Derek Carr May Not Be Longterm Answer for Raiders According to Analytics


Dec 28, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware (94) causes a fumble by Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) in the second quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was considered to have a strong rookie season based on his play over 16 games, throwing 21 touchdowns and amassing 3270 yards through the air on an offense that was considered one of the most limited in the league.

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In addition to his success, Carr also prevented himself from making too many mistakes with the football, throwing just 12 interceptions. A ratio as a rookie that was comparable to many successful quarterbacks, including Peyton Manning and Troy Aikman in reaching 21 touchdowns while throwing a minimal amount of interceptions for a first year starter.

In fact Carr was one of just eight quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for over 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns as a rookie. Something that defined his season as a success after guiding the Raiders to big wins down the stretch over the Chiefs, 49ers and Bills to go 3-0 in their final home games to end 2014.

However an analytical study wasn’t so kind to Carr’s first season, using a metric called Net Expected Points, the Raiders quarterback was amongst some of the worst passers in the league according to analytics website numberFire.

In fact according to the folks at numberFire, Carr was the fourth worst quarterback in terms of Net Expected Points, a number that they feel puts a question mark on his future despite making a historical mark on the NFL with his 3,000 yard 20 touchdown season.

From numberFire:

"In 2014, the average Passing NEP — points added on passes only — by quarterbacks with 200 or more drop backs was 45.17. (The reason this number wasn’t zero, or “expectation”, was because passing is naturally more efficient than rushing.) This sample includes a total of 37 signal-callers, with the majority of them — 31 — throwing for a positive Passing NEP value.Derek Carr wasn’t part of that group of 31. Instead, he was one of six high-volume quarterbacks this season to finish the year with a negative Passing NEP, finishing with a -40.94 total. The others? Jay Cutler, Austin Davis, Josh McCown, Robert Griffin III and Blake Bortles.Among these six quarterbacks, Carr’s per drop back Passing NEP was fourth worst. And within the entire group of 37, Carr’s Success Rate — the percentage of passes that contribute positively towards NEP — was fourth from the bottom as well.Carr’s Passing NEP places him in a rookie quarterback tier that includes guys like Joey Harrington and Josh Freeman."

Analytics serve their purpose, and the popularity of Pro Football Focus has shown that they have became as important in evaluating NFL performance as breaking down game tape as a companion to understanding the play of players on an elevated basis. However in this case it appears that Carr’s NEP may be an outlier more than it is a direct comparison to his potential being similar to Joey Harrington or Josh Freeman’s after their rookie seasons.

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Carr did have his share of problems during his rookie season at points, particularly moving the ball on a consistent basis on a Raiders offensive unit that more than often ended drives on three and outs, so it is understandable that he would have analytical stats that bring his rookie performance into question. Fans may not agree, but the analytical data does show that Carr’s leadership of the offense didn’t result in many expected points when he was on the field for a unit that didn’t put up much in terms of yardage or points.

On the other side of the coin, Carr did do a ton of good work for the Raiders at points that likely outweighs this statistic, particularly his play in the second half of the season where he grew into a leader of the franchise. Winning three consecutive home games and playing well in all of those victories, Carr’s rookie year should be looked at as a success even if some numbers don’t go his way to back it up.

It will be interesting to examine Carr’s NEP rating in 2015, but numberFire feel that there is reason to be hesitant in claiming the Raiders starter as the future in Oakland just yet. Most seem to disagree with that notion as Carr is going to be the starter in Oakland for years to come, but during a long offseason it is always intriguing to evaluate all of the angles. Even ones that won’t be very popular amongst fans who think that Carr is on the fast track to guiding the Raiders back to success after years of quarterback purgatory.