The Oakland Raiders certainly took a risk when they selected Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr with the 36th overall pick on Day 2 of the 2014 NFL draft, but Carr fills a critical need for the Silver and Black, making him a praiseworthy selection.
While scouts have identified numerous weaknesses in Carr's game, the prolific signal-caller, who threw for more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in 2013, brings some impressive attributes to the table as well, including a few that could lift Oakland out of the AFC cellar in the years to come.
A strong arm and a quick release are by far Carr's biggest strengths from a physical standpoint, and he has a solid frame (6'2", 214 lbs) to boot. His delivery is compact, and he puts tremendous velocity on his passes, especially when pushing the ball downfield.
Carr's work ethic also stands out, as it is exactly what you like to see from a player at a leadership position. Here's what Carr had to say on Friday night, via ESPN.com:
Me, I'm going to be the same person every day. I'm going to come in ... the coaches know who they're getting. I told them, I appreciate you calling, you know what you're getting. And I'm going to come in and work, I'm going to come in and compete and I'm going to come in and try to make the team better. I'm not a selfish guy, that's for sure. I can't wait to get coached by those coaches.
Carr's speed is another strength. He ran a 4.69-second 40-yard dash time at February's NFL Scouting Combine, and that quickness could potentially add another dimension to Oakland's offense down the road.
However, at the same time, there are some glaring issues that Carr will have to address in order to become the franchise quarterback the Raiders hope he can be. Accuracy and pocket poise are two disconcerting areas of Carr's game. He would be well-served to sit behind veteran Matt Schaub during his rookie season, which appears to be the most likely scenario, as noted by NFL writer Andrew Brandt:
Derek Carr won't be rushed to play anytime soon for @RAIDERS. Matt Schaub is making a fully guaranteed $8 million salary this year.— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) May 9, 2014
While Carr can hit a target when he sets his feet and is in rhythm, his footwork and lower-body mechanics are far from sound, and that can sometimes produce shaky results. His completion percentage (68.7) was inflated because of a high percentage of short passes used by Fresno State's offense.
In addition to improving on the minor details, Carr will need to do a better job of anticipating pressure and hanging tough in the pocket. When faced with pressure in college, Carr often struggled to follow through on his passes, and his accuracy suffered as a result.
ESPN Stats & Info notes Carr's struggles under pressure:
Derek Carr: 30.9% comp when under duress, lowest of any top 10 QB prospect. Raiders QBs were pressured at the 4th-highest pct #OAKpick— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 9, 2014
However, in the right system, Carr could avoid situations that require him to hang around in the pocket. If the Raiders can capitalize on Carr's mobility and get him rolling out and releasing the ball quickly, they're poised to experience success offensively. Carr is best-suited for a West Coast system, where he would be playing to his strengths.
But for now, the ideal scenario for Carr and the Raiders would be for the second-round pick to sit on the bench for at least a year.
A season on the sideline could provide a huge boost for Carr, who lacks the experience and pocket presence to step in and have success right away. With a full year of NFL coaching to develop his mechanics and a significant time period to adjust to the NFL's faster pace, Carr is much more likely to reach his maximum potential.
All combine stats and height/weight information courtesy of NFL.com.
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