There’s no question the Raiders need a franchise quarterback. And, with the fifth overall pick in the draft, they’re certainly in position to come away with a Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater.
However, with so many needs across the roster, the Raiders shouldn’t simply take a quarterback to have a quarterback.
If Manziel or Bortles or Bridgewater is still available – but GM Reggie McKenzie isn’t sold on him – the Raiders should simply take the best available position player and move on.
Whether that’s defensive end Jadaveon Clowney or wide receiver Sammy Watkins or offensive tackles Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews makes no difference. The Raiders are rebuilding, and any of those players could provide another huge building block for a franchise in need of a truckload of building blocks.
If that’s the way the Raiders decide to go, they can still dive into the free-agent ranks to get a quarterback for 2014, or take a quarterback in the second or third rounds if they see one they believe has potential.
But the primary goal of this Raiders draft is to make an impact with their fifth overall pick. This time, they can’t swing and miss.
Analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network recently suggested the Raiders need to focus on talent and difference-makers in this draft. They can’t get locked into one strategy. McKenzie and his staff need to be fluid.
“They have got to get the quarterback if possible and they do have so many needs that I think they can’t get all locked into, ‘Oh, we have to go get a wideout with the second-round pick or we have to get an offensive lineman. I think they have got to go get football players, and I thnk you’re 100 percent right that now the salary cap issue changed,” he told reporters at the NFL Combine late last week. “I think this is the most critical year for the Raiders in my memory, because they have kind of been through purgatory and now they have got to get outt of there and they have to make great decisions on: a) re-signing their own players; b) on signing new free agents; and then c) they have to come out of this draft preferably with the quarterback that they can develop and base their entire football team around.”
But if the Raiders don’t believe in the top three QBs in this draft, they should wait. Other QBs – not as highly rated – will be available later, such as Derek Carr of Fresno State, Tajh Boyd of Clemson, Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, Zach Mettenberger of LSU and Aaron Murray of Georgia. Certainly one or more of them will wind up outperforming the top three over the long haul in the NFL. It always happens.
In recent mock drafts, ESPN analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay go in opposite directions. Kiper has the Raiders taking Watkins; McShay has Oakland picking Johnny Manziel. Wrote Kiper: "I think taking a QB is certainly in play here. But if the board breaks this way, the Raiders also could look to take the best wide receiver in the draft with Watkins, an electrifyng talent who can make any QB look better with his blend of competitive pass catching and exceptional running skills with the ball in his hands."
But the primary mistake the Raiders have to avoid is taking someone such as Bortles just because they need a passer, while passing on a talent such as Clowney or Watkins. That’s a recipe for disaster.