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Player Spotlight: Derek Carr

A detailed look at the fantasy prospects for Derek Carr in 2016

Setting the Stage

Derek Carr is the youngest of three brothers and was born in Fresno, California. His family relocated to Sugar Land, Texas when his older brother David was drafted 1st overall by the Houston Texans in 2002. They moved back to Bakersfield, California for his senior year in high school. Derek Carr played quarterback at Clements High in Texas, starting the second half of his sophomore season and all of his junior year when he led his team to an undefeated regular season. He was heavily recruited during as a junior and accepted a scholarship to Fresno State. He led his school in Bakersfield to a 12-1 as a senior.

Carr enrolled at Fresno State in January 2009 so that he could participate in spring practices. He competed to be the starting quarterback as a true freshman, but lost out to junior Colburn. He played sparingly that year and then redshirted the next year. He took over as a sophomore starter in 2011 and started 13 games for each of the next three years. His production improved each season and he passed for 5,083 yards and 50 touchdowns as a senior winning the Sammy Baugh Trophy and the nation’s top collegiate passer. All told, he threw for 12,843 yards, completing 68.9% of his passes for 113 touchdowns for the Bulldogs.

Carr was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the 2nd round and 36th overall as the fourth quarterback following Blake Bortles (3), Johnny Manziel (22) and Teddy Bridgewater (32). He played well enough in the pre-season to be named the starting quarterback over Matt Schaub. Carr became the first Oakland Raider rookie quarterback to start the season opener and also was the only 2014 rookie quarterback to do so.

He has started every game of his NFL career. The first year definitely had some hiccups, but there were a lot of changes for a rookie quarterback. Head Coach Dennis Allen was fired after the fourth game with the team at 0-4. Tony Sparano then took over and although he coached the rest of the season, it was pretty obvious that more change was on the horizon. Greg Olson also remained the offensive coordinator all year. Carr played adequately as a rookie, but only completed 58.1% of his attempts with a low 5.46 ypa.

After the season, there were more changes. Jack Del Rio was hired as head coach and he named Bill Musgrave as the offensive coordinator. Carr greatly improved his second season. His completion percentage climbed to 61.1%, but the most improvement was seen in his 1.5 yard increase in his yards per attempt. It climbed to a respectable 6.96. He actually threw for over 700 more yards while throwing 26 fewer passes. In addition, he tied for 7th in passing touchdowns with 32, only four less than the NFL leader in 2015.

The following table provides career statistics.

Year Games Comp Att % Yards ypa TDs ints Rushes Yards TDs
2014 16 348 599 58.1% 3,270 5.46 21 12 30 87 0
2015 16 350 573 61.1% 3,987 6.96 32 13 33 138 0
Totals 32 698 1,172 59.6% 7,257 6.19 53 25 63 225 0

Looking Forward to 2016

A real positive for Oakland heading into 2016 is significant stability in the offense. The head coach and offensive coordinator are back and all of the starting receivers and running back return. There is a lot of quality, particularly in the receiving corps, led by Amari Cooper who recorded 72 catches for 1,070 yards and 6 touchdowns in his rookie season. The Raiders second wide receiver, Michael Crabtree is one of the NFL’s best possession receivers. He actually finished ahead of Cooper last season with 85 receptions for 922 yards and 9 touchdowns.

The team divided the tight end targets last year between rookie Clive Walford and Mychal Rivera, but Walford started slowly, both in snaps played and targets. Walford really picked up his production in the team’s final five games with 15 of his 28 catches and well over half his receiving yards on the season in those games. More production is expected for Walford in his second year.

The offensive line finished 4th in fewest quarterback hits last season. That type of protection is beneficial to a young quarterback looking to build confidence. Footballguys.com offensive line expert, Matt Bitonti provides the following report on Oakland’s offensive line:

• Preseason rank: 11th (tie). Difference from the end of last season: -5.
• Run Blocking: A-. Pass Blocking: B. Total: B+.
• Projected Starters: LT Donald Penn, LG Gabe Jackson, C Rodney Hudson, RG Kelechi Osemele, RT Austin Howard.
• Key Backups: Menelik Watson, Vadal Alexander, Matt McCants, Jon Feliciano.

The Raiders were one of the better units last season and improved by adding big money free agent Kelechi Osemele to the mix. Osemele ended last season filling it at left tackle for the Ravens, but he should find a home at one of the guard spots in Oakland. Gabe Jackson is an ascending player at left guard, which could put Osemele at right. Either way, the Raiders could have the best guard tandem in the league. The left tackle position is solid with Donald Penn delivering Pro Bowl level production. Center Rodney Hudson is an effective blocker in the middle. The only real weak spot could be at right tackle, where Austin Howard will battle with oft-injured Menelik Watson for the job. Watson has the physical upside but Howard is a crafty veteran at this point in his career. Draft pick Vadal Alexander could be in the mix at right tackle but is probably a better fit at backup guard.  Once this Raiders offensive line settles into a lineup, they should be among the better in the league again this year.

Carr’s combination of arm-strength, accuracy and mobility combined with his receiving corps combine for another improvement this season. The Raiders lackluster running game also portends improved passing production. The Raiders ranked 29th in rushing attempts and 28th in rushing yardage a year ago. The team added DeAndre Washington in the fifth round, but he is expected to help out more with the passing game as a rookie. Washington is a smooth hand-catcher who had 1,091 career receiving yards at Texas Tech.

Positives

• Carr has good arm-strength and accuracy and improved greatly over his first two seasons with the Raiders
• He has excellent receivers in Cooper, Crabtree and an improving tight end in Walford
• The running backs caught 96 passes a year ago and DeAndre Washington could be more explosive in that role than any of the current running backs 

Negatives

• The Raiders play two games each against tough defenses in Denver and Kansas City
• Even though they have passed much more often than run in Carr’s first two seasons, their defense is definitely on the rise and could lead to more conservative play calling

Projections

Name Games Comp Att Yards TDs ints Rushes Yards TDs
David Dodds 16 352 570 3,933 29 16 35 112 1
Bob Henry 16 343 560 3,920 28 14 30 125 1
Jason Wood 16 364 585 4,205 28 12 25 95 1
Maurile Tremblay 15 352 579 4,032 27 15 30 123 0
Stephen Holloway 16 360 576 4,200 30 13 35 130 1

Final thoughts

Derek Carr has all the tools to be a great NFL quarterback. He has always worn #4 as he grew up favoring the play he saw in Brett Favre and he displays great leadership characteristics like Favre. He has excellent potential to continue his improvement and provide value as he is currently going at QB12 and overall #105 in ppr scoring leagues.

Other's Thoughts

Scott Bair on CSNBayArea.com Favre: Carr not a gunslinger, 'he's a little more polished'

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has been complimented regularly throughout this offseason. It’s a byproduct of being the next big thing, a side effect he gives little, if any, attention.

Receiver Michael Crabtree, however, said something that raised an eyebrow. Carr’s teammate called him a “gunslinger” in the Brett Favre mold.

As an amateur Carr idolized Favre and his confidence, wearing No. 4 all these years as homage to the Green Bay Packers great. Carr’s a Favre fan. That’s always been clear. Turns out the feeling is mutual. “I don't know if I consider him a gunslinger,” Favre said. “I think he's a little more polished. And I mean that with all due respect. I think he's done a tremendous job in Oakland. I like the way he plays. I think he's a little more polished. I like to watch him. A good player.”

Vic Tafur on SFGate.com Cooper’s 2nd Raiders season has everyone intrigued

“I told him at the Pro Bowl that he was taller than I thought he was and that he is going to do some incredible things,” said former 49er and Raider Jerry Rice, a Hall of Famer.

Cooper’s 1,070 yards were the most by a Raiders receiver since Rice in 2002, and even Cooper is fired up about how much more he can do.

Jason Wood on his Footballguys.com Player Comments – Scrutinize Carr’s 2015 and it’s hard not to come away impressed. He improved in every facet of the game and showed an aggressiveness and rapport with his top receivers that other young quarterbacks have yet to illustrate.