If they didn’t believe it before, they should’ve believed it after Oct. 29, 2016.
That was the day that Austin Carr torched Ohio State for a career-high 158 receiving yards. He made catches in traffic, he beat guys deep and he caught basically everything that was thrown in his vicinity. The No. 6 Buckeyes barely held on to beat Northwestern at home and it was entirely because of Carr.
That same OSU secondary had three players selected on the first round of the 2017 NFL draft. That tied a draft record.
Carr, however, didn’t hear his name called on Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Never mind the fact that he was the B1G receiving triple crown winner in 2016. Disregard the fact that he was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded receiver in the entire draft class.
The New England Patriots reportedly signed Northwestern UDFA WR Austin Carr. At 89.5, he had the best overall grade in the draft class. pic.twitter.com/2LUdVPJ5b0
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 30, 2017
Somehow, Carr watched 32 receivers get picked ahead of him.
So naturally, when Carr was sitting there among the pool of undrafted free agents, the New England Patriots scooped him up for nothing.
This wasn’t the Patriots taking a Chris Hogan or a Julian Edelman and molding him into a star. Carr isn’t a project. He’s also not somebody who will succeed just because he’s in New England.
He’s going to succeed because he’s an incredibly skilled receiver who knows how to make big-time plays. He’ll do that in the NFL with or without greatest quarterback of all-time is throwing him footballs.
I imagine when the draft ended, the Patriots looked at their best available list and had a moment of stunned excitement.
“Wait, you mean to tell me that Austin Carr wasn’t drafted?! Scroll through all the draft picks again. There’s no way that can be true. Come on. You’re messing with me. You mean to tell me a receiver from East Central University got drafted but Carr didn’t?! Do these other teams even wanna win?”
There’s no way that it should’ve been that easy.
Who cares if Carr was a former walk-on or that up until a year ago, his piano skills were better than his receiving skills. What if he did his damage for Ohio State instead of against Ohio State?
The Ohio State performance should’ve been the money game for Carr. Watch his film against that defense — the one with four players drafted in the first two rounds — and it’s clear that he’s an NFL player. He showed that game in, game out in 2016.
And don’t give me any grief about Carr’s size. Ryan Switzer is 5-9 on his tippy toes and he was drafted in the fourth round by the Dallas Cowboys. Carr had the size (6-0, 202 pounds) and the measurables to get drafted.
At his pro day, he ran a 4.60 40-yard dash, which was slightly below average among combine receivers. Eastern Washington receiver Cooper Kupp ran a slower 40-time — he’s an inch or two taller than Carr — and did all of his damage against Big Sky defensive backs, yet he was drafted in the third round.
So it wasn’t the 40 time, and based on his 4.04-second 3-cone shuttle time (that would’ve been fifth among combine receivers) it wasn’t that, either.
There were certainly no off-the-field red flags to speak of. Carr was a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and he won Northwestern’s Irving Kabiller Memorial Award for Excellence in Character, Commitment, and Community. In other words, he’ll be anything but a liability, unlike several draftees who were arrested for domestic violence.
Perhaps it was just the combination of all the factors Carr had working against him. He had one special season, he isn’t a physical freak and he went to a school that churns out more Pulitzer Prize winners than NFL receivers.
But in this age of advanced scouting and access, there’s no way that Carr should’ve slipped through the cracks. Even just normal scouting should’ve been enough for Carr to get proper attention at the next level. Goodness, the guy was easily the best receiver in what many said was the best conference during the regular season.
The Patriots will get to reap the rewards of the NFL scouts who put Carr into a box. He can learn behind the soon-to-be 31-year-old Edelman and become the next New England folk hero. Years from now when he’s catching a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl, people will scratch their heads and wonder how 253 players were picked ahead of Carr in 2017.
Maybe that’ll be the day that they finally realize it.