No quarterback in NFL history has completed more passes within the first five years of his career than Derek Carr has, and that’s a bittersweet stat. On one hand, it is a record, and completing passes is rarely a bad thing, but it does leave me asking why he hasn’t broken other records. A ton of completions means a ton of attempts, yet despite completing more passes through five years than anyone else in NFL history, he doesn’t have the most yards or touchdowns over that span. So what’s going on? Where is the fruit of Carr’s labor? Let’s see if we can find out.
Tracking Derek Carr’s Targets
Derek Carr has targeted some players that don’t fit the conventional skill position mold. That’s right, we’re talking offensive linemen and fullbacks. So far in his career, Derek Carr has targeted these six of miscellaneous players 136 times. Of those 136 attempts, 100 were completed for 841 yards, seven touchdowns, a completion percentage of 73.5% and a yards per catch rate of 8.4. Offensive linemen and fullbacks account for 4.8% of his attempts, 5.6% of his completions, 4.4% of his yards, and 5.7% of his touchdowns.
Marcel Reece–63/92 for 68.4% 495 yards, two touchdowns, 7.8 YPC
Jamize Olawale–26/32 for 81.2%, 320 yards, three touchdowns, 12.3 YPC.
Keith Smith– 5/6 for 83%, 23 yards, 4.6 YPC.
Donald Penn– 3/3 for 100%, seven yards, two touchdowns, 2.3 YPC.
Gabe Jackson– 2/2 for 100%, -5 yards, -2.5 YPC.
Khalif Barnes–1/1 for 100%, one yard, 1 YPC.
So far in his career, Derek Carr has targeted nine different tailbacks 503 times. Of those 503 attempts, 373 were completed for 2,794 yards, six touchdowns, a completion percentage of 74.1%, and a yards per catch rate of 7.4. Tailbacks account for 17.9% of his attempts, 21.2% of his completions, 14.9% of his yards, and 3.9% of his touchdowns. Not bad for the guy who is permanently stuck with the “Captain Checkdown” label.
Jalen Richard– 123/153 for 80.3%, 1,072 yards, three touchdowns, 8.7 YPC.
Latavius Murray–87/115 for 75.6%, 610 yards, 7 YPC.
DeAndre Washington–50/67 for 74.6%, 307 yards, one touchdown, 6.1 YPC.
Darren McFadden–34/54 for 63%, 195 yards, 5.7 YPC.
Marshawn Lynch– 44/49 for 89.7%, 226 yards, 5.1 YPC.
Doug Martin– 18/25 for 75%, 116 yards, 9.2 YPC.
Roy Helu– 9/16 for 56.3%, 75 yards, one touchdown, 8.3 YPC.
Taiwan Jones–10/12 for 83.3%, 136 yards, one touchdown, 13.6 YPC.
Maurice Jones-Drew– 8/13 for 61.5%, 57 yards, 7.1 YPC.
So far in his career, Derek Carr has targeted seven different tight ends 489 times. Of those 489 attempts, 340 were completed for 3,686 yards, 26 touchdowns, a completion percentage of 69.5%, and a yards per catch rate of 10.8. Tight ends account for 19.3% of his attempts, 17.4% of his completions, 19.6% of his yards, and 21.3% of his touchdowns.
Jared Cook–117/176 for 70.9%, 1,525 yards, eight touchdowns, 13 YPC.
Mychal Rivera– 105/161 for 65.2%, 998 yards, six touchdowns, 9.5 YPC.
Clive Walford– 68/109 for 62.3%, 750 yards, six touchdowns, 11 YPC.
Lee Smith–35/40 for 87.5%, 244 yards, four touchdowns, 6.9 YPC.
Derek Carrier–6/11 for 54.5%, 59 yards, one touchdown, 9.8 YPC.
Darren Waller–6/6 for 100%, 75 yards, 12.5 YPC.
Brian Leonhardt– 6/8 for 75%, 35 yards, one touchdown, 5.8 YPC.
