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Dec 7, 2013; Fresno, CA, USA; Fresno State Bulldogs quarterback Derek Carr (4) throws a pass against the Utah State Aggies in the second quarter at Bulldog Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Draft: Quick Thoughts on Fresno State QB Derek Carr

Note: This is only a “Quick Thoughts” article on Carr rather than a Draft Profile as I did not go back and watch enough of his tape from previous years to compare. I am simply basing these thoughts on watching a majority of his 2013 tape, which you can view for yourself at Draft Breakdown.

The NFL Scouting Combine is a chance for prospects to open eyes, but ultimately it’s just a supplement to their game tape. During the 2014 NFL Draft Combine, the numbers of Fresno State Derek Carr stood out to me, as he showed surprising athleticism.

Carr ran a 4.69 second 40-yard dash, leapt 34.5″ in the vertical jump, and posted a 4.2 second time in the short shuttle. All of these numbers fell just behind those of Johnny Manziel, who is widely considered to be the most impressive athlete in this draft class, with Carr’s vertical (which simply indicates explosive athleticism in the legs) besting Manziel’s.

But now that Carr caught my eye with his Combine numbers, what does his tape show?

An unfinished product.

Here are some quick thoughts on Carr:

Positives

  • Howitzer for an arm. Carr has an absolute cannon. Perfect spirals to any part of the field that get to the target with great velocity.
  • He’s a capable athlete, as indicated above. When he chose to take off and run, he was explosive out of the gate and got into space in a hurry.
  • Everything about Carr is quick. He gets the ball out of his hand quickly, it gets to the target quickly, and he generally makes his decisions quickly.
  • Carr isn’t reckless, but he’s certainly not afraid to use his arm to force a ball into a tight window of coverage.
  • He can also throw a very good back shoulder pass, and tends to find just the right angle on passes under 25 yards to allow his receiver the best chance at making the play.
  • Every review of Carr off the field comes back with glowing compliments. The guy seems to be a hard worker and an reliable teammate.

Negatives

  • Carr is very imprecise. He lacks good ball placement, especially on deeper throws, and lacks touch on passes that aren’t fired out of a gun and thrown on a rope.
  • Carr is also imprecise from a footwork standpoint. He has a natural tendency to fall away on his throws, which translates to many of the issues in the first bullet point.
  • While he’s certainly athletic enough to move out of the pocket, Carr is not a special thrower while on the run. He gets mixed results at best while throwing on the move.
  • Carr is a quick decision maker on most occasions, but he also has a tendency to be late on throws that can’t be late. When the play isn’t orchestrated to be a quick decision, Carr has a tendency to wait too long to make a throw.
  • It may just be a byproduct of his offensive system, but the tape I watched showed very few anticipation throws for Carr. He rarely threw players open, but rather threw to open receivers or allowed his receivers to compete for the football.
  • Carr has the tools to be a force at the quarterback position, but he didn’t put them all together on tape. Again, his college offense isn’t the best showcase for NFL talent, but he didn’t seem to be a difference maker from under center.

Conclusion and Comparison

Unlike Johnny Manziel, who I feel like has multiple steps between himself and success as an NFL quarterback, I feel like Carr has everything he needs to be a very good NFL QB. The problem is, I didn’t see those traits on tape. His throws were just a bit off, or his footwork was just too sloppy, or his touch was just too heavy or light. He’s also not the ideal size for a quarterback, but there were very few instances where this became an issue.

But when I watch a quarterback, I like to look for practical application of the tools the quarterback possesses. For Teddy Bridgewater, his ability to throw on the run and command his offense stood out to me. For Blake Bortles, bravery and creativity combined with a capable arm stood out as a clear path to NFL success. But for Carr, I don’t see a ready-made plan for success in the NFL.

He has the arm talent to outshine both Bridgewater and Bortles, but until I see it in action, I can’t be sure it will ever come to fruition and produce repeatable success in the NFL. Nothing else about Carr stood out apart from his athleticism, which is a secondary trait for a QB who prefers to stay in the pocket.

Carr could resemble Joe Flacco in the NFL, as both have the cannon arm, but don’t always put it together in a successful manner on Sundays. Ryan Tannehill comes to mind as a more comparable example from an athleticism standpoint while also possessing the capable arm.

Verdict

Overall, I believe Derek Carr is worthy of a selection in the late first round at the earliest, and projects as an above average NFL QB with an outside shot of making a Pro Bowl or two. But there’s a risk that he remains raw talent without refinement until he can prove that his footwork and precision can take a step forward in the NFL, and that his ability to lead an offense extends beyond the friendly confines of the Fresno State playbook.

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