The 2013 NFL Draft appears to be lacking a little star power at the quarterback position. This is partly due to the fact that 2012 featured a prospect that was once in a quarter century in Andrew Luck and a prospect that was once in a decade in Robert Griffin III. After that, it is difficult to be as excited for Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson, and Geno Smith. It is also due to the fact that these quarterbacks are not overwhelming in talent they bring to the table at this point in time. Despite that, there are a pair of quarterbacks out there that have managed to be overlooked thus far in the process and could be part of the 2013 NFL Draft and this is an attempt to shed a little light on those two guys that just both happen to be from California. The first is redshirt junior quarterback Derek Carr of Fresno State.
Derek Carr is one of the most physically talented quarterbacks I have ever seen and his arm talent is amazing. He has incredible arm strength, a quick release, the ball comes out with plenty of zip, accuracy, and he is a mobile threat. His throwing mechanics are impeccable. The ball comes out so freely and easily whether it is short timing routes or if he is going deep 60 yards down the field. He’s the type of kid that scouts may only need to see one throw and he will absolutely have people falling all over themselves when he works out in shorts. There does not appear to be a throw Carr cannot make and there are times when he looks like he can put the ball anywhere he wants. In addition to arm strength and zip, he has the ability to show a soft touch and drop passes into areas where only his guys can make plays on the football. He has enough height and bulk to avoid dealing with those silly questions all draft season as well being listed at 6’3” and around 210lbs. Between his arm talent, size, and mobility, Carr offers a prospect that appears able to fit into any offense the NFL can throw at him.
When Carr uses good mechanics and footwork, he looks every bit the part of a franchise quarterback and someone that could be the top pick in the draft like his brother, David did. And Carr is reminiscent of how Aaron Rodgers plays for the Packers when he is right. The problem is that good footwork does not happen nearly often enough. Carr is talented enough where when he is throwing off his back foot, he is still better than the vast majority of quarterback prospects, but he might have more throws off of his back foot than some prospects have in their entire career. In that respect, he looks like a guy who took every sack David Carr took with the Texans in his rookie year. He looks like he is afraid to step up into the pocket and take the hit while making the tough throw. He can get away with that at Fresno State, but NFL players are going to pick off those passes and he will look like Brett Favre or Matthew Stafford have in their careers when they trust their arm too much and it backfires badly on them. The other issue that can hurt Derek Carr’s footwork and mechanics is the offense they run at Fresno State.
There was talk that Fresno State’s head coach, Tim DeRuyter, might end up taking a job elsewhere before ultimately deciding that he would stay in Fresno. While Fresno State should be thrilled because this combination has them playing great football and winning a share of the Mountain West Title, it might have been better for Derek Carr’s development if DeRuyter left and a coach with a more conventional offense took the job. Fresno State’s offense will occasionally have him play under center, but he is in the shotgun far more. For someone who is dealing with the footwork issues Carr is, coming from under center and throwing on time would force him into better habits that would result in more consistently good throws. In the shotgun, while there is some sense of throwing on time, it is much easier to get into bad habits as Carr has.
The good news for Carr is he has great feet in terms of how quickly he can drop, set up, plant, and throw the ball. He is also a great athlete in terms of his ability to pick up yards with his legs, roll out and reset his feet to make good throws which is definitely a sought after skillset in the NFL right now. Like Aaron Rodgers or Tony Romo, he is a guy who can get outside the pocket and pick up a first down when there is nothing down the field. And this is a correctable issue. Whether it is at Fresno State or in the offseason with a quarterback coach like George Whitfield, it can be worked on for his future in the NFL.
If Carr decides to go back to play his senior year, the other issue that could hurt him is the fact he plays at Fresno State. The Mountain West is a quality football conference, but it just is not the PAC-12 or the SEC and Carr is toying with the competition in that conference. He has put up gaudy numbers that allow him to have the bad habits he does and there is a small risk the guy gets bored with another year and make bad habits worse. And unfortunately for him, Fresno State’s out of conference schedule for next year is tentatively set up to play Rutgers, Cal Poly, Colorado, and Idaho. The biggest test Carr will face next year are maybe Rutgers, Boise State, and then with a good year, their bowl game. The bowl game they still have to play this year is against a 6-6 SMU team. It is tough to win people over skeptical of the level of competition with that kind of schedule.
If forced to pick one, the quarterback that Carr’s total package resembles most is Tony Romo. Romo can do things that make fans love him and hate him in the same 60 minutes of football. If people think he is a franchise quarterback or an overrated shmuck, he is going to give them plenty of evidence to make an argument. In addition, Tony Romo is a guy who can make big throws, has a quick release, and is typically quite accurate, but he is also someone who will make throws with horrible mechanics, decisions that will make people question how he is in the NFL at all, and do things to lose football games. That is everything that Carr can do in a nut shell, but Carr has the talent and potential to be even better but may end up being just as polarizing as a prospect.
Unless the draft advisory board comes back with a shockingly low projection on Carr, he may want to seriously consider declaring for the draft this year. In a field lacking surefire quarterback prospects, it would not be surprising for Carr to make a huge splash. With his arm and the talent he brings to the table, he could easily go in the mid-1st round. The problem is that while he has so much talent and an unbelievable amount of potential, he does have consistency issues, the problem with the footwork, and possibly avoiding the stigma of being afraid to step into the pocket. If he cannot prove to NFL decision makers that he can overcome these issues, it could drag him down into the second round. He does have the added benefit of having a resource in his brother that he can see a little or what is coming both in the draft process and in the NFL; an advantage that few others have. Derek Carr has all of the arm talent of a prospect like Mike Glennon, the accuracy of Matt Barkley, but more upside than both of them. He has some issues he needs to overcome, but if a team takes him this year or next and they are right on him, he definitely has the talent to be one of the top signal callers in the NFL for quite a while.
Ole Miss 2011
Boise State 2012
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