep passes (over 20 yards).
- Incredible arm talent, and his cannon is a howitzer for sure. Carr has the strongest arm of any quarterback in this class, and his arm talent is reminiscent of Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler, with the former QB being a great comparison for Carr.
- Solid decision-maker who doesn’t turn the ball over often, but he did have more of his passes defensed than he would have liked.
- Top-notch leadership, best seen in how he led Fresno State to a win over Boise State early in the season.
- Probably has the 2nd-highest football IQ among QBs in this class, with only Teddy Bridgewater better in this regard. Wows people with his knowledge when he speaks.
- As evidenced by his 40 time, he has very good athleticism and speed that often gets underrated. He was able to use his speed to get out of trouble and pick up consistent yardage on designed draw plays up the middle.
- No QB in this class had less talent around him, especially on the offensive line. Carr carried this team on his back.
- Great at taking calculated risks
- Sees WRs making their breaks, excellent at placing ball on the sidelines (especially on jump balls when Davante Adams was one-on-one).
- Can make all the throws with his velocity, throws it to all parts of the field.
- Coachable, can transition into different schemes and work on finer points of his game like footwork.
- Works at his best on intermediate throws.
- Terrible footwork, as he throws from a very unstable base. It’s incredible watching how hard he throws the ball, considering how he doesn’t drive the ball enough. Needs to use his torso better, but his technique from the hip-up is excellent.
- Struggles significantly under pressure, which puts him at a severe disadvantage when comparing him to a poised QB prospect like Blake Bortles. Poor blocking and a spread offense caused him to be under duress frequently against better teams, but he still needs to work hard at improving his pocket presence, especially considering how athletic he is.
- Can manipulate defenses with his eyes, but he doesn’t do this consistently enough (part of that is, of course, since he played in a spread offense). He doesn’t stare down targets as much as Bortles (you can basically call where Bortles is going to throw just by looking at his eyes/first read), but he’s definitely no Bridgewater at this either.
- Threw an awful lot of screens last season, advanced stats don’t back up the fact that he should be an excellent deep thrower with his velocity.
- Simply put, Carr needs to be more consistent with his accuracy and decision-making.
- Did not play against enough tough competition, had a much weaker schedule than Bortles and Bridgewater, who sometimes get knocked for playing in the AAC.
- Not exactly a “raw” QB, but he has his fair share of question marks.
The only quarterback in this draft class worth betting a huge amount on as a solid starter is Teddy Bridgewater, who has always been my top-rated quarterback in the class. Over the past few months, I’ve wrestled with Derek Carr and Blake Bortles and #2, and I honestly believe Carr is just a hair better than Bortles. It’s almost a tie, but Carr is a more advanced quarterback than Bortles. Even though he doesn’t have better pocket presence, Carr has basically everything Bortles does. Carr has off-the-charts intangibles, hits intermediate routes at a top rate, has an even better arm than Bortles, and he is very athletic in his own right. I believe the spread offense at Fresno State was more about helping the skill position players than helping the quarterback, because Carr looks like a better pro-style QB.
He could struggle in his first season, but I think he’ll end up blossoming. He has the ability to learn quickly, and he’s played in different schemes during his college career, including a pro-style scheme. It’s important to pass over the gaudy statistics and recognize the fact that Carr will need to adjust to much better competition in the NFL, but it’s also important not to overlook his combination of intangibles and physical tools. If he can be adequately coached and become a more consistent decision-maker and accurate QB, then he should have a very good career in the NFL. Everything is there for Carr to succeed, and I think the Cleveland Browns or Jacksonville Jaguars could end up with him in 2014. Both teams have the coaching (Kyle Shanahan and Dowell Loggains in Cleveland, Jedd Fisch and Gus Bradley in Jacksonville) and front office to help build a successful environment for one of the most intriguing draft prospects in the class.