In the last few months, there has been a lot written about the quarterback class in the 2014 NFL draft.
Going back to the 2013 college football season we have seen multiple quarterbacks mentioned as the best quarterback available in this draft. The list includes Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Central Florida's Blake Bortles and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.
I have never bought into to any of those players as the top quarterback prospect. I wrote an article on this site a few weeks ago on why I felt that no quarterback in this class was worthy of being a top-10 selection. I felt then as I feel now that there are players at other positions who are deserving of being drafted in the top 10.
None of the quarterbacks in this class has anywhere near the talent of an Andrew Luck or a Matthew Stafford. They all have faults in their game and all need a period of development before they are ready to step in as a starter.
In saying that, I do have one quarterback rated higher than any of the others. That player is Fresno's Derek Carr. While I don't believe that Carr is worthy of being drafted in the top 10, I do believe that he will get drafted somewhere in the first round. If I had to select a quarterback he would be my first choice.
Derek Carr himself agrees. He was asked by NFL AM in early April if he felt he was the best QB in the 2014 class and he responded (h/t CBS Sports):
Absolutely. And I say that with respect to all the other guys because they're great competitors and all those good things...And it's not easy for me to answer a question like that but I absolutely think so. There's no doubt in my mind."
Scouting Derek Carr
I have viewed the coaches tape on seven Fresno State games from 2013, two from 2012 as well as watched three practices at the Senior Bowl, so I have had a good look at his play.
Carr is a fifth year senior and a three year starter. He has had top production in all three years, but off the chart production in 2013. For the year he completed 453 of 659 passes for a 68.7% completion percentage, 50 touchdowns and only eight interceptions.
He ran an up tempo, no huddle offense that is always run from a spread formation. While I did not see him take any snaps from under center on tape, he did a very good job playing from under center at the Senior Bowl.
The 6'2", 215-pound Carr has adequate size and is very athletic with good playing speed for the position. Carr ran 4.69 at the combine and plays a bit faster. His agility and change of direction is excellent.
Carr is active in the pocket. After he receives the snap, he moves his feet and stays under control. He will consistently set his feet before he releases the ball. He has a quick compact delivery with no hitch. He has a strong arm and throws a consistently tight ball. He easily can throw the ball 50 yards downfield with no windup.
He may have the quickest release of any of the quarterbacks I have seen this year. When he makes the decision to throw, the ball is out of hand very quickly. He throws with accuracy and his ball placement is generally very good. His deep-ball accuracy is as good as I've seen this year. He almost always puts the ball where the receiver can make a play after the catch. He not only throws with accuracy, but he knows how to put touch on the ball.
In the pocket, Carr is poised and does a good job reading the field and finding the open man. He has the skills go through a progression and to look off a receiver before coming back to him. He has good pocket presence and with his athleticism can extend plays. He shows good running skills when he decides to take off. The one thing that is noticeable is that when he is running he is always looking to make a throw, and he throws very well on the run.
In the Fresno State offense, he threw a lot of short passes, but when you watch enough tape, you see he can make all the throws required to play in the NFL with velocity and accuracy. He shows good timing and consistently makes throws before receivers come out of their cuts.
Overall, I see no reason why Carr can't become a winning quarterback in the NFL. He will start early in his career and will start as a rookie for a team with a need at the position.
To be a successful quarterback in the NFL a prospect needs more than just the physical traits. He also has to be a strong leader and have outstanding football character.
What is football character? Football character is a combination of a work ethic, passion for the game, desire to be great, football intelligence and ability to take coaching. Carr gets A's in all those categories.
Scouts want to know how a player responds to adversity. Right before the start of fall practice this past season, Carr's wife gave birth to their first child, a boy. There were complications with the birth, and the infant had to undergo three surgeries before he was six weeks old. While all this was happening, Carr still managed to prepare for the season and play at an extremely high level once games started. He never missed a beat. Not many players would have been able to do the same under the circumstances.
Knowing the story, reassures scouts what an outstanding leader Carr is. All successful NFL quarterbacks have the "it" factor. "It" is hard to describe, that's why it is called "it." To do what Carr was able to do this year under a very stressful situation, shows me Derek Carr is on his way to having "it."
There is not a doubt in my mind that three years from now, when we evaluate at that time how the quarterbacks in this class had played, we will see that Carr was the best one.