Nov 1, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) prepares to throw a pass before the start of the game against the New York Jets at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Derek Carr has arrived.
In his second season, the Oakland Raiders signal-caller has solidified himself not only as a franchise QB, but also as a top ten quarterback in the NFL.
And he’s just getting started.
Carr currently sits inside the top ten of many QB related stats, and he has a fanbase believing that there actually is light at the end of the tunnel.
Watching Carr play these days, it’s hard to believe that he once was a college quarterback in a spread system with awful footwork, terrible yards per pass attempt and troubling numbers against the blitz.
That’s why the evolution of Carr has been incredible to watch.
The aforementioned concerns are all but things of the past now, but they all were legitimate knocks on Carr during the draft process.
So Carr fell to the second round, while quarterbacks who were considered to have better physical tools or who had higher upside, like Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel, were selected ahead of him. Even teams in desperate need of a QB passed on Carr, like the Houston Texans.
Carr wasn’t without his faults, but it was easy to love the arm talent, the intangibles and other things about him. The potential was always there, but there was concern if he could put it all together.
On draft day, Carr, a lifelong Raiders fan, was selected by Oakland with the 36th pick.
Almost two seasons later, he’s arguably been the best player from his class. Considering the position he plays, he’s at least the most important.
In a re-draft of the 2014 NFL Draft that was just posted on December 2nd, NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein selected Carr with the first overall pick. If a do-over was actually possible, it’s safe to say the Texans wouldn’t pass on Carr again. Like they did (twice) the first time around.
So Carr has been good enough to be considered the top pick in a re-draft, but exactly how good has he been? And how good can he become?
Through Week 12, Carr is 6th in the NFL with a 101.6 QB rating. Since Week 6, he has the highest rating of any QB at 107.1.
Only Tom Brady (28 TD’s, 4 INT’s) and Aaron Rodgers (24 TD’s, 4 INT’s) have a better TD/INT ratio than Carr (24 TD’s, 6 INT’s) at this point in the season. That’s pretty good company.
Against the blitz is where Carr is really making a killing. What was once a struggle for him has now turned into a strength.
The numbers aren’t needed to tell the whole story of how good Carr has been this season. See for yourself:
There have been dozens of examples of similar plays by Carr all season long.
Perhaps the most important trait that Carr has shown is his penchant to come up big late in games. He’s got the clutch gene, and it’s won the Raiders several games this season:
His ability to stay cool, calm and collected during high pressure situations will pay huge dividends as the Raiders continue to become a more competitive football team.
There are many different reasons that have contributed to Carr’s progression, with the biggest reason being himself.
Carr has been consistently praised since the beginning of his rookie season for his work ethic, for his dedication to improving his craft, and for his desire to get better each and every week.
He has no issue accepting the blame when the team loses a game, or if he made a critical mistake. In fact, he embraces it and better yet, he learns from it.
Accountability is contagious, so the accountability that Carr shows in his press conferences certainly has a positive effect on his teammates. That accountability is one of several reasons why Carr emerged as a leader of the team, even during his rookie season.
Charles Woodson was asked about this before the season started, and he had nothing but praise for Carr.
"“He’s a pro. He’s a leader. I think the guys on the team recognize him as a leader. You go out here to practice, he’ll come over to the sidelines sometimes and ask me questions about what I see, so he’s hungry. He’s thirsty for that knowledge and he can make all the throws. You put all those things together and combine that with the fact that he played in every game last year, I mean, we’re looking for him to be dominant this year.”"
When an all-time great such as Woodson speaks so highly of any player, it’s worth taking note. It’s important to mention that Chuck has never been afraid to speak his mind.
The last sentence in the Woodson quote is particularly interesting – “we’re looking for him to be dominant this year”. It shows just how confident Woodson was in Carr, even after an up and down rookie season.
While dominant might be too strong of a word for Carr’s production this season, he isn’t that far off. His numbers are on par with the NFL’s elite, and he has the Raiders playing meaningful football in December.
With Amari Cooper showing potential to be a top-caliber NFL WR, an offensive line that rates amongst the league’s best, a sure-handed fail-safe in Michael Crabtree, and the AFC’s leading rusher at his disposal, the sky is the limit for what Carr and this offense are capable of.
Not all of those pieces will be here over the years, so the team will have to find ways to keep Carr on his feet, and to give him the weapons necessary to maximize the output of the offense. But that will certainly continue to be a priority, as Carr as shown what he can do with a competent supporting cast.
So the team will certainly change over the years, and the team’s stadium and possibly even their home city will change too. But one thing that is certain is at just 24 years young, the future is very, very bright for Carr.
With players like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees at the very end of their careers, that leaves the door wide open for Carr to take his place amongst the NFL’s elite.
Two seasons from now, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Carr could very well be the top three QB’s in the NFL. Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, Andy Dalton and Russell Wilson might be the other top candidates, while players like Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer could still be hanging in there.
So that’s the type of ceiling we have to talk about when discussing just how good Derek Carr can be.
The AFC West is trending down, while the Raiders are up and coming. The household QB’s of the last decade are on their last leg, with only a few clear successors ready to take their place.
Consider Derek Carr the leader of the new school.