MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Minnesota Vikings combed through their quarterback options in a painstaking search before the 2014 draft, they visited Fresno State senior Derek Carr at his pro day and spent some time with the quarterback afterward.
"I thought he was a great kid," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "I actually talked to his brother some, too. I thought he was a great kid; smart, competitor, very confident, good quick release, good arm strength."
The Vikings, though, liked Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater more, and they traded back into the first round to draft him 32nd overall. Carr, meanwhile, went to the Oakland Raiders four picks later.
The two quarterbacks have arguably been the most successful in the Class of 2014, while Johnny Manziel has floundered and Blake Bortles has behind a leaky offensive line as a rookie. They got to know each other during the draft process and keep in touch through occasional text messages. Now they'll meet for the first time as professionals Sunday in Oakland, as both try to help their surprising teams' playoff chances.
Before they do, we thought it'd be a good time to compare their careers to this point.
Completion percentage: Bridgewater 64.4 percent, Carr 59.9 percent
Bridgewater finished last season with the third-highest completion percentage by a rookie in NFL history (64.4 percent), and he has connected on 64.2 percent of his passes this season. Carr is throwing the ball an average of six times a game more than Bridgewater, and he is throwing downfield a little more often (he attempts 12.2 passes per game of 10 yards or more, compared to 9.6 for Bridgewater). He's also nearly caught up to Bridgewater this season, completing 63.7 percent of his passes while averaging half a yard more per attempt. But over the course of their first season and a half, Bridgewater has the overall edge.
Touchdown-to-interception ratio: Carr 2.5:1; Bridgewater 1.11; 1
Here's where Carr's numbers really outshine Bridgewater's. He's been especially impressive this season, tossing 19 touchdowns against just four interceptions, while Bridgewater has thrown six TDs and six interceptions. Coach Mike Zimmer had an interesting observation on Bridgewater on Wednesday, essentially saying he wants the quarterback to carry his mentality during late-game situations -- Bridgewater already has five fourth-quarter comebacks -- throughout the entire game.
"Sometimes he’s cautious with the ball because he doesn’t want to give the other team a chance," Zimmer said. "I think he sees us playing fairly good defense at times, but I do have [a] belief, like when we get behind in games he doesn’t play that way. He kind of lets it loose and just plays football. I want him to be more like that throughout the course of the ballgame."
It's the second week in a row that Zimmer has hinted Bridgewater needs to be better at capitalizing on big plays when they're there, and it's the main reason Carr's stats look better than Bridgewater's this season. Bridgewater could have his opportunities Sunday against the Raiders' 32nd-ranked pass defense.
Pressure rate: Bridgewater 30.2 percent of dropbacks; Carr 22.7.
If you're looking to make a case for why Carr has been the more prolific passer this season, this would be the place to start: According to ESPN Stats and Information, he's been pressured on fewer dropbacks than any quarterback in the NFL this season. Bridgewater, on the other hand, is 26th. Part of that could be on the quarterback -- Bridgewater is holding the ball longer than any quarterback in the league, while Carr is unloading it quicker than all but five. Carr has often been praised for his quick release, but the Raiders are doing a solid job of giving him quick places to throw the ball while protecting him well enough that he can make plays. When Bridgewater has spent as much time running for his life, it's tough to expect him to make plays consistently.
Win-loss record: Bridgewater 12-8; Carr 7-17
We should start here by pointing out that Bridgewater has had the same coach for his first two seasons in the NFL, while Carr was playing for a team that played poorly enough to merit a coaching change before his second season. But one of the things that attracted the Vikings to Bridgewater, in the end, was the fact he'd won just about everywhere he'd ever played. And even though Carr has the shinier numbers this season, Bridgewater's team has the better record. The Vikings owe plenty of that to a stout defense, but they've also praised Bridgewater's ability to run the offense at the line of scrimmage and keep their offense out of negative plays. With a win in Oakland on Sunday, the Vikings would be 7-2 and could put themselves on the short list of NFC playoff contenders. It's tough to find a stat that's more important than that.