NFL Draft 2014: Analyzing Utah State vs Fresno State for Derek Carr


Dec 7, 2013; Fresno, CA, USA; Fresno State Bulldogs quarterback Derek Carr (4) looks towards the crowd after the Bulldogs defeated the Utah State Aggies 24-17 at Bulldog Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

What’s up guys. Lost some sleep watching this game (it lasted till 1 AM). But it was a fun one to watch. It wasn’t Carr’s best game, but that made it all the more important to watch. The end score was 24-17 in the Bulldogs’ favor. There’s no link to the game yet (I’ll edit the link in when it appears). Anyway, here we go.

Utah State Background: Utah State, surprisingly, had quite a stingy defense heading into this game – ranked 11th in the country, and 1st in the conference. To my knowledge, there isn’t any one guy who holds it together, or very many draft prospects to consider. They just work with a lot of effort. The Aggies sent pressure all night at Carr, and it was a good opportunity to see him when he’s rattled.

Fresno State Background: I’ve only watched the Bulldogs closely once before, but they’ve improved mightily since then. They are starting to have some actual playmakers on the outside, and while their offensive line and running game are pretty inept, their quarterback play makes up for it. Fresno came into this game after a close loss in a crazy shootout to San Jose State, and they rebounded nicely in this game. The Bulldogs had a 17-0 lead and the ball in scoring position right before halftime, but one of their running backs had a fumble returned for a touchdown that swung momentum the other way. They pretty much dominated the rest of the way; the game was not as close as the score suggests.

Now, a word on their offense. They pretty much run a straight spread system, which includes a bunch of bubble screens, draws, and deep shots, all the while maintaining a quick tempo. It’s an offense that requires two things – a good quarterback and speedy receivers. Derek Carr has the arm, but his receivers aren’t very fast and are prone to drops, which makes it all the more impressive that they put up the production they do. The Bulldogs ran an impressive 89 plays in this game.

Now for the chart. Don’t you guys love the chart? (I love the chart.)
D = Drop, T = Throwaway, @ = Interception, ! = INT of miscommunication, $ = Touchdown. The %Adjusted removes drops, throwaways, and miscommunications from the accuracy rating.

Yardage RankLeftCenterRightTotal with Raw Percent (%Adjusted)
1 to 55 of 52 of 310 of 13, $D$17 of 21, 81% (85%), $D$
5 to 103 of 6,DT0 of 2, DD1 of 14 of 9, 44% (80%), DDT
10 to 200 of 3, TT0 of 16 of 8, $!6 of 12, 50% (66%), TT$!
20+2 of 4, @0 of 02 of 4, D4 of 8, 50% (57%), D@
Totals10 of 18, 55% (71%)2 of 6, 33% (50%)19 of 26, 73% (82%)
DT,@,TTDD$D$, $!, D

Carr’s full statline for the day: 31 of 50 for 412 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions (one was not his fault). That’s a 62 % accuracy rating, 75% adjusted. He was sacked twice (they were pressuring him all game though.)

Very impressive, but here’s the thing. Vince Lombardi said, “It is better to have died a small boy than to judge quarterbacks based off numbers.” (or something like that). The point is that we absolutely can not say he’s great because of his production, especially in a spread system. Scouting Quarterbacks is all about traits, and that’s what I’m going to focus on.

First, the measurable positives. The thing I noticed most in this game was his incredible corner route and fade accuracy. The corner and the goal line fade are the two throws that best project a prospect’s future in the NFL, because they require the arm strength to drive the ball downfield, the touch to give the receiver time, and the accuracy to put it where only the wideout can catch it. Let me tell you, Carr was nailing them last night. The only time it wasn’t a completion was when his receivers dropped it; the defense couldn’t begin to stop him on these routes. It was very impressive. This brings me to my next point, kind of a two-parter – his strength and touch were exemplary last night. There was one throw where Carr and his offense were backed up near their own goal line. Despite being hammered all day, and again on this play, Carr took the snap and delivered a beautiful ball that traveled at least 50 yards in the air downfield to the right. This is kind of a cliché, but he has the arm to make any NFL throw. I noticed also that his throwing form had improved greatly since the first game of the season. And lastly, probably my favorite thing about Carr, is his lightning-quick release. When he makes a decision on where to throw the ball, it’s gone in an instant. It’s very tough to defend, no matter what level of competition you’re talking about. And Carr was very tough to defend last night.

Measurable negatives. First things first, he threw two interceptions in this game. Yes, one of them was off a miscommunication, but still. Two picks is two picks. He hasn’t thrown more than one all season at home, so I think this was more of an anomaly than anything else. The biggest thing I noticed was that he still throws off his back foot more than I’d like. Carr has improved since the beginning of the season, and he was pressured out the wazoo last night, but this is something that needs correcting. The fact that he’s able to deliver the ball in such a great fashion already makes me salivate over what he could do with perfect form. It’s not a difficult fix, but it speaks to a larger issue –his pocket presence isn’t perfect. Notice, I said, “isn’t perfect”. He doesn’t have bad pocket presence, but it appears that the pass rush was rattling him a little bit in this game. That’s to be expected, though. Most QBs do (Teddy Bridgewater has far and away the best pocket presence of anyone in this class.)

Intangibles. His anticipation on throws has improved since I saw him last. In his previous game, I saw a signal caller who was, at times, waiting for receivers to become open before throwing. That’s not gonna happen in the NFL. Last night, however, I saw him throwing receivers open on crossing routes, corners, fades, and curls. It’s what separates a good passer from a great one, especially in the intermediate range. If he keeps improving in this aspect, watch out; pairing a great mental game with his excellent arm will ruin defensive coordinators’ days in the NFL. The only negative I see about him, intangibly speaking, is his style of offense. He didn’t take a single snap under center last night, and to my knowledge, hasn’t all season. This doesn’t say anything about his ability to run a pro-style offense, we would just prefer if he had more experience doing so. Let me put it this way: it’ll be a little nugget of doubt until he proves he can do it, which will probably be at the Senior Bowl.

Dec 7, 2013; Fresno, CA, USA; Fresno State Bulldogs quarterback Derek Carr (4) holds up the Mountain West Championship trophy next to safety Derron Smith (13) after the Bulldogs defeated the Utah State Aggies 24-17 at Bulldog Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Carr has the tools, the attitude, and the mind to be a Franchise QB in the NFL. All that he needs to prove is whether he can compete in a pro-style offense and at higher competition than he currently faces. He has been constantly improving ever since he stepped on campus at Fresno State, which is the single most important thing you look for in a Pro QB. To top it off, he’s done it with lackluster (at best) talent around him. Considering all this, and considering the fact that the Jaguars probably won’t be picking number one or have a shot at Bridgewater, I believe the Jaguars should take Derek Carr with their first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Of course, it’ll come down to the draft order and what happens in the offseason, but for right now, if the Jags have an opportunity to take Carr and Bridgewater is off the board, there’s no question. His upside matches his already excellent ability. He’ll be fun to watch, wherever he goes.

Thanks for reading guys. Leave me any comments or suggestions if you feel so inclined.

And by the way, HOW BOUT MY JAGS!

Just win, baby –