Former Fresno State star quarterback Derek Carr will always have an inexorable link to his brother, David, who also played the position for the Bulldogs before becoming a No. 1 overall NFL draft pick for the Houston Texans.
Over a decade later, the younger Carr is on the cusp of becoming a first-round choice in the 2014 draft after a successful collegiate career. Houston is at the top of the Round 1 order, but it's a fat-to-no-chance proposition that a second Carr will land in that spot.
"I'm not trying to be David. I'm trying to be the very best Derek Carr I can be," said Carr, per an excellent feature by ESPN The Magazine's Seth Wickersham.
That's reflective of a matured mindset, an edge in life experience and suggests Carr can indeed succeed as a starter at the highest level of pro football. Here's a closer look at Carr and how his skills translate to the NFL, along with an outlook for the draft.
Building a scouting report for Derek Carr is difficult, because his system at Fresno was based in the spread, and his level of competition in the Mountain West Conference wasn't on par with some of his peers.
What does work in his favor is that Carr played through his senior season, posted phenomenal numbers and throws the ball like a franchise quarterback should.
Phil Simms knows something about what it takes to be successful in the pros, enjoying a long career quarterbacking the New York Giants and winning a Super Bowl MVP award in the process. Simms thinks Carr is the safest pick among the top prospects at his position:
Carr indeed has the best arm talent among the top-tier QBs, just slightly better than Texas A&M Heisman winner Johnny Manziel and far superior to the likes of Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater.
Between his ability to make every throw on the field and his gunslinger's mentality, Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller makes an appropriate Carr comparison in Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears:
You have to admire how confident Carr is in his own abilities, something he expressed in an interview on NFL Network in April:
What stands out a lot about Carr is the fact that he is not only capable of beating teams from the pocket, but he can also scramble quite well. One criticism is that he doesn't step up and deliver accurately when contact from a free-running defender is imminent.
Part of that is due Carr's ability to escape. Although he's not the quickest in terms of agility and shiftiness, he possesses extremely underrated foot speed, clocking a 4.69-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
|Derek Carr's Numbers at 2014 NFL Scouting Combine|
|Height||Weight||Arm length||Hand size||40-yard dash||Broad jump||Vertical Jump||20-Yard Shuttle|
|6'2"||214 pounds||31 1/2"||9 1/8"||4.69||110 inches||34.5 inches||4.20|
In this modern age of the NFL, having a dual-threat QB is a luxury that is becoming more of a trend. Carr is athletic enough to extend plays with his feet and also move the chains, which should help compensate for any lack of football knowledge he has.
That's not to insult him, but Carr's reads were rather simple in college due to the aforementioned spread system he operated within.
Among the 50 touchdown passes he threw in 2013, Davante Adams caught 23 of them. One could argue Carr's pre-snap reads likely consisted of, "Okay, where's Mr. Adams? Double teamed? I can get it in there anyway!" And Carr often could and would.
The physical tools are there for Carr to thrive as a pro, even if he doesn't have the greatest size or bulk. Although it's rather alarming that he bails from the pocket and wilts in the face of pressure at times, he has both the mobility and arm strength to compensate for those instances in which his mechanics are flawed.
When Carr gets his feet set and lets it rip, few prospects can emulate the way he slings it all over the gridiron.
Carr has been linked to the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders, both of whom are selecting in the top five. But with how many assets the Raiders need to acquire to compete in the tough AFC West, they could be in the market to trade down, selecting Carr at a later point than No. 5 overall.
Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com suggested this possibility on Tuesday:
In Oakland, I hear owner Mark Davis is smitten with quarterback Derek Carr, and that pressure could be mounting on the front office to take him in the first round. Now, No. 5 overall is awful high, but if you hear about the Raiders trying like heck to move back—as they did a year ago before selecting DJ Hayden, who some viewed as a reach that high—I'd start penciling in Carr as the possible pick. Keep an eye on that.
Cleveland has picks at Nos. 4 and 26, and it's conceivable that Carr will be on the board when the Browns choose their second first-rounder. Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman reported in April that Cleveland's latest regime loves him. If that's the case, perhaps he is in play to go fourth.
The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre epitomizes how hard it is to gauge Carr in his analysis:
CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler documented the testimony from former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, who suggests Carr has the talent to be the first player off the board:
That seems hyperbolic, but there are at least two struggling teams needing a long-term answer at QB who are rumored to be very interested in Carr. Then again, this is the smokescreen season in the pre-draft process, and now that the first round is just a day away, the rumors should get even wilder.
John Clayton of ESPN.com reports that Carr was told by four or five teams that they'd take him in the 20s, and trade into that area of the round to grab him.
Another team could trade back into the first round from the early second to draft Carr, and there's also the possibility that someone like the Arizona Cardinals could take him at No. 20 overall. Arizona has Carson Palmer, whose career likely won't last much longer, so Carr would make sense with his strong arm in coach Bruce Arians' vertical passing game.
Wherever he goes, Carr has the arm to thrive in any offense and could start in Week 1 of the 2014 season. However, he will have to demonstrate that he can pick up complex pro-style concepts and make full-field reads before he gets thrown into the fire. If Carr is handed the keys to an offense before he can process information and maintain proper mechanics in the pocket on a more consistent basis, his career trajectory is in jeopardy of spiraling downward from the start.
Carr should not be judged for what his brother did—and didn't do, really—in the NFL. Look for him to learn from such a unique and close mentor, be drafted in the first round thanks to his upside and enjoy a successful stint as an NFL starter, presuming he lands in the right situation.