2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown – Derek Carr, QB Fresno State

November 24, 2012; Fresno, CA, USA; Fresno State Bulldogs quarterback Derek Carr (4) runs the ball against the Air Force Fighting Falcons in the second quarter at Bulldog Stadium. Bulldogs defeated the Fighting Falcons 48-15. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Carr entered his junior year at Fresno State poised as one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country; the problem was that he played the entire season with a sports hernia.  While this demonstrated a remarkable toughness and willingness to play through pain by Carr, it did have a noticeable impact on his ability to play quarterback in terms of his ability to use consistent footwork in particular.  During his sophomore year, he was far more consistent and able to step into his throws and avoid throwing off of his back foot.  In spite of the discomfort, Carr was able to throw for 4,104 yards and 37 touchdowns while improving his production and efficiency as a passer across the board.  Fresno State was able to win the Mountain West Conference before suffering a disappointing loss against SMU in the Hawaii Bowl.  Carr and Fresno State enter the 2013 season with similar expectations and hope to have even more success than the previous year.  Carr needs to get back to using good mechanics and footwork and being the consistent passer he can be, which could really push him up draft boards by next April.

Vitals & Build

Carr is listed at 6’3” 210lbs.  While not possessing prototypical height, Carr has a strong build and looks the part of an NFL quarterback.  His upside to add more strength at this point is probably limited but he really does not need to either.

Arm Strength

Carr is second to none when it comes to his arm strength, particularly when it comes to throwing the ball down the field.  His throwing motion is effortless and there are times when it seems like he simply flicks the ball down the field 50 yards.  He has also completed passes in excess of 60 yards in the air.

He is equally impressive when it comes to throwing with zip on his passes.  His fastball is incredible and there are times when it seems like his receivers will drop passes because they are unable to adjust to the speed.  This is an area that could improve in the NFL simply because he is paired with receivers that can adjust to those passes and make the catches.

Accuracy & Touch

Carr demonstrates he can fit passes into tight windows and in the best place for his receiver to make a play or extend a play.  It is a matter of consistency and usually tied to his footwork.  When he demonstrates good mechanics, there is basically no pass he cannot make and because of his arm strength, he is able to make passes with more room for error than many quarterbacks.  Because of his arm strength and accuracy, Carr has the ability to make simply jaw-dropping throws.

In terms of his touch, he certainly has the ability to throw passes that allow his receivers to go up and get the ball as well as being able to fit passes over different levels of the defense.  He is able to throw the deep ball so that his receivers are able to cruise under them and make catches.  If Carr runs into trouble with touch, it can be due to putting too much air under the ball giving defenders an opportunity to close ground and make a play on it.

Mechanics & Footwork

This is where Carr runs into issues.  Likely as a result of playing with a sports hernia all season, Carr appeared to make as many throws off of his back foot as he did going forward.  Because of his ridiculous arm and physical gifts, he was rewarded far too often by doing this which could result in reinforcing the bad habits.  The other issue that playing so often out of shotgun makes it more difficult to get in a rhythm with footwork and timing.  This is another area where bad habits could develop.  When he came from under center, he has quick feet that allow him to set up quickly and maneuver the pocket quickly and easily.

He has a throwing motion and release that looks both quick and effortless.  Whether natural or more likely the product of years of coaching and hard work, his overhand throwing motion is pretty ideal.  Carr is a guy who will throw from different arm angles that will range from a ¾ motion to almost side arm at times.  And again, this is another case of bad habits that can be reinforced by success.

For the most part, when Carr throws the ball he basically steps in place rather than stepping forward.  Because of his arm strength and zip on the ball, he is able to get away with this and it makes it so he requires a small amount of space to operate and throw effectively.  The issue here is that he just needs to get accustomed to doing the same thing over and over again and stick with it, so the results are more predictable.

Carr is able to throw the ball on the run well and easily because of his short throwing motion and arm strength.  He is perfectly comfortable to throw on the run and do it effectively.  He does a good job of keeping his eyes down the field when he rolls out of the pocket so that he can find open receivers while giving defenses a reasonable concern that he might just scramble for yardage.  To this point, he has shown the sense not to try to throw passes back across his body and into the middle of the field, but he has shown a willingness to use a shovel pass that starts from his chest like Tony Romo.  This is another area that can present opportunities for a team to use Carr’s talent to make plays.

Pocket Awareness

For the most part, Carr demonstrates a good sense of the pocket and when he needs to move up or evacuate the pocket entirely.  There are times when he will get caught by surprise but not often and his experience serves him well here.  At times, he will overestimate his mobility and athleticism and take sacks that a traditional pocket passer might avoid because they are throwing the ball away when he would opt to try to extend the play with his legs.  He is also at greater risk to fumble the football when he is hit in the backfield because he does not give up on being able to throw the ball and will have the ball out and at risk of being knocked out by opponents, whether it be the initial pass rusher or additional defenders coming in to clean up the play and are specifically targeting the football.

