Will the freshly minted Las Vegas Raiders draft a quarterback early with one of their two first round picks?
The 2019 season didn’t end the way Raider Nation hoped it would. At one point, the Raiders were 6-4 and in charge of their playoff fate, with only the NFL’s easiest schedules separating them from the postseason. Then, the Jets game happened… and the Chiefs game happened.. and the Titans. Before you knew it, Oakland was desperately hoping five or six different teams won in Week 17 so they’d have a chance. It wouldn’t have mattered if the other teams won anyway because the Raiders couldn’t beat the measly Denver Broncos, and while it’s been said 100 times that it’s not his fault, fans are fed up with Derek Carr.
Do the Raiders Need a New Quarterback?
This is a point of contention for all and I won’t get suckered into using a buzzword like “civil war” to describe the debate that seemingly divided the Silver and Black fanbase, but Derek Carr’s performance is a controversial topic. For the second straight year, the quarterback was very efficient. In 2019, he posted career highs in yards, yards per attempt, completion percentage, quarterback rating, and comically enough, rushing touchdowns.
Meanwhile, his receiving corps was less than stellar. Antonio Brown, the team’s biggest offseason acquisition, literally never took a snap for the Raiders. Tyrell Williams, the most expensive skill position player added during the summer, couldn’t stay healthy, and wasn’t consistent when he was. Ryan Grant, J.J. Nelson, Marcell Ateman, Zay Jones, and Keelan Doss all failed to make a strong impression, and ultimately, the most impressive receiver that Carr had was rookie, Hunter Renfrow.
Oakland’s defense was putrid yet again in 2019, and often, Carr was competing against his own team. I don’t know that you put a ton of quarterbacks on a team without great receivers, a solid defense, or even a reliable kicker, and expect them to do any better than Carr did this season. It is easy to see why Carr’s staunchest defenders refuse to give up on him.
Having said that, his detractors also make valid points. Because as many highs as Carr posted this season, some of his other stats are severely lacking. He hasn’t broken 23 touchdowns since that magical 2016 season, and it’s easy to have a high completion percentage when most of your throws are short check-downs. A lot of the quarterback’s detractors will reference that more than half of his yardage came after the catch this year, but I think that’s low-hanging fruit. Gruden builds his offense around safe plays with big upside, so Carr shouldn’t be criticized for executing that.
But there’s no question that Carr’s conservative play is holding this offense back. Without getting into all the balls he’s thrown away on third and even fourth down, or the times he’s fumbled out of the endzone, this is a player who gives up on plays easily. It’s easy to point at the bad defenses, but Carr and his offense disappeared in the second half of losses. The Raiders averaged about 5.7 points in the second half in every loss, and as bad as the defense was, you’ve got to hold the offense accountable for not scoring too.
Second Half Struggles
Carr has been considerably less effective in the second half of games as well. In the first half of games in 2019, the quarterback completed 81 of 274 passes for 2,340 yards, 14 touchdowns, and only three interceptions. In the second half, he completed 71 of 239 passes for 1,714 yards, only seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Raider Nation has watched Carr melt down in cold games, disappear in big games, and fall apart in games where things aren’t absolutely perfect for him, while quarterbacks like Ryan Tannehill and Carson Wentz elevate mediocre talent and win despite adversity.
Carr is a perfectly decent quarterback making elite quarterback money, money that is sorely needed at other positions, especially on defense. He’s not carrying the team, and if the Raiders aren’t ready to compete, it makes sense to free up some extra cash to fill other holes. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, Carr makes too much money for the defense to have talented players, but the Raiders never win because they don’t have a defense.
Is There a Good Prospect in This Class?
There are a couple of really interesting prospects in this draft class. Joe Burrow, the Heisman winner from LSU, is a fairly well-rounded out prospect, but there’s no way he’s on the board after the Cincinnati Bengals pick at number one. Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert are both solid prospects as well, but in an era where supply and demand has elevated the quarterback position to must-have, I doubt either are around at 12. That leaves fringe prospects like Jalen Hurts, Jake Fromm, and Jordan Love. All three quarterbacks have positive traits, but I wouldn’t say any are necessarily worth a first round pick, especially when the team has bigger needs. If the Raiders picked a little higher, or there was someone like Trevor Lawrence on the table, it would be a different story.
So? Will They?
I’m going to go out on a limb and say no. Love Carr or hate him, the Raiders have bigger needs. They need wide receivers, depth on the defensive line, linebacker help, and defensive backs across the board. At 12, the Raiders have a shot at landing Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, or Isaiah Simmons, all of whom could immediately help the Raiders. Spending a pick on a quarterback, a position they don’t necessarily need, on a prospect who isn’t a sure thing, feels like a mistake. For the second straight year, I hear myself saying “let’s give Derek Carr one more season.”
If someone is around when the Raiders pick in the third, or if they trade back up, that’s fine. But this is a top-heavy draft class, and it would be a mistake to reach when the team has bigger needs. However, whether or not the Raiders will sign another quarterback? That’s a different story.
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