MOBILE, AL—Derek Carr gave an encore performance at the Senior Bowl on Tuesday, and it had the look of something well planned and conceived.
Scouts stretched across the field as they watched Carr throw goal-line passes to South wide receivers Kevin Norwood of Alabama, Cody Hoffman of BYU and Mike Davis of Texas. Carr threw slants and fades to the delight of his agent, who stood a few paces behind his star quarterback and watched.
Were the scouts watching the top quarterback in this draft class? Underclassmen Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel are widely ranked at the top of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft, but Carr is almost without a doubt the top senior quarterback in the class, and the Senior Bowl is providing him with a stage on which he might raise his stock, as E.J. Manuel did during this week last year.
“I throw hundreds of balls every day,” Carr explained, following his impressive post-practice performance at Ladd Peebles Stadium. “This is what I’ve been dreaming of since I was little. I know this is a job interview.”
Carr’s older brother, David, used the Senior Bowl to become the first pick of the 2002 NFL draft. Derek isn’t likely to reach that high, but a quarterback crop that appears to lack a clear-cut top to it could be vulnerable to a major move up the board by Carr, who has the size, arm strength and stats to cause a team to “fall in love.” Those are Carr’s words.
What team might’ve fallen in love with Carr on Tuesday, a windy day that caused the rest of the Senior Bowl quarterbacks’ passes to sail and flutter? Carr’s passes never strayed from their intended course. They were tight, sharp and on time. He played at a level even higher than Manuel did last year, and Manuel used the Senior Bowl to launch himself from the third round to the 16th overall selection.
“The wind’s not a factor. If you throw it hard enough, it doesn’t matter,” Carr said, picking his words carefully and skillfully, as media and scouts alike interviewed him following practice.
Carr wasn’t the only player whose stock is on the rise. Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland followed a strong performance on Monday with an even stronger showing on Tuesday. He was unblockable in the back-on-backer drill.
“I feel like I can compete with all of these guys. I feel I prepare the best,” Borland said.
At 5-11, 246, Borland doesn’t have ideal size, but he makes up for it with ideal instincts and quickness.
“I feel I can show I’m a better athlete than people think,” he said of his goal this week.
The Packers are likely interested in selecting a linebacker or two.
“That would be cool,” Borland said. “I grew up rooting for the Packers, but I’d be happy to play anywhere.”
Borland’s remarks were measured and prepared, as were Carr’s, and it’s for good reason.
“There are a lot of good football players and we’re going to get a chance to smell their breath up close and personal,” Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith said. Smith and his staff are the coaches for the North this week.
“I tell the players … this is the beginning of a very long job interview and it ends in May. It’s probably the most intense job interview they’ll go through, so put your best foot forward,” Smith said.
There can be no false steps or attempts at deception. This is a time for NFL scouts and coaches to gather information, and any attempt to hide the truth will provide information that could cause a player’s draft stock to drop dramatically. Consider this exchange between Utah cornerback Keith McGill and a Redskins scout:
“Any off-the-field issues?”
“I do have off-the-field issues, but that’s in the past,” said McGill, who admitted to several events he’d like to erase from his past. He then added, “In 2013, I tried to stay out of trouble.”
McGill was a safety for his first three years at Utah, but was moved to cornerback for his senior season and used that change in his career to also effect a change in his lifestyle. Cornerback is more than a position for him, it’s a commitment.
“I’m not going to turn down any opportunity,” he said when asked about playing safety, which has been projected by some as the best position for him in the NFL, “but I prefer corner. I was pretty successful with it and I think I could only improve.”
This is a time to say and do all the right things. Carr worked overtime at it on Tuesday.