We are three games into the NFL season (well 30 teams are, anyway). And as of writing this, Derek Carr averages the ninth-most fantasy points per game. What is leading the way for Carr and this offense, and is this something we can trust? Let’s find out if Derek Carr is a must-add for those who have struggling quarterbacks in 1QB leagues?
First, let’s take a look at Derek Carr’s competition. It’s easy to find a quarterback who can string together three big games against cupcake opponents. Derek Carr defeated the Ravens, the Steelers, and the Dolphins. Those three went a combined 33-15 last season. While last season’s record isn’t exactly an indicator of the team’s quality this year, it’s still something. It’s also worth noting that these teams were first (PIT), sixth (MIA), and tenth (BAL) passing DVOA defenses last season. These are good pass defenses that Derek Carr carved up so far. Derek Carr has the highest scoring total against each of these teams so far this season, and Miami & Pittsburgh played Josh Allen and Baltimore played Patrick Mahomes (though he tied with Mahomes with 25 fantasy points against Baltimore).
So all of that is to say, that Derek Carr, at least in 2021, is #goodatfootball. He’s faced three difficult matchups and walked away averaging 401 passing yards and two touchdowns per game. He’s been certifiably good, thanks to Darren Waller doing Darren Waller things, Bryan Edwards and Henry Ruggs making second-year leaps, and Hunter Renfrow existing. But, can we trust this going forward over the next few weeks?
I’m going to, unfortunately, go with probably not. While Derek Carr has faced three difficult matchups so far, the NFL schedule doesn’t relent. Over the next three weeks, he plays the Chargers, the Bears, and the Broncos. While Carr passed the test against the first three difficult matchups, I’m not comfortable starting him with confidence against these three matchups. Over the next three weeks, he faces three defenses that allow, on average, 14.9 fantasy points per game. That’s between Carson Wentz (14.2, QB25) and Baker Mayfield (16.0, QB24) per game. Granted, the Broncos had three absolute cupcakes (Daniel Jones, Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson), but the Chargers average that amount, too. It isn’t a situation where three cupcakes are driving this projection.
But here’s the problem: he has over 400 passing yards per game, and is QB9. This is the same hole guys like Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford have to climb out of; 13 rush yards in 3 games puts him behind the eight ball to start and is a huge knock-on Carr for fantasy football, that he can be this prolific and this good at football, but a just-okay fantasy football starter. Because, in 2021, you need some legs, or to be in the conversation for the best quarterback of all time (Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers).
Ultimately, though, Derek Carr gets paid too. And he gets paid to sling the football. That’s where things worry me. Granted, I hope I can be wrong, but I can’t trust the downside potential here when he doesn’t have the rushing floor to boost a bad game. He’s taken on tough matchups, and it was right to question them going in. He has passed 3 tests so far, and 3 more tough tests remain. Let’s see how he does in these matchups before declaring him an every-week starter. But, for now, I’m encouraged.