So far in his career, Derek Carr has targeted 19 different receivers 1,590 times. Of those 1,590 attempts, 932 were completed for 11,334 yards, 82 touchdowns, a completion percentage of 58.6%, and a yards per catch rate of 12.1. Wide receivers account for 56.7% of his attempts, 52.9% of his completions, 60.4% of his yards, and 67.2% of his touchdowns.
Michael Crabtree– 217/370 for 58.6%, 2,387 yards, 24 touchdowns, 11 YPC.
Amari Cooper–209/366 for 57%, 3,043 yards, 18 touchdowns, 14.5 YPC.
Seth Roberts–145/243 for 59.6%, 1,690 yards, 12 touchdowns, 11.6 YPC.
Andre Holmes– 70/146 for 47.9%, 946 yards, 10 touchdowns, 13.5 YPC.
James Jones–71/108 for 65.7%, 615 yards, six touchdowns, 8.6 YPC.
Jordy Nelson– 63/87 for 72.4%, 739 yards, three touchdowns, 11.7 YPC.
Cordarrelle Patterson–28/38 for 73.7%, 286 yards, 10.2 YPC.
Kenbrell Thompkins– 14/35 for 40%, 199 yards, 14.2 YPC.
Brice Butler–20/34 for 58.8%, 265 yards, two touchdowns, 13.25 YPC.
Marcell Ateman– 15/31 for 48.4%, 154 yards, one touchdown, 10.2 YPC.
Martavis Bryant–17/25 for 68%, 258 yards, 15.1 YPC.
Johnny Holton– 11/21 for 52.3%, 252 yards, three touchdowns, 22.9 YPC.
Denarius Moore– 12/21 for 44.4%, 115 yards, 9.5 YPC.
Vincent Brown–12/21 for 57.1%, 118 yards, 9.8 YPC.
Brandon LaFell– 12/16 for 75%, 135 yards, two touchdowns, 11.2 YPC.
Rod Streater–9/13 for 69.2%, 84 yards, one touchdown, 9.3 YPC.
Dwayne Harris–6/6 for 100%, 40 yards, 6.6 YPC.
Keon Hatcher– 1/2 for 50%, eight yards, 8 YPC.
Isaac Whitney–0/1 for 0%.
What Does Any of This Mean?
Firstly, it means that I either have too much time on my hands or don’t get enough sleep at night. Secondly, it means a few things that are mostly positive. See, earlier I said Derek has the record for most completions through five yards and drew attention to the negative side, that he doesn’t have the records for yards or touchdowns. But he also doesn’t have the record for attempts. That means Carr’s pretty efficient with his passes, which is reinforced by his 62.8 career completion percentage.
Carr’s critics are always quick to point at his career yards per attempt rate, which admittedly isn’t very high. At 6.7 yards per attempt, Carr would’ve been tied with Blake Bortles for the 28th highest in 2018. This doesn’t factor in a rookie season where he averaged only 5.5 per attempt and has dramatically improved over his career, but it does reinforce the stigma that Carr is a check-down artist who can’t throw it deep. This is a stigma that’s become even more popular with the addition of Antonio Brown this off-season, who Carr’s detractor’s claim he won’t be able to get the ball to.
But if you look at where he’s throw balls throughout his career, it’s not consistent with that theory at all. Carr throws at receivers more often than any other position by a pretty significant margin, and the better the receiver, the better the yards per attempt is. Pretty much every receiver that’s been a starter for him is over 10 yards per catch, with his speedier receivers having big averages.
The Other Guys
And it’s not like there are a ton of Hall of Fame caliber players listed above. Most of these guys are accidental starters, with Amari Cooper and Darren McFadden being the only players the Raiders invested a first round pick on. Michael Crabtree and Jordy Nelson were both bargain bin free agents that the Raiders backed into, while Jared Cook didn’t become a star tight end until last season.
So with questionable protection, an inconsistent running game, and more offensive coordinator changes than Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees have had in their careers combined, alongside injuries varying from broken fingers and sprained ankles to a broken fibula and a shattered back, Carr hasn’t done anything but miss two regular season games and set the record for completions.
I think Antonio Brown will get his targets just fine, thanks for asking.