Is Derek Carr Really the Future of the Oakland Raiders?
If you ask Google, it appears that most people think Derek Carr's rookie season was a success. Perhaps that's true given expectations -- he was a second-round selection in last year's draft, and the Raiders' recent history managing the quarterback position hasn't exactly been strong.
But exceeding expectations doesn't mean a player is good. And it seems like that's being ignored a bit with Carr.
Carr finished his rookie season with 21 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a solid 3,270 yards. This made him one of eight rookie quarterbacks in NFL history to have thrown for at least 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. This was also something his brother, David, never accomplished during his five years as the Houston Texans' starter.
Butterflies and rainbows, right? Not exactly.
Touchdown-to-interception ratios and yardage totals don't really tell us the entire story about a quarterback's season. Touchdowns can be short and less impactful, while interceptions aren't created equally -- a pick-six, after all, is a bigger play than a 3rd-and-long interception that would be the equivalent to a punt.
That's why we look at our signature Net Expected Points (NEP) metric to give us a better idea of what's actually happening on the field. In essence, NEP looks at each play and calculates the points added by a player based on expectation. You can read more about it in our glossary.
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.
If we're being honest, it wasn't a good year for Derek Carr. He was in roughly the 10th percentile as an NFL starting quarterback.
Many will point out that these poor numbers are due to bad personnel around him and inexperience at the position. That's not unfair, and I'm sure that played a role in all of this. However, Carr's first-year numbers don't give us -- me, at least -- much confidence.
In January of last year, I wrote a piece on whether or not a quarterback's rookie season predicts his future. The findings showed that it kind of does -- passers who were good during their rookie campaigns hit at a much higher rate than those who were bad from the start.
Carr's Passing NEP places him in a rookie quarterback tier that includes guys like Joey Harrington and Josh Freeman. Within this tier of 10 players, the best quarterback is arguably Matthew Stafford, or maybe Carson Palmer (who was included in the study simply because he played zero snaps his rookie year). But those are the only two quarterbacks who really hit (out of 10 passers), giving Carr pretty low odds.
This isn't to say he'll never be serviceable, and he can certainly break the mold and become a star. But just going by the numbers, it's tough to get behind the franchise building around him.