Fresno State's Derek Carr has rare experience throwing the ball: he has a ridiculous 1,630 pass attempts in his college career, and led the nation in completions and yards last season, 5,083 passing yards in a college season is almost unprecedented, as are the 50 touchdowns to go with it. But that alone doesn't make him a good NFL player.
Why he's a realistic choice
In short: because he probably won't be there in the second round. Which means that if the Buccaneers like Derek Carr, they'll have to pull the trigger on him in the first round. Well ahead of where he's generally projected to fall -- but if you want a player, you have to take him where you can.
And it's not like taking Carr at number seven would necessarily be a massive reach. He's more frequently projected to the Minnesota Vikings at eight, or one of the quarterback-needy teams in the twenties. He often goes before Teddy Bridgewater in mock drafts. It probably wouldn't be an ideal value pick and the Bucs may want to trade back first, but he'd be a serious option at numbers even -- if they indeed like him.
Why he fits the Buccaneers
Derek Carr has arguably the strongest arm in the draft, has arguably the quickest release in the draft, and is a very mobile quarterback. Those three traits are exactly what the Buccaneers are looking for. In fact, his total physical skill set is really similar to Aaron Rodgers' -- and he has those same Jeff Tedford ties, too. Tedford is a friend of the family, having coached big bro David Carr to the first overall pick all the way back in 2002.
The development of Derek Carr
Carr would certainly fit the Bucs' projected offense, which should featured a lot of quick throws -- something Carr excelled at in college. And he has the mobility to operate outside of the pocket and make things happen with his legs.
That doesn't mean Carr is a perfect prospect, though, and he has plenty of question marks. He played in a spread offense the past two years, where he had to throw 60-odd times per game, most of them screens and quick throws. That makes evaluating him difficult: there weren't many instances of pro-style reads and very few instances where he had to adjust to pressure. And when he had to do that, it wasn't always pretty.
In addition, while he has a very strong arm and will get the ball to his receivers, his accuracy isn't consistent. He will hit receivers, but his ball placement is inconsistent at bet. And it falls apart quickly on throws that are further downfield -- more so than for some of the other top quarterbacks.
Still, he has the physical skillset to be an excellent starter in the NFL. And if the Bucs think they can fix his other issues, he may very well be the pick.
What others say about him
David Carr's younger brother has all the physical tools to become a productive NFL starter. The question is - as it is for more prospects at the top half of the draft - does he possess the mental acumen to integrate these skills into the complexities of leading an NFL offense?
Carr's spread offense doesn't provide definitive answers, but it does offer worthwhile clues about his future transition. These indicators tell me Carr is not an instant star, but give him two to three years and he can be the quarterback a team can build around.
Carr grades out as a first-round pick. The improvement he showed in the pocket as a senior was encouraging. If he continues to improve in that area, he could be a franchise quarterback in the NFL. Rolling the dice on Carr in the late part of the first round would be the proper value for him. There isn't quite as much separating Carr and Blake Bortles as some people may think. Additionally, Carr is a huge plus in the character department. He is the type of person you want leading your franchise on and off the field.
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.