Each Wednesday of the college football season NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Rob Rang will identify his Prospect of the Week. To qualify, the player must have played a significant role in their team's performance against a quality opponent, demonstrating not only effectiveness as the collegiate level but the rare traits to demand the attention of pro scouts, as well.
Top Prospect of Week Four: Fresno State QB Derek Carr
Film review over the summer proved that the buzz surrounding Carr was legitimate.
This wasn't just a case of a prospect living off the hype of an older sibling. Derek possesses the same kind of size (6-3, 215), velocity and leadership traits that have earned comparisons to his legendary older brother, David, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2002 NFL draft.
Last week, however, the younger brother accomplished something the former Houston Texan was never able to accomplish while playing at Fresno State - he beat Boise State.
Beating the Broncos in itself certainly isn't enough to earn Prospect of the Week honors. In demonstrating improved pocket awareness, mobility and poise in the clutch, however, Carr's stock is elevating with NFL scouts.
Scouts have always been impressed with Carr's rocket arm. So too, it seems, has Carr, as he's shown a troubling willingness to force the action, holding the ball for too long (inviting sacks), staring down intended targets and hurling fast balls into coverage.
Carr's first touchdown September 20 came off a screen pass. He executed the misdirection play perfectly, taking the snap from shotgun, drifting back as the Boise pass rush attacked him, and showed the ability to deliver an accurate, quick pass with a sidearm delivery that surprised the defense, allowing running back Josh Quezada to slip through for a 14-yard score on 3rd and 10. His touch was shown soon after, as he lofted a deep ball to wideout Greg Watson for a 68-yard gain down the right sideline later in the first quarter.
Carr attacked the seam for a 41-yard gain in the second quarter and threw perhaps his best pass of the game to punctuate the drive moments later, delivering a perfect stop-fade to wideout Josh Harper for a tightly contested 21-yard touchdown.
Most impressive about Carr's performance was his mettle as the Bulldogs faced a nightmare scenario in the fourth quarter as Boise State came roaring back to take a 40-34 lead. The Broncos had ended David and an undefeated Bulldogs' dream season in precisely this manner in 2001 and had won the past seven games in the "rivalry."
Showing improved poise, Carr calmly led the Bulldogs on a 13-play 87-yard drive that chewed up nearly five minutes. He hit 8 of 11 passes on the drive before Quezada ran in the game-winning score from one yard out.
While possessing plenty of athleticism to roll away from defenders, Carr is not a dual-threat quarterback. He isn't as flashy as Clemson's Tajh Boyd, nor as talented a deep ball passer as Miami's Stephen Morris. Further, he hasn't faced the caliber of competition that have helped Alabama's A.J. McCarron and Georgia's Aaron Murray earn a higher rank on NFLDraftScout.com's current quarterback rankings. He is, however, an accomplished three-year starter with a career mark of 75 touchdown passes against just 17 interceptions.
Frankly, Carr is every bit as gifted as any other senior quarterback in the land. With the victory over their longtime adversaries, Fresno State is emerging as a chic "BCS Buster" and therefore the pressure will only increase as the season goes on.
Should his sparkling 2013 season continue, don't be surprised if Carr earns an invitation to the Senior Bowl, where his big arm could lead to a dramatic rise up draft boards, possibly overtaking all others to earn the top mark among senior quarterbacks and wind up a first round pick, himself.