Derek Carr did his homework and arrived in Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl this week ready to impress, as much off the field as on it.
Carr was probably the best of the Senior Bowl quarterbacks, but it was a group that didn't include some of the biggest names at the position in the college ranks – Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortels. This weekend and the upcoming three-plus months of evaluation will be important for Carr's status trying to secure a spot in the first round.
His opportunities to throw in front of NFL scouts, general managers and coaches will be somewhat limited. There is the Senior Bowl game Saturday, the NFL Scouting Combine in February and his pro day. His chances to make a positive impression off the field will be much more plentiful.
The Vikings talked with Carr this week and he was prepared to recite his knowledge of the team.
"Oh, yeah. Oh, man. To hand the ball to a guy like Adrian Peterson, I would definitely love every second of that," Carr said. "All the weapons they have outside and they've got (Matt) Kalil at tackle and (Kyle) Rudolph. I do my homework on all the teams. I make sure I know everything I can about them. What a talented team. What an honor. I'd be so blessed and privileged to be a Viking. I really would. I would love every second of it."
Carr acknowledged that he was talking with most of the quarterback-needy teams in the NFL. Included among those was the Vikings, who annually strive to talk to every NFL prospect at the Senior Bowl but were fielding a coaching staff short-handed and in flux this week. General manager Rick Spielman was among those that talked with Carr, but the quarterback declined to go into too much detail of that discussion, well aware of some teams' desire for secrecy.
"I'll let them talk about it. I don't want to say their business and them not want me," he said.
With a brother, David, that was a former No. 1 overall pick, Derek is wise to the cloak-and-dagger ways of the NFL world well beyond his incoming rookie status.
"(David) taught me coverages, pressures, fronts. He's been teaching me that stuff since I was 10 years old," Derek said. "I remember sitting there at 12 or 13 years old, my brother was playing the Jaguars and I was sitting in the stadium and I could tell you what coverage they were playing based on the front. I could tell you what they were doing."
That's a skill serving him well over the past year as one NFL scout after another made the pilgrimage to Fresno State to see the Bulldogs quarterback that slung it for 5,082 yards, an amazing 50 touchdowns and equally impressive eight interceptions in 2013, continuing the ascent that started with 3,544 yards, 26 TDs and nine INTs in 2011 and progressed to 4,104-37-7 in 2012 before the final act in 2013.
Carr's ability to diagnose what's in front of him – whether it is defenders on the field or an aerial view of an entire defense on the film-room screen – is serving him well.
"I make sure I always know the coverage. I make sure I always know the pressures," he said. "From a quarterback standpoint, you can't throw the ball on your back so you make sure you can pick up the coverages and know the pressures and all those things. That's one thing that I've always tried to not get beat on."
Based on conversations he has had, he figures his draft stock could range anywhere from the top three picks down to the bottom of the first round. At a time of year when NFL teams would rather throw out red herrings than legitimate and honest praise, it's hard to know exactly where he will land.
"My mindset: I hope to go somewhere where they fall in love with me. I don't want to go somewhere where it's, ‘OK, we'll take him.' I want it to be somewhere where it's 100 percent, that's our guy," he said.
His immersion into the sport at an early age – he said his dad put a football in his hand when Derek first began to sit up and he began playing at age 3 – is a plus in his evaluation, especially at his position. Carr says NFL scouts also like the maturity factor that comes with having a family. Teams won't have to worry about his focus after he leaves a facility. It goes from football to family and "trying to help them have a nice backyard."
"My No. 1 goal if you asked me when I was little, I was: ‘I'm going to be an NFL quarterback. I'm going to be the best to ever do it.' I would always say that," he said. "I would never say that now. That was politically incorrect to say that. But that was my mindset and my teachers would like, ‘OK, that's good, but what else?' My mindset never changed. I stayed on a mission to get there."
But in order to be chosen in the first half of the first round he probably will need to overcome a perception that quarterbacks who mainly played in a spread offense in college will struggle early in the NFL.
"I'll be the first to admit you can easily get lazy in the shotgun, especially when you do it all day. It was a constant battle with myself to make sure I was thinking about it," he said.
Still, he doesn't regret going to Fresno State. It's where David went and Derek wanted to "finish what (David) started" in bringing the Bulldogs to contending relevance and to beat Boise State.
Now it's up to Carr to convince NFL decision-makers of his worth. That he will transition to the NFL better than his brother. That a college shotgun quarterback can quickly become an NFL success story. That his early exposure to the sport has put him ahead of others in his draft class.
If that's with the Vikings, he sounded genuinely excited about the surrounding talent and possibilities.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
QB Carr would be ‘privileged to be a Viking'
Viking Update Top Stories
Vikings sign 3 to practice squad, release 3The Minnesota Vikings shook up their practice squad on Tuesday, signing three – including an offensive lineman – and releasing three.
Viking Update1:34 PM
Long: No excusesJake Long was only on the field for 13 plays Sunday at Philadelphia, but two of those resulted in turnovers that cost the Minnesota Vikings offense from putting up points. On…
Viking Update12:55 PM
Did rotating tackles affect Vikings?The Minnesota Vikings took the unusual step of rotating their offensive tackles in the first half of Sunday’s loss. Did that affect their performance? Alex Boone reacted to that,…
Viking Update12:42 PM
Cutler’s back, drawing angry Vikings defenseThe Bears announced Monday that, in the midst of Chicago’s World Series frenzy, local goat Jay Cutler will be making his return to playing action. How will it go? The Minnesota…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 10:02 PM