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Cover 3: Derek Carr

Three takes on the Fresno State QB from our Intro to Scouting graduates National Football Post

April 30, 2014
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This past February, our latest "Introduction to Scouting" class was taught by Greg Gabriel. Over the next few weeks, we'll be featuring the best scouting reports from the graduates. If you would like to join the next session, it begins May 19th, and runs for six weeks. You'll learn a high level of scouting knowledge from one of the most seasoned vets of the industry, Greg Gabriel, whose scouting career spanned 29 seasons. Register at nfpscout.com.

Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State (6023, 214 lbs) 

Strengths: Holds the ball high, quick release, displays accuracy at all levels, fits the ball in tight windows, throws receivers open, plus arm strength, athleticism to escape the rush, quick decision making

Weaknesses: Inconsistent footwork and body alignment, will lock onto receivers, pocket awareness, played in two half-field read offenses, hand size

Summary: Derek Carr is a 3 year starter at Fresno State and two time winner of the Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year award. He threw for over 5000 yards his senior season breaking his own conference record. He was twice voted a team captain of the Bulldogs. Carr played under center in a pro-style offense his first 2 years at Fresno State, one of those as a starter, and his last two years were spent leading an up-tempo spread attack that emphasized getting rid of the ball quickly. Both offenses that he ran employed half-field quarterback reads. The spread offense utilized a high percentage of screens and swing passes which contributed to his 70.1% completion percentage and gaudy yardage totals.

I viewed two games form 2011, his first year as a starter, in which Carr demonstrated an ability to play from under center. The center-quarterback exchanges were clean; he was quick and consistent on his drops while keeping his eyes down the field. The majority of pass plays that he ran from under center were play action; he does a good job of selling the play fake. In obvious passing situations they moved him into shotgun. In his junior and senior years he operated exclusively out of the shotgun.

Carr has a compact throwing motion; he holds the ball high in his stance and has a very quick release. His release point is at the ear; he puts a tight spin on the ball but his hands are on the smaller side which might cause some cold weather teams to shy away from drafting him. He has plus arm strength and generates excellent torque with his lower body. This is demonstrated by his ability to throw the ball 60+ yards down the field with what appears to be minimum effort. He has drawn comparisons to Jay Cutler and I think there is some validity to that comparison when discussing his arm strength and the velocity at which he can throw the ball. He regularly fits the ball into tight windows and will throw receivers open. He can make all the throws; displays a nice touch on deep bucket throws but will occasionally hang one. He is proficient in his pre snap reads, adjusts protection and identifies coverages; often deciding where he is going with the ball before it is snapped. Carr is good at getting through his progressions and making decisions in a timely manner; he does a good job of getting rid of the ball quickly, however, he sometimes locks onto receivers with his eyes at the snap. He has quick feet and the athleticism to turn busted plays into positive ones but often lacks awareness of the rush if it is not coming right at him.

Where Carr has troubles is with his footwork and body alignment. When he tries to rush his throw he doesn’t always get a proper alignment between his feet, hips, and shoulders which leads to off balance and off target throws. This is most evident when he has pressure coming from in front of him or after he has fled the pocket. Occasionally, when there isn’t pressure but he sees a wide open receiver, he will also rush his throw. There are also instances where I think he has too much confidence in his arm strength; he doesn’t always step or he short steps on throws when he doesn’t need to, resulting in his hips not opening up far enough to generate the needed torque on deep balls. This is usually the case when he hangs a deep ball. When he does this on short and intermediate passes he will sometimes overcompensate with his arm and badly overthrow a receiver or he ends up throwing across his body and missing open receivers badly. He showed improvement in this area between his junior and senior years. He is an extremely accurate passer when his mechanics are right.

In the Mountain West Conference, Derek Carr did not face top level competition week in and week out. The two worst performances I saw on tape were his bowl games against SMU and USC his junior and senior years which is a little concerning. In both of those games he was plagued by receivers dropping a large number of balls but both teams were also able to generate a lot of pressure which resulted in Carr trying to rush a lot of throws, and not always out of necessity. Even though both of those games ended in blowouts Carr was competing right up to the final whistle and never exhibited any body language that indicated he had given up. The Rutgers game is probably the best example of his competiveness out of the games that I watched. In a game with 5 lead changes in the 4th quarter alone Carr threw a game tying touchdown pass with 40 seconds left in regulation and then he led his team to victory with a touchdown pass on the first play of overtime. Carr elevated his play as the game went on and came up big in several pressure situations.

Derek Carr is a highly competitive, athletic, intelligent quarterback with a strong arm and a quick release. He has the physical attributes to be a top quarterback at the NFL level but he needs to develop more consistency with his fundamentals if he is going to become one. I can see a team taking a chance on him in the first 10 picks but I think he goes at the end of the first or top half of the second round. I think Derek would benefit by being drafted by a team that has some stability already at the quarterback position and that was willing to let him sit for a year or two before making him a starter.

Grade: 6.6 by Jeff Stanbow

Strong Points – Pocket presence/feel for rush, extends plays with his feet, quick release and good drop back, arm strength, relatively tight/clean ball, has excellent ball placement on 1 on 1s, great touch.

Weak Points – Needs to work on footwork, throws off back-foot a lot, does not step toward target, narrow base, stares down intended receiver, played in a limited offense.

Summation – A fifth year Senior, Carr played in 44 games and started 39 during his career at Fresno State. Played out of the shotgun his entire career so there are questions about his ability to play under center and decipher the defense. He was asked to make a lot of line of scrimmages throws, i.e. screen game (bubbles, wideout and running back.)

At 6023, 214, has average NFL QB height, but will likely need to add some bulk to be able to manage the hits associated with playing QB at the next level. Has decent pocket presence/feel for rush and steps up smoothly. He can extend plays with his feet and pick up the first down if needed. He has quick release and a relatively tight ball and velocity on his throws. He has excellent ball placement on 1 on 1s to his wideouts, puts the ball in the place for the receiver to go and get it. Fresno’s offense was a lot of quick hitting routes, so being able to project whether Carr can process a defense and make quick decisions on his dropback will be tough without seeing him in that environment. He lacks consistent accuracy when he tends to get high and narrow on his throwing motion. He has throws that he does not step toward his target. He struggles with trajectory on seam route which may also be because of the footwork mechanics. Carr will need to show that he can make pre-snap reads and decipher the defense from under center in order to succeed in the NFL.

Grade - 6.8 by Aston Wilson, @astonwilson

Strengths: Physical Size, Very strong arm with feet set, Very accurate with short passes, Good Release Point, Good Footwork, Decent Ability to reset feet under pressure, Good spin on ball, Good pocket awareness, Keeps eyes downfield

Weaknesses: Accuracy on deep passes, Touch in all areas of the field, Drop from Center, Reading progression, Foot speed, accuracy under pressure, Anticipating WR getting open

Overall Impression: Excels in a quick passing offense and in throwing short to intermediate routes but struggles with accuracy on deep passes. He has a tendency to sail or loft passes when throwing deep and can only hit guys deep if they are wide open. Plays in an offense where he only reads half the field and needs to learn how to read the progression of routes and the entire field if he is expected to excel on the next level. He will probably struggle on the next level in the beginning making drops under center since he was always in the shotgun in college. He also struggles with his throwing accuracy when faced with pressure and is not very fast when having to tuck the ball and run given his 4.69 speed in the 40. Also has a bad habit of throwing off his back foot when pressured and sometimes holds on to the ball too long. He makes up for his lack of speed with good pocket awareness and his strong release in getting rid of the football as well as his ability to keep his eyes downfield and spot open receivers. Will need to work on his game to develop into a solid starter on the next level.

Grade: 6.4 by Phil Rainey

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