During his junior season, Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr led the Bulldogs to the Mountain West Conference championship after coming over from the WAC. Carr won the Mountain West offensive player of the year among numerous other accolades as he had his best year in college. He accomplished all of that in pain as he was suffering from a sports hernia all season that caused him a great deal of pain. After putting in his name to the NFL Draft Advisory Board, Carr opted to come back for his senior year with the goal of winning the Mountain West again first and foremost, but also in search of a bowl victory and hoping to have his #4 retired.
There will be a lot of focus on the offense the Bulldogs run because of the number of passes that are behind the line of scrimmage in the form of bubble screens or quick passes. These plays work to help the offensive line in pass blocking and to supplement a less than stellar running game. Getting past those throws, the results are incredibly impressive.
Projecting towards the NFL, Carr is as gifted an athlete as this draft will have to offer and between his arm strength and his mobility and particularly his feet. Carr’s arm is elite and he is remarkable in the amount of throws he can make. He also moves really well in the pocket and when he gets out and moves. His accuracy is extremely impressive as well and his overall arm talent is prototypical for the position. Carr is also a football lifer and an absolute grinder who works extremely hard to get better at his craft with remarkable toughness and leadership that is evident on the field. The question marks with Carr come down to decision making as he is a gun slinger at times (and proud of it) as well as just employing mechanics consistently. The negatives with Carr are small and correctable and as a result, he grades out as a first round pick and a potential franchise quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft that could easily find his name called in the top 5-10 picks.
Vitals & Build
Carr is listed at 6’3” 218lbs with a good built for the position. His height is prototypical for the position, he has a strong build and seems to bounce back from hits well. From an athletic standpoint, Carr has great feet. He is extremely quick and can move well with a quick burst. His top end speed makes him a threat to get away from the rush as well as being able to run and make plays. Carr will probably continue to fill out and may ultimately be aiming to get up to the 225lb mark, but that would work mostly for padding against opposing hits. Carr is ready for the NFL from a physical standpoint.
Carr’s arm is exceptional. He can push the ball down the field with anyone in the country and does it with relative ease. In addition, Carr has shown that he has great zip on the ball and has shown he can deliver a big time fastball when he wants. Carr’s overall arm strength is obviously equipped to play in any NFL offense and gives most of them additional options.
Accuracy & Touch
Carr has shown he can be incredibly accurate with the football. When he has time to set up and throw on time, he has shown he can be deadly with the football. Carr has the arm strength and zip to fit passes into tight windows and has shown he is not afraid to test it.
Carr has been able to make accurate throws at every level of the field, in the middle, to the sideline and anywhere else a team could want. He will occasionally misfire and if he is going to miss, it can be a little random in which direction. Most often, it seems like when he misses, he is going to miss high and overthrow the target, but he will throw bounce passes. The question here is usually when he throws it too low, it is behind the line of scrimmage. Some of these may simply be a matter of misfiring, but there appears to be some where he throws the ball short deliberately to kill the play. Carr will also miss wide of the target but this usually seems to be when he is moving.
In terms of touch, as good as Carr is throwing flat passes, he seems to be better when it comes to throwing touch passes. In spite of what can be throwing off of his back foot or not really stepping at all at times, Carr does a great job of throwing passes where his receiver can adjust to them and go up and get them, especially in the red zone when it comes to throwing jump balls. These passes are rarely in position to where the defender can make a play and it is his guy or no one.
Going deeper, Carr has been able to throw corner type routes such as flag routes and has done a great job of putting the pass out in front where his receiver can make a play and continue to run or it will end up going too far and landing incomplete. These passes do not come up short, putting them at risk for being intercepted.
Carr has also shown great ability with his ball placement on timing routes. He can often put passes to where his receivers are able to catch the ball and keep running. The Bulldogs have a ton of yards after the catch and some of that is because Carr sets them up for success with the types of passes he throws.
Mechanics & Footwork
Carr throws with an overhand delivery that can slide down to a three quarters delivery on some of his short passes. His throwing motion is incredibly quick and comes out almost like a punch with how quick it is. Carr is able to get rid of the ball with remarkable alacrity and it makes it difficult for opponents to get a jump on the ball. He quickly pulls the ball back, gets his elbow to a ninety degree angle behind his ear and comes forward from there.
Carr’s footwork is going to be under incredible scrutiny in the draft process. He has incredibly quick feet and can set up quickly, but he uses them in a number of different ways to throw the ball which can rub some people the wrong way. On time, he sets up quickly and is able to step into the throw and it looks good.
There are times, especially with quick passes where Carr goes all arm on the throw and either steps virtually in place or there is no step at all. If he steps in place, he is fine. This takes up almost no space, makes it so he can throw from a crowded pocket but do it so he is in rhythm and on time. When he takes no step and goes all arm on the throws, it has the potential to be out of sync and out of rhythm which increases the potential for inaccurate throws.
Two things work for Carr, perhaps for as much as wrong as it is right. He seems to have an incredible amount of experience throwing from questionable footwork, so he has shown the ability to adjust, which is good in that he can do it, but it means he has a world of experience throwing from awkward positions.
The area that will be problematic for Carr is when he throws off of his back foot. Usually avoiding pressure up the middle, Carr will go back and throw off of his back foot. Last year especially, when he was dealing with the hernia, he seemed to throw as many passes off of his back foot as he did his front. This year, he has made a significant effort to get back to the mechanics he displayed as a sophomore. His arm strength allows him to get away with quite a bit, but the NFL is a different speed and that has the potential to get him intercepted far more than in college.
