Derek Carr of the Fresno State Bulldogs and David Fales of the San Jose State Spartans are two quarterbacks who are receiving a lot of pre-season buzz. Both have appeared on multiple award watch-lists and top 10 quarterback rankings, often trading top spots from list to list. Together with Matthew_K and Roflcopter16, we have broken down the quarterback position into a few categories which we can compare and contrast. We tried to set homerism aside, but of course that's not always possible...
We will be updating this story as the season goes along, and we're all looking forward to the Fresno State vs. San Jose Spartan game where both will have settled into their respective new playbooks, be at 100% and ready to show us the quarterback duel of the century! (Note: slight exaggeration)
SpartanTombo: At a passer rating of 170.76 with a handful more yards than Derek Carr, Fales ranked third nationally in passing efficiency last year, while Derek Carr comes in at fifteenth. A very slight advantage goes to David Fales.
Matthew_K: The NCAA’s passer efficiency rating is more convoluted than its NFL counterpart, but it’s hard to ignore that Fales’ completion percentage in 2012 bested that of Carr by about five percent. Fales accomplished the feat with 60 fewer passes, as well, but Carr’s interception ratio was better (1.4% versus 2.0%, if my math is correct). The Spartans and the Bulldogs were neck and neck in S&P+ rating (if you’re into the advanced metrics) as well, according to Football Outsiders, a lot of which must necessarily fall on the quarterbacks. Given the contrasts in what was demanded of each, I think it’s safe to say that this category is a wash.
SpartanTombo: Derek Carr likes to throw it deep according to CFBstats.com, throwing 124 passes 20+ yards compared to David Fales' 105. Derek Carr has a great arm and uses it to stretch the field vertically while Fales is more of a west coast offense kind of QB. Minor advantage to Derek Carr.
Matthew_K: No individual statistic can tell the whole story, but it’s worth noting that Carr and Fales had roughly similar production on third-and-long (7+ yards). Carr has the ability to put a fair amount of touch on passes down the field and fire into tight windows when necessary. Fales is no slouch down the field, either. As best as I could tell in my research, however, both had a fair amount of good fortune in escaping potential turnovers because of less-than-ideal placement. All in all, it’s fair to say the two QBs are even here, as well.
SpartanTombo: Short to intermediate are David Fales bread and butter, clocking in at 181 10+ yard passes compared to Derek Carr's 145. Throw in his 72.5% completion rate and you can see why David Fales was able to march the San Jose Spartans down the field 10-20 yards at a time on a consistent basis. Major advantage to David Fales.
Matthew_K: One way to examine this is through red zone production, where a quarterback will naturally have less room to work with. In that regard, Carr benefits by volume for overall accuracy but Fales put the ball in the end zone on a higher percentage of throws. Fales did seem a bit rushed on a few timing patterns, mostly slants, but I think you have to give him the edge because I imagine it’s a little easier for a spread QB like Carr to stand back and pull the trigger on his first read if it’s a short route.
SpartanTombo: In 2012, Derek Carr struggled in this category in a variety of ways. For one, his offensive line was not that great, and opposing defenses were able to generate a lot of pressure on Carr. For another, when his offensive line did give him some sort of pocket he had a tendency to hold on to the ball a bit too long. Finally, Derek Carr, please, stop running backwards. Because he doesn't trust the pocket, Derek Carr too often scrambles backwards, a race to get off that one pass he read pre-snap, a race that he doesn't always win.
David Fales meanwhile benefited from a pretty solid offensive line which gave him time to run through his progressions and for the most part kept him upright. David Fales was also really good about releasing the ball on time, which helped keep the San Jose Spartan offense up-tempo.
Matthew_K: Here’s where the comparison gets interesting. The enduring memory of Derek Carr’s 2012 for the average fan is the Margus Hunt Experience, but why is it that no one recalls the punishment that Utah State gave to David Fales? You can credit him for the toughness it takes to absorb 13 sacks, but I would argue that, at a certain point, standing in and getting hit again and again is its own deficiency in awareness.
To be fair, both of those lowlights came with sacks in which neither guy had a prayer; if you don’t believe me, trying throwing a football ten yards when you’ve got a 300-pound behemoth on your back in two seconds. Both had their struggles against the better defenses on the slate – Oregon and Boise State in Carr’s case, Stanford and USU for Fales. Carr would throw off of his back foot and sail a pass on occasion, but he also possesses a degree of elusiveness that allowed him to extend plays. It’s not a huge advantage for Carr, but I’d rather have it in my quarterback than not.
Roflcopter16: Carr is a prostyle QB stuck in a one-read spread offense. He's very used to sitting under center and spending a bit of time reading the defense before the snap (which he's rather good at). You'll see him almost revert to that sometimes pre-snap and the game clock gets lower than the coaching staff likes.
Sometimes that experience pays off - against Colorado, the Buffs ran the same coverage scheme they had on the previous snap (false start on us) , dropping the safety in the box to cover the run (Rouse had just run for a 90ish yard TD) and he switched the play up and hit Burse over the middle for a 97 yard TD. Often it hurts him though.
SpartanTombo: David Fales is not a runner. Period. Although he keeps plays alive by scrambling a bit, David Fales remains a pure pocket passer. Derek Carr meanwhile presents a dual threat to defenses, keeping plays alive longer than they should and running for that first down when the defense isn't looking (and sometimes when it is!). Major advantage Derek Carr.
Matthew_K: I may have just covered this with my pocket presence assessments, but in my research I didn’t see a lot of movement out of Fales. If he was in the pistol, you knew he would make the necessary read and throw. Fresno’s spread offense called for the occasional rollout, and Carr showed an ability to scramble if needed. I give Carr a healthy advantage here.
Matthew_K: If the NFL Draft were tomorrow, my guess is that Fales would be drafted ahead of Carr. The read-option may be all the rage in the professional ranks, but Andrew Luck was the first quarterback picked in 2012 and he’s not a runner. Geno Smith, while perhaps overhyped as a prospect in 2013, is also not a prolific runner. Both Fales and Carr will be legitimate prospects come next April, though at present I’d forecast the former is a late 1st-round pick at worst and the latter as a 2nd-rounder.
Caveats for last season and Looking forward to next:
SpartanTombo: David Fales had some footwork mechanics that were holding him back from putting zip on those deep balls. In 2013, San Jose State head coach Ron Caragher is installing a more pro-style offense so expect to see a lot more shotgun and a lot less pistol. The pro-style offense seems to fit David Fales strengths, so if Fales can work out the mechanics issues I expect David Fales numbers to improve rather than regress.
Matthew_K: Derek Carr’s recent revelation that he played last season with an abdominal tear leads one to wonder what he might look like at full strength. The strength of SJSU’s 2012 schedule means that some of Fales’ production has to be taken with a grain of salt (for every Stanford, there was a UTSA), an issue that won’t exist this year with the Spartans’ inclusion in the Mountain West. Fales will also have to work with new coordinator Jimmie Dougherty, but the shift in offensive philosophy isn’t expected to be as drastic as Carr’s shift from a pro style to the spread.
Roflcopter16: RE: Prostyle to spread. Because - and this is big IMO - Carr went from having seven, eight guys protecting him (Pat Hill used the TE as a de facto 6th OL in his later years) to maybe six at max if Robbie Rouse was in on pass protection.
He regressed a bit pocket-presence wide in 2012. He wasn't incredible in 2011 but I think the system change, a shaky OL, and a abdominal tear that he suffered in camp that really cut down on his mobility all didn't help. I'm curious to see how he does healthy this year with a full playbook; we were basically running only half of it last year.