The saying goes that time heals all wounds. The NFL Draft is the exception that proves the rule because, between now and May 8, every player will go under each team's microscope to uncover every strength, every weakness, in order to find the next handful of players that will lead the way to a championship.
After his blistering regular season campaign was soured somewhat by an uneven bowl performance, Derek Carr still has his fair share of admirers in the world of mock drafters, though the opinions are far from unanimous. We'll begin our examination of Carr's stock with SB Nation's own Matthew Fairburn, a contributor to Mocking the Draft whose latest board was posted January 13.
Fairburn's first round sees three quarterbacks -- Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles -- picked in the top 10. Carr slips to the Arizona Cardinals with the 20th pick, but landing on a talented team just might be better than shouldering too much responsibility too soon, which is a point that echoes what Jeremy has already said. Bruce Arians likes to throw the ball down the field and he has a history with big and physical quarterbacks, most notably Ben Roethlisberger, which requires both a big arm and an ability to withstand punishment. Carr has played through injury before, but could use more work standing his ground to make plays under duress.
NFL.com features three different mock drafts, but only one of the site's prognosticators sees Carr as a first round pick. Charles Davis sees him slipping, as the aforementioned trio of quarterbacks has a stranglehold on the top 10 here, too, but the destination is perhaps the most intriguing of all the possibilities because the Cleveland Browns would use the 26th pick, their bounty from the Trent Richardson trade, to select Carr. I would understand if the Dawg Pound were dubious about spending another high draft pick on a signal-caller from a spread offense, but keep in mind that Carr spent 2011, Pat Hill's last season as head coach, under center. It may also be worth noting that Hill and current Browns GM Michael Lombardi were colleagues in Cleveland in the 1990s and at UNLV in the early 1980s, so the team may be able to glean some additional insights on Carr that others will not.
Eric Edholm of Yahoo's Shutdown Corner shares a similar outlook, forecasting three quarterbacks in the top five but Carr becoming Cincinnati's good fortune at pick 24. In doing so, he provides an interesting tidbit about the Bengals:
Are the Bengals the most likely fit? Probably not ... but why not? What do you get for the team that has almost everything else, has no pressing needs but likely will want a young QB to push Andy Dalton? It's a possibility, especially when you consider that team owner Mike Brown has let it out that Dalton was not his pick and that that man who convinced Brown to draft Dalton (Jay Gruden) is coaching the Redskins now.
Over at CBS Sports, the two diverging opinions are most apparent. Rob Rang also has Carr to Cleveland at pick 26, but Dane Brugler finds room for him in the top 10, to the Minnesota Vikings with the 8th pick. It mostly comes down to perceptions of the demand for a franchise quarterback, since Carr is still the fourth quarterback taken in both scenarios. Other drafts have QB-needy teams selecting Bortles or Manziel, eliminating the first-round possibility altogether.
Peter Schrager of Fox Sports, Walter Cheripinsky of WalterFootball.com and SI's Chris Burke agree with Brugler's assessment and forecast Carr 8th overall. DraftTek has the rosiest projection of all of the experts, calling Carr to Cleveland, but with the 4th pick of the draft. It's a bold call, though it mostly flips Carr with Bortles and the latter is still a top-10 selection.
It is also worth noting that ESPN's Mel Kiper left Carr out of the first round of his first mock draft (Note: Article is only accessible via ESPN Insider). However, he acknowledges that he does not account for trades, which indicates his belief that a team may be compelled to trade back into the first round to select him. He also has Manziel first overall, which is another article unto itself. Suffice it to say I am lukewarm about Johnny Football's professional future.
Carr will have a chance to improve his fortunes at the Senior Bowl on January 25 and, presumably, at the NFL Combine next month, but we'll continue to track the experts and their opinions as the weeks progress here at Mountain West Connection.