After taking a month to review the 2013 NFL Draft, it is already time to look ahead to the 2014 class. In fairness, I will do my best to focus on senior prospects for the next few months and move to juniors/redshirt sophomores when the time is right. I am only taking pre-season evaluation notes for now, focusing on where prospects win and where improvements can be made. Therefore, treat these posts like rough drafts and not final opinions.
Notes for Clemson QB Tajh Boyd
Notes for San Jose State QB David Fales
Notes for LSU QB Zach Mettenberger
Notes for Miami (FL) QB Stephen Morris
Notes for Georgia QB Aaron Murray
Despite losing receiver Jalen Saunders to Oklahoma through a transfer, Fresno State has an emerging talent in redshirt sophomore Davante Adams. The offense is predicated on quick hitting passes from a shotgun set. Commonly featuring at least three receivers, along with a tight and a running back, the Bulldogs want to hit underneath patterns in stride in the hopes of creating yards after the catch. It was under a different regime, but Fresno State produced a former No. 1 pick in David Carr. Could younger brother Derek earn the same title with the Bulldogs? No, but let’s discuss his game.
Carr is at his best as a one read rhythm passer, focusing on shorter throws. Those short receptions can turn into long gains thanks to receivers having the ability to pick up yards after contact, but that is only if the ball has proper placement and in stride. There are certainly times where Carr looks capable of sustaining drives, usually when firing to his first look with velocity and quickness, thanks to a compact release. The problem is, this the exception in Carr’s game and not the rule.
The Fresno State quarterback lacks two vital qualities: balance and poise. Carr is rarely asked to step in tune with route timings, instead tending to freelance his movements. Not only does this hurt his base, but Carr’s offensive linemen certainly can’t appreciate the fact that his location cannot be anticipated, therefore putting them on blocking islands on every snap. Even in a fairly clean pocket, Carr voluntarily screws up his footwork, choosing to fadeaway when releasing the football rather than carrying forward momentum and following through.
To be honest, his footwork often makes no sense. It is a total mess.
Pocket presence is Carr’s next major deficiency. There are occasions, usually when locked onto the first read, that Carr flashes decent movement and escapability, but these plays are rarely converted. Play after play, the Bulldog drifted further and further back in the pocket, failing to show a basic level of pocket awareness. Carr normally drops his eyes after the first read, frequently resulting in a panic and more movement, rather than displaying patience and trust in his offensive line. Blitzes give him even more issue and I even saw the quarterback go down on his own against upfield rushers. He won’t stay up when contacted, and although there are instances where he drifted to one side of the pocket and converted completions, Carr normally crumbles when a spying defender chooses to attack upfield.
These are fundamental skills that Carr fails to consistently show, which is scary. Plays cannot be stretched and a passer is limited to his receiver’s ability to make something happen after the catch when the large amount of completions are made under 10 yards.
The disconcerting part is, Carr actually makes himself worse because of these tendencies. On the few throws I saw that he displayed a solid base and drive, rather than open shouldered/lofted release, Carr’s velocity and placement were impressive. Some will look at his highlights and be dazzled. He showed nice touch on bucket throws downfield and some could argue his self-assessed body angles leads to impressive throws from multiple platforms.
Few prospects are finished products coming out of college, and Carr has another year to show that these notes were a waste of time. Improvements can be made, but I truly believe pocket presence and movement is a very natural skill. Carr is currently on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Where He Wins
Carr can get on a roll, completing multiple first reads in a row with plus velocity and placement. At times his sporadic movements lead to elongated plays, and he flashed touch from a variety of angles and platforms.
Areas Of Improvement
I will keep this short. It is very difficult for a jittery quarterback with poor footwork and poise to have success. Maybe even impossible. There are glimpses of vertical shots (on the first read), touch, velocity, and quick decisions, but without pocket awareness a quarterback will be incredibly limited and unreliable.