Should Fantasy Football Managers Go All In on Derek Carr?

Jun 21, 2022
Should Fantasy Football Managers Go All In on Derek Carr?

Derek Carr threw for 4,804 yards last year, which was the fifth-most in the NFL. Despite this and the fact he threw the fifth-most passes with 626, the eight-year veteran had just 23 touchdowns. While this was the 13th-highest mark in the NFL, his touchdown rate of 3.7% was tied for 23rd. He was behind the likes of Jared Goff, Tyler Heinicke, and Davis Mills.

While the expectation is with the arrival of Davante Adams, Carr's touchdown rate will surely climb, will it be enough for him to ascend into the top 12? There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the former Fresno State standout. Josh McDaniels as the new head coach has the potential to upgrade the offense's overall efficiency and the trio of Adams, Darren Waller, and Hunter Renfrow is a potent group of pass-catchers.

Throughout his career, Carr has been a capable passer, a solid starter, but one who has failed to truly elevate those around him. Now entering his ninth year in the NFL, what can fantasy managers expect from Derek Carr in 2022 now that he's in the most fantasy-friendly environment in his career?

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Derek Carr's History

The biggest cause for optimism around Carr this season is the belief that the arrival of McDaniels and Adams will raise last year's 3.7% touchdown rate. There's no reason that won't happen in 2022, seeing as his career touchdown rate is 4.3%, but just how high can fantasy managers expect it to get?

Raiders Scoring Efficiency with Derek Carr, 2014–2022
Year TD Rate TD Rate Rank Points Per Drive Points Per Drive Rank
2014 3.5% 26th 1.24 31st
2015 5.6% 8th 1.99 18th
2016 5.0% 9th 2.16 10th
2017 4.3% 17th 1.73 21st
2018 3.4% 26th 1.62 27th
2019 4.1% 21st 1.87 19th
2020 5.2% 15th 2.63 8th
2021 3.7% 23rd 2.04 17th

As you can see from the table above, Carr only has three seasons with a touchdown rate north of 5.0%. Even worse, in eight seasons, the Raiders have only been in the top-15 in points per drive twice with Carr behind center. It seems to be a guarantee he should surpass 30 touchdown passes this season, but it's something Carr has only been able to do once in his career, way back in 2015 when he just barely inched past that mark and finished with 32.

One of the areas where Carr has excelled is passing yardage. Last year, he finished with a career-high of 4,804 yards, which was his fourth straight season with 4,000 or more passing yards. It's unknown how the offense will change with Josh McDaniels at the helm, but fantasy managers should expect the offense to continue to revolve around Carr and the passing game.

Last season, despite lackluster receiving weapons in Las Vegas, Carr still averaged 4.53 deep attempts per game, which was the eighth-highest rate in the NFL. He also had 86 red zone attempts, the 10th-most in the NFL. The most appealing part of Carr's stats from last season was his 298.29 air yards per game, which ranked sixth. The addition of Adams and Carr's high number of pass attempts gives him a legitimate shot at leading the NFL in yardage.

The biggest red flag in his past as it relates to his future fantasy potential is the utter lack of rushing. The next season Carr has 150 rushing yards, it'll be his first. He has five seasons where he failed to ever pass the century mark. He's averaged just 93 yards per season. This means he must get almost all of his fantasy points via the air. In today's fantasy game, quarterbacks that don't run the football have a very slim margin of error and the upside is lacking.

Will 2022 be Derek Carr's Jackpot Season?

Fantasy managers are currently drafting Derek Carr as the QB14 on Underdog, ahead of Kirk Cousins and Justin Fields. Carr's fantasy season depends on another year of high pass attempts, likely correlating with a high number of passing yards. He'll also need to significantly increase his touchdowns. While this has been discussed already, what would that look like if he's able to do that?

Using his pass attempts from last year with his career-best touchdown rate of 5.6%, he would've had 35 touchdowns. This would have resulted in an extra 48 fantasy points. His point per game average would have increased from 15.94 to 18.76, which would have been QB13. This should be viewed as his realistic ceiling. It's certainly possible the acquisition of Davante Adams could result in a new career-high in terms of his touchdown rate.

Getting Darren Waller healthy and the arrival of Adams will certainly give Carr a lot more firepower in the red zone and it's within his range of outcomes where he surpasses a 6.0% touchdown rate. Part of the dangers in that type of expectation is the fact that he's never done that before.

It boils down to fantasy managers hoping Derek Carr becomes Kirk Cousins. That may sound off-putting at first, but that's only because Cousins's fantasy game is often underappreciated. In the last two seasons, Cousins has had 4,200+ passing yards with 33 and 35 touchdowns. Both signal-callers offer almost nothing with their legs.

Carr's lack of rushing ability significantly caps his upside and gives him a ceiling that leaves him as nothing more than a back-end QB1. In Superflex leagues, he looks like a safe QB2, but he doesn't have the same kind of upside that someone like Justin Fields has, solely due to his ability to score points with his legs.

The Bottom Line

  • Derek Carr has more upside than he has had in his entire career with the arrival of Josh McDaniels and Davante Adams.
  • Fantasy managers can reasonably expect Carr's touchdown rate to increase, but his lack of rushing upside significantly caps his ceiling.
  • He has the ability to lead the league in passing yards, but to outplay his current ranking, he'll need to set career-highs in passing touchdowns.
  • Carr is reasonably valued as the QB14 on Underdog, which is exactly where he is ranked here at 4for4.
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