Carr keeps his eyes down field and does not focus on the pass rush coming at him.  He does a good job of trusting the clock in his head and feeling where the rush is coming from which is a result of his vast experience playing the position.

Decision Making & Anticipation

Carr is a gun slinger and not afraid to take chances, which his receivers will appreciate and drive coaches nuts.  He is another guy who grew up watching Brett Favre and will not hesitate to try to improvise plays and take risks.  There are also times when Carr will assume plays rather than read them and will make throws that are inexcusable.

He does demonstrate the ability to pick defenses apart with surgical precision and throws earlier rather than later when it comes to anticipating his receivers getting open, especially when it comes to throwing deep.  Though he has the ability to throw the ball deep with ease, he throws the ball early to prevent defenders from having the time to find and adjust to the football.  The result is that he will find wide open receivers or more often, one on one coverage where the ball gets there before the safety is able to come over and help.  In spite of the gambling and risk taking, this is where Carr’s work in the film room comes through with reading what defenses are doing.  Again, there are times when he will get it wrong and throw passes right into coverage as a result, but for the most part he is right and his remarkable production shows the results.

Mobility

Carr has good athletic ability and mobility to move in the pocket, roll out, and extend plays.  He has enough speed to pick up yards for first down if forced to scramble along the lines of an Aaron Rodgers.  Fresno State actually used him in designed running plays but this is not something that he should do in the NFL with regularity.  He can be a threat with the read option in the NFL and has experience with it for the Bulldogs, but again, he is not built like Cam Newton or Colin Kaepernick.  He is also not a guy who slides enough and will drop his shoulder into his opponents to pick up extra yards or lunge with the ball outstretched to pick up extra yards, which makes coaches hold their breath.

System Fit

Carr can fit into any system but he is best suited to play in a more vertical passing attack.  With his arm strength, he can really stretch the field and force defenses to cover a ton of ground opening up passing windows allowing him to make plays.  Carr has the accuracy and timing in addition to the ability to read defenses quickly that would allow him to excel in a West Coast style offense that stretches the field as well but it all comes down to consistency and that could potentially cause teams to pass on him in favor of other prospects.  Some of the teams that stand out in the NFL for Carr could be New England, Cleveland, Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

2013 Schedule

Thu, Aug. 29 vs. Rutgers
Sat, Sept. 7 vs. Cal Poly
Sat, Sept. 14 at Colorado
Fri, Sept. 20 vs. Boise State
Sat, Sept. 28 at Hawaii
Sat, Oct. 5 at Idaho
Sat, Oct. 19 vs. UNLV
Sat, Oct. 26 at San Diego State
Sat, Nov. 2 vs. Nevada
Sat, Nov. 9 at Wyoming
Sat, Nov. 23 vs. New Mexico
Fri, Nov. 29 at San Jose State

Notable Games

For the most part, the schedule is pretty underwhelming unless someone from their conference steps up.  However, Rutgers as the first game of the season could be an interesting test for Carr.  The one game to circle here is the last one; San Jose State.  The last regular season game of the year and it features perhaps the two biggest mid-major quarterback prospects in Carr and David Fales.  It remains to be seen how the Spartan defense will be this year but it does have the makings of a shootout that could be a showcase game for both players.  Beyond that, the best defense Fresno State may see this year will be in their Bowl game.

NFL Comparison

Carr resembles former Vanderbilt Commodore Jay Cutler.  They both have incredible arms and the ability to make every throw on the field with accuracy.  They are both guys that can be absolutely dominant on the field and look the part of being a top of the line quarterback but will use bad mechanics and footwork that result in horrible throws and put the ball at risk.  The potential is there for Carr to be the quarterback many believe Cutler could have been and still can be in the NFL.  However, if Carr does not improve use more consistent footwork and mechanics from last year, he could end up far closer to Landry Jones, who has the tools to be successful but radical inconsistency caused him to be drafted on day three.

Draft Projection

On physical tools and potential, Carr is up there with anybody in the draft.  Mechanics, footwork, consistency and even the level of competition he faced could cause him to fall.  If he improves on last year with the sports hernia behind him, getting back to the consistent mechanics he used as a sophomore when he was healthy while taking advantage of the experience he picked up as a junior, he can be the quarterback many believe he can be and could position himself as a first round pick and potentially have a similar climb as his brother, David, did in 2001.  The talent is clearly there with Carr; he just needs to put it all together and prove it.

Interview with Derek Carr

Topics: 2014 NFL Mock Draft, Derek Carr, Fresno State Bulldogs Football, NFL Draft 2014, Quarterbacks

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