As we countdown to the NFL Draft starting on May 8, I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 20 or so offensive skill-position prospects available in this draft.
College: Fresno State
Hands: 9 1/8”
Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.69
Vertical Jump: 34 1/2”
Broad Jump: 9’ 2”
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.20
Background (College Stats)
Carr is famously (and probably unfortunately) tied to his other brother David, who was the No. 1 overall pick by the Houston Texans in 2002. Derek Carr’s college odyssey began in 2009, when then-coach Pat Hill declared he was in the running to be atop the depth chart as a freshman before it was announced that Ryan Colburn would be the starting quarterback. Carr was limited to 14 pass attempts in that season and redshirted the following year as Colburn held onto the job before graduating after the 2010 season. Carr became the unquestioned starter in 2011 and never looked back, earning second-team All-WAC honors by throwing for 3,544 yards and 26 touchdowns against nine interceptions. A change in conferences (to the Mountain West) and a new offense under OC Dave Schramm boosted Carr’s final numbers even more in 2012, when he named the 2012 MWC Offensive Player of the Year after setting a single-season conference record with 4,104 passing yards and finishing third in the country with 37 touchdown passes. He topped it all in 2013 with a season for the ages – even by the ridiculous standards in today’s spread offenses – becoming fourth in FBS history with 5,000 yards passing and 50 or more touchdowns in a single season en route to winning the Sammy Baugh Award as the nation’s top passer and being named MWC Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight season. He led the nation in 10 of the 14 statistical categories a quarterback can be up for – including passing yards, touchdown passes and in total touchdowns responsible for against turnovers – and is just one of 19 quarterbacks in FBS history to have over 10,000 career passing yards and 100 touchdowns.
NFL Player Comp(s): Tony Romo
- Sound decision maker who consistently makes the right play for his team, whether it means placing the ball only where his receiver can catch it or throwing out-of-bounds in order to “live another day”; displays the confidence to make throws into tight coverage when necessary.
- Underrated athleticism; has good pocket mobility, a strong sense when to leave the “tackle box” in order to buy more time to throw and the ability to run for a first down if the opportunity presents itself.
- Possesses more than enough arm strength to make NFL throws (especially when he steps into them), but also shows nice touch when necessary – particularly on red-zone fade routes.
- Puts his receivers in winnable situations on just about every throw because he is so quick to react to what he sees.
- Durable three-year starter (played all 39 games over final three seasons) that played through sports hernia late in 2012.
- Film-study junkie with the football intelligence expected from the younger brother of a NFL quarterback and no character red flags; allowed him to earn the trust of his coaching staff to make his own checks at the line.
- Threw off his back foot a lot and routinely did not step into his target; does not always appear willing to look down “the gun barrel” on throws in which he is getting pressured.
- Didn’t react well to pressure from defenders in the few cases in which he faced it regularly (USC and San Diego State are two good examples), often staring down and/or overthrowing his target.
- Failed to synchronize his feet and eyes consistently, particularly early in the season.
- Inconsistent accuracy when forced to throw on the move or off-platform.
- College offense over final two seasons did not require him to make many progression (post-snap) reads.
Starting with his second game of the 2013 season and ending with Fresno State’s overtime win in late October against San Diego State, Carr was nearly unwatchable in my eyes and appeared to be haunted by the demons of his older brother. Over the next five games, a funny thing happened: Carr transformed into a quarterback that looked to be the top quarterback available in this draft by a wide margin. What was the difference? Footwork. The biggest difference between his San Diego State and Nevada tape was the fact that he consistently stepped into his throws, regularly dropping 50-yard passes into the waiting hands of a receiver in stride. Whether this was a coaching point or just something Carr did unconsciously may not be answered anytime soon, but the fact of the matter is that I was ready to stop reviewing his games after San Diego State because he was consistently throwing off his back foot and appeared scared of the rush. The final five contests showed a signal-caller that had the potential to be an upper-echelon NFL quarterback. The Las Vegas Bowl game against USC was essentially a microcosm of the observation I made above, with the first half being awful and the second half revealing a player that could have made the game more interesting were it not for a number of drops from his receivers. Like most of the quarterbacks available in this draft, Carr would be well-served to land with a team that can provide him a strong running game to make him feel as comfortable as possible so he is less likely to revert back to back-foot throwing. Carr’s ceiling and floor isn’t nearly as dramatic as it is for a player like Johnny Manziel (who I do not foresee “learning how to win” in the pocket), but look no further than a player like Eli Manning last season to see what can happen when a quarterback reverts to back-foot throwing. It is for that reason why Carr belongs ahead of Manziel among the “big four” at the position, but behind Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles.