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Is Derek Carr a Bargain or Just Plain Bad?

Derek Carr

According to the Best Ball ADP AppDerek Carr is currently being drafted as the 24th quarterback off the board, going in the 14th-15th rounds. That makes him one of the last available QBs that’s likely to start all 16 games for his team. At that price, it’s possible that Carr is a pick that’s going to return excess value. It’s also possible that he’s that cheap because he’s frankly just not worth drafting.

So which is it? Is Derek Carr a bargain? Or is Derek Carr just bad?

2015 Projection

For context, Carr finished the 2014 season as QB20 after appearing in all 16 games, with 16.0 fantasy points per game. But what we are concerned with is the future. Here are Carr’s 2015 projections from the QB Similarity Score App:

4pt PTD 6pt PTD
Low 13.7 16
Median 15.4 17.8
High 17.9 21.4

Carr’s median projection of 15.4 FFPG is actually lower than his 2014 production. That would have made Carr QB36 in fantasy points per game last year, not much lower than his actual finish of QB34. It seems appearing in all 16 games was Carr’s greatest virtue. His high projection of 17.9 FPPG would have tied him with Andy Dalton as QB26. Already the future looks  bleak, but let’s examine Carr’s 2014 production beyond fantasy points.

Verdict: Bad

Passing Efficiency

In 2015 Carr only passed for 5.5 yards per attempt on 599 pass attempts. I decided to run a Pro Football Reference season screener to find other QBs who attempted at least 300 passes for less than 6.0 yards per attempt since 1998.

QB Year Age Cmp Att Cmp% Yds Y/A
Sam Bradford 2010 23 354 590 60 3512 5.95
David Carr 2002 23 233 444 52.48 2592 5.84
Derek Carr 2014 23 348 599 58.1 3270 5.46
Chris Weinke 2001 29 293 540 54.26 2931 5.43
Blaine Gabbert 2011 22 210 413 50.85 2214 5.36
Joey Harrington 2002 24 215 429 50.12 2294 5.35
Kyle Orton 2005 23 190 368 51.63 1869 5.08
Bruce Gradkowski 2006 23 177 328 53.96 1661 5.06

The most positive comps are probably journeyman Kyle Orton and the enigmatic Sam Bradford. You also see infamous busts like Derek’s brother David Carr and Blaine Gabbert.

Verdict: Bad

Much Ado About Touchdowns

One of the best arguments in favor of Derek Carr is that he had a good touchdown-to-interception ratio as a rookie, throwing 21 TDs to only 12 INTs. What if I told you that Carr is actually the most effective red zone QB in the league? It’s true, he has converted 34 percent of his career red zone pass attempts into TDs.

But what if I told you that might actually be bad news? For context, the starting QB with the second highest red zone conversion rate is Russell Wilson, who has converted 29.7 percent of his red zone pass attempts into TDs.1 Tied at third you have Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo at 27.1 percent. Is it possible that Carr is a significantly above average red zone QB? Absolutely. But it’s incredibly unlikely that he’s significantly better than every other QB in the league. He’s due for regression in this area.

Delving further into the subject, 18 of Carr’s 21 TDs came in the red zone. That means only three of Carr’s TDs came outside of the red zone. Carr had 546 pass attempts outside of the red zone and only 0.55 percent of those ended in a TD. For context, Alex Smith didn’t throw a single TD to a wide receiver last season and he was only slightly worse at 0.5 percent. Noodle-armed and injured Peyton Manning threw TDs on 2.9 percent of his attempts outside of the red zone. To be clear, Carr will likely regress in this area for the better, especially with the addition of Amari Cooper. But he could double his efficiency and still not be particularly good.

Verdict: Mostly Bad

Passing Volume

Carr was seventh in the NFL in total pass attempts with 599 last season. You can view that as a positive or negative for next season. On one hand, there’s a good chance that he ends 2015 with a lot of pass attempts again. But it could also be the case that’s he’s bound to regress. Time will tell.

Verdict: Push

Ultimate Upside

I’ve been kind of piling on Carr at this point, so I should probably be a little more generous. After all, at his price it may be the case that we should only really care about his absolute best case scenario. According to the Sim Score App, his best comp was Jake Delhomme in 2007. Delhomme was actually QB3 that season, with 22.0 FPPG. That total would have made Carr QB8 last year, just slightly ahead of Eli Manning. Delhomme increased his FPPG scoring by about 37 percent between the 2006 and 2007 seasons. If we give Carr an equivalent boost that takes him to 21.9 FPPG, which is basically what Delhomme did.

Verdict: Bargain

Final Verdict

Overall, I think the scales lean more towards Carr being a bad pick than a bargain pick, though he is not without upside. In deep redraft formats where you need to roster more than one QB or best ball leagues his combination of low price, job security, and upside could make him an ideal backup if you get a top QB like Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers. Otherwise I would probably avoid him completely.

As far as dynasty is concerned, he actually isn’t even cheap. According to the Dynasty ADP App Carr is being drafted as QB15, ahead of guys like Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, and Colin Kaepernick. I think that even if he was valued lower than those guys he would still be a sell given his poor 2014 performance.

  1. Apologies to Seahawks fans for any pain caused by that stat.  (back)

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