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Raiders should start Derek Carr in Las Vegas in 2020

Denver, Colorado, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) during the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

“I don't believe Jon [Gruden] sees enough high-end upside there, and at this point, you would have to think Carr is what he is.” – a source close to Gruden via CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora.

The historic Raiders franchise is moving from Oakland to Las Vegas this offseason, and rumors are swirling, once again, that head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock are ready to move on from quarterback Derek Carr and start fresh at the position in the Sin City.

Some of these rumors have even included the possibility of the Raiders signing Tom Brady in free agency, with the only rationale for this move being the notion that the Raiders have all the weapons that Brady needed so badly in New England last year. However, there really isn't much weight in that reasoning. The Raiders' wide receiver unit finished the 2019 season ranked 31st among 32 units in terms of PFF receiving grade, while their combined yards per route run average (3.31) ranked 28th. And even though they do have a top-five tight end in terms of PFF receiving grade, the Raiders' pass-catching unit as a whole isn't notably better than the one New England has now, and it's certainly not good enough to make Tom Brady think seriously about shifting his alliance. 

If Derek Carr “is what he is,” then he's an above-average quarterback. He is a quarterback who can produce (and has produced) a top-10 season in any given year. Personally, I'd take that over most of the league's quarterback situations any day of the week.

Last week, we broke down all 32 teams' quarterback situations by need and gave the Raiders a medium need, meaning they really don't need to be actively looking for a starter. For perspective, 11 teams had a medium or low need.

In terms of PFF's wins above replacement (PFF WAR), the Raiders' roster outside the quarterback position generated the 29th most wins, while Carr ranked ninth among signal-callers in WAR in 2019. Put simply, Carr isn't hindering team success; he's helping it.

[Editor's note: Available to all of PFF's EDGE and ELITE subscribers, PFF's Free Agent Rankings Page consists of three-year grades, PFF WAR and in-depth analysis for all of the top NFL free agents. Contract information from our friends at Over The Cap is also available. Subscribe today for access!]

His accuracy is in the upper echelon

Derek Carr's accuracy is certainly no problem, as he has shown that he's capable of consistently putting the ball where it needs to be. PFF began charting every quarterback pass back in 2016 through a process that is currently led by former NFL quarterback, Bruce Gradkowski. In the four years that we have done this, Carr has ranked among the top-10 quarterbacks in the percentage of “uncatchable passes” thrown when throwing 10 or more yards downfield in three of the four, with two of those seasons earning top-five marks.

Carr rarely makes the errors that routinely result in an incomplete pass. In fact, he has one of the league's lowest rates of such pass attempts.

Highest/lowest rate of incompletions thrown due to QB fault (overthrow, underthrow, ball thrown behind, etc.) since 2016
1. Drew Brees 8.7%
2. Matt Ryan 10.6%
3. Derek Carr 11.3%
4. Andrew Luck 11.9%
30. Mitchell Trubisky 17.5%
31. Jameis Winston 17.8%
32. Tyrod Taylor 19.1%

(of 32 QBs, removing passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage)

Carr's in pretty good company here with Brees, Ryan and Luck. And even when we filter through the data set to look just at passes 10 or more yards downfield, Carr is still among the top five.

Another popular knock on Carr is his arm strength (or lack thereof). But while it's true that he doesn't let it rip over 30 yards downfield on a consistent basis — the kind of passes we have come to expect from Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, etc., — he can still hit receivers downfield with a high rate of accuracy. Over the last four seasons combined, Carr owns the seventh-best adjusted completion percentage on throws 20 to 30 yards downfield, and altogether, he joins only Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan as being the only quarterbacks to rank in the top 10 in both positively and negatively graded throw rate.

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