Name: Derek Carr
Weight: 214 lbs.
School: Fresno State
Strengths: Carr is a very good all-around athlete, able to move well in and out of the pocket and generally move well when he needs to. He has a tremendous arm, with the ability to throw deep as well as drive the ball with good velocity. Carr has shown good accuracy and record-breaking production at Fresno State, despite having to adjust to a coaching and system change. He’s got solid mechanics, with pretty good technique during his delivery and the ability to get the ball out quickly.
Weakness: The problem with lauding Carr’s accuracy and production is that it came against sometimes sub-par teams in the Mountain West Conference. When he played against bigger teams, like USC in the 2013 Vegas Bowl, he wilts. Yes, the loss to USC (I would have also accepted the words “disaster” and “pummeling”) was one in which the whole team collapsed, but Carr himself looked overwhelmed. He struggled under pressure and had a hard time completing passes under fire. That’s a real concern considering USC’s defense wasn’t one of its best ever and the level of play in the NFL will be much fiercer. I didn’t walk away from the Senior Bowl excited either (more on that below), as I saw too many passes sail on him even when there was no pass-rush. When he’s blitzed, you can see him hurry throws, which result in some badly overthrown balls. He also has a tendency to stare down receivers at times. Carr played almost exclusively out of the shotgun, so he’ll need to adjust for that. He didn’t look terrible comfortable under center in Mobile and he’ll have to work on it, though that’s common for many quarterbacks these days. Carr also seems to struggle on deeper throws.
Intangibles: The biggest question about Carr, in my mind, is how he reacts to pressure and pressure situations. While he appears calm and poised in many games, he has struggled in bigger games. Now, as mentioned above, the bludgeoning by USC was a team-wide failure. If Fresno State doesn’t collapse early on defense, maybe USC’s defense doesn’t have carte blanche to tee off on Carr and maybe he struggles less. On the other hand there are definitely times in other games where he was under pressure and definitely looked shaky. Aside from that, all reports are that he is solid in the huddle and a smart quarterback who was able to weather changes in the program without freaking out. That may not seem like much, but for a young quarterback in the NFL, that’s a big deal—just ask Alex Smith.
Notes: A lot of folks came away from Mobile and the Senior Bowl saying Carr was the best quarterback there—and he was. Which was a lot like saying he was the best natural disaster. That’s a bit harsh but I really just want to drive home the point that, save for Carr and Jimmy Garropolo, this was not a group where “being the best” should mean as much as you think. Once you take that grain of salt, combined with what you see on tape, a picture is painted of a decent quarterback whose ending value is balanced on his ability to improve. It’s what would keep me from drafting him in round one, or at least high is round one. That said, he’s a solid second round pick or a good pick for a team willing to get back into the late first. He has some issues, but the upside is there to become a solid NFL starter.