It’s official. Derek Carr is on the clock.
Yes, Al Davis is smiling with approval.
About to enter his seventh season, Carr finally has his deep threat. Life isn’t really fair to anyone. In football, that especially includes those standing under center.
But now we get to see if Carr is the issue or other factors are at play.
Carr’s numbers are impressive and yet deceiving in throws beyond 10 yards. He set careers highs in yards (4,054), completion percentage (70.4) and rating (100.8) last season. The team also finished 7-9.
A deep dive into analytics (is there another kind?) tells you that Carr’s average intended air-yards have been, well, anemic. Of all NFL quarterbacks who started more than six games last year, he ranked last at 6.3.
Intended air yards is another way of calculating vertical yards on a pass attempt at the moment the ball is caught in relation to the line of scrimmage. It’s why Carr receives so much criticism for checking down so often.
Speaking of variables: His receivers were lacking in 2019. Antonio Brown. No comment. Tyrell Williams proved to be far more No. 2 than leading role and was slowed due to injury. Hunter Renfrow as a rookie in the slot actually led the receivers with 49 catches for 605 yards and four touchdowns.
Even when Carr had the likes of Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper at which to aim passes, Raiders wideouts have ranked in the bottom five for dropped passes the quarterback’s entire career.
The offensive line was also banged up in key spots last season. It’s never been just one thing.
Carr has to own the lion’s share of the responsibility. He’s the starter and is now assured of being it for the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium when and if there is a coming season.
The quarterback draft class for 2021 is considered deep and talented. You have to believe this is Carr’s final shot at convincing the Raiders not to move on from him.
How much could Ruggs help Carr’s quest to remain in Las Vegas past this season?
First, Ruggs flies. He timed 4.27 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. He was also clocked at 23.27 mph by a Catapult system at Alabama. That monitors a player’s movement in games and at practice. It would earn him serious speeding tickets in my neighborhood but also allowed him to escape Nick Saban. An even trade.
So while the Raiders likely remain the length of several football fields from competing with the Super Bowl champion Chiefs atop the AFC West, they at least now have a wideout version of lightning-fast Tyreek Hill.
Ruggs also stole the night for style by wearing a bathrobe during the virtual draft.
It had an Old Spice logo on it. I was hoping for one with an MGM logo.
Opens offense up
“We think this addition opens up our entire offense,” Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said. “He can run the deep routes. He also gets the manufactured touches, the bubble screens, the jet sweeps. I think it does an awful lot of things for us offensively.”
The Raiders had their pick of the draft’s top three receivers at 12. They chose Ruggs over his Alabama teammate in Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb of Oklahoma. All own different skill sets. You take the guy you love most. That was Ruggs. Time will prove you smart or not.
He isn’t a reach. The Raiders did enough of that in drafting Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette at No. 19. He was ranked the 58th-best prospect by Scouts Inc. This, a week after Mayock said the biggest mistake teams make is reaching for need.
The offense, though, appears set. Carr. Josh Jacobs at running back. Darren Waller at tight end. Renfrow in the slot. A healthy Williams outside.
Some veteran free agents already signed to contribute.
And now, a burner in Ruggs.
His speed can help all of the above become better. It might answer what has been a long-standing question: What sort of NFL quarterback is Carr?
Seems he now has the chance to prove himself a complete one.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.