In the NFL where not being able to consistently throw on the spot and needing to adjust to having to move, set up and throw, Carr has the ability to do it and just needs to continue to iron it out with consistency and avoid throwing off of his back foot.
This is another area that was scrutinized last year, but he has made strides to improve in that area as well. Last season, Carr was running himself into sacks far too often and tried to make strides to avoid it. This season, he is operating in the pocket more often throughout the play and trusting in his quickness to get him out of trouble if he needs it.
There are times when he can be over sensitive to pressure that is not necessarily there and evacuate the pocket early, but this has improved substantially from last season. This year, he has a better feel for what is going on around him and getting out of the pocket on time to either try to extend the play to throw it or just take off and run with it.
Carr never stops his feet in the pocket. He is always tap dancing. This could be part of the reason some people thinks he looks uncomfortable. In some respects, it does come off as looking antsy but it is pretty much just his standard operating procedure. There are times when he does become antsy but it is a bit overblown.
Decision Making & Anticipation
Carr seems to have a tremendous understanding of the Fresno State offense and seems to know where everyone is going to be on a given play. As a result, he is able to anticipate throws really well and put passes to his receivers on time. This could be coming out of a cut on a comeback type route or when receivers are coming out of a cut and coming free to make a play.
When plays break down, they seem to be on the same page on where they are going to be and what happens when plays break down. As a result, there are times when Carr can avoid pressure, see a defender and make an opponent miss, look up and immediately find a receiver.
He has shown the ability to manipulate defenders and make them move that creates openings for other players on the field, so he can make the throws. Carr is not someone who stares down receivers and is not afraid to go through his progressions and find his secondary and tertiary options. As a result, while Davante Adams is their best wide receiver and a tremendous talent in his own right, there are times when Isaiah Burse and Josh Harper becomes the big time playmaker in a certain game.
In terms of decision making, Carr does a good job of protecting the football. He does not throw many interceptions and some of that is because of how he makes decisions as well as his arm talent. Having said that, Carr is not afraid to gamble and he openly admits it and embraces it. It does not mean he is reckless but he will take shots, will try to force passes into windows at times and can put the ball at risk at times.
There are elements of that will frustrate coaches, but Carr’s receivers will love him in the NFL like they do in Fresno. Because he is not afraid to take shots, he is not afraid to make throws, they know he will give them opportunities to make big plays. As a result, they will lay out for him and know they are always going to have opportunities to make catches and come up with big plays.
The other part with Carr is when he embodies his hero and the reason he chose #4 for his jersey; Brett Favre. Flip passes, trying to make broken plays into something they maybe should not be, and in one game, he almost went with a left handed pass in one game.
Carr is a great athlete and has good feet. He is extremely quick with how he can tap his feet and being able to plant his foot in the ground and make a move to escape pressure or make an opponent miss. Carr is able to move around the pocket with ease but has the ability to extend plays and pick up yards on the ground.
For the most part, Carr would much rather find the space to set up and make a throw rather than trying to pull it down and run with it, which is something that has evolved in his time in college. He is not afraid to run the ball and he has the ability to make plays, but Carr seems to have embraced the idea that his ability to run the ball should be saved for when it can really make a difference. In other words, he uses it to pick up first downs and score touchdowns. He has gotten much better at protecting his body by going out of bounds rather than trying to take on contact and win with power, unless it means getting into the end zone.
Carr will slide and protect himself in the middle of the field and if he can grab a first down, he is not afraid to get out of bounds. When it comes to running out of bounds, Carr has taken to putting the ball out in front of him. And when it comes to the end zone, Carr has embraced a leaping move where he tucks the ball inside the pylon, which has had a lot of success with him.
Carr can play in any system a team could want. Horizontal, vertical, or the type of offense the Philadelphia Eagles employ, he has shown the ability to do it all. He has the quick release, zip and accuracy to play in a horizontal passing system or the Eagles system while he has the arm strength to play in an offense that wants to stretch the field and force opponents to defend a huge amount of real estate. And as a result, Carr can offer teams that run one particular style of offense to blend in other looks that can give the defense more problems to try to stop.
With the amount of experience Carr has, the level of maturity he has, and his overall acumen for the game, he looks like is ready to step in and start for a team from day one. The game never seems to be too big for him, his demeanor never changes. He gets emotional and excited for big plays and his teammates, but he never seems to be down when things are not going well. Carr seems to really embrace and believe in the idea that he just needs more possessions to win the game.
In terms of the style he plays and the ability he brings to the table, Carr resembles Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys. Romo has similar athletic ability and is not afraid to extend plays, but will also take big risks that can backfire. The difference between these two is that Carr seems better equipped for dealing with crunch time and avoiding big time mistakes. He does not have the emotional roller coaster that Romo seems to and as a result, Carr might be better equipped to reach the levels that have eluded Romo through his career.
Derek Carr has an incredible amount of physical ability and the tools to be a terrific quarterback in the NFL. He appears to be equipped with the experience, maturity and acumen to do the job at a high level and adjust to the NFL relatively quickly.
There is a belief that Carr will do well in the NFL Draft process because he should interview well, which would allow him to show off how big of a football junkie he is and should be able to show off his talent in the Senior Bowl most likely, but that process may be more important for demonstrating his maturity. Owners and general managers will like the fact that Carr is married, has a family and is set to graduate from Fresno State. He is someone teams may feel like they can trust with the reins of the franchise in addition the ability he brings and that has an impact.
With everything that Carr brings to the table, he is a tremendous talent with some questions with his decision making and footwork; neither of which is bad. They just need to be ironed out further and be more consistent to avoid running into problems at the next level. Carr grades out as a first round pick and as a result, could easily find himself going in the top 5-10 picks in the NFL Draft.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com