The 2021 NFL draft is less than a week away and rumors are beginning to intensify around the league. Some are merely smokescreens while some hold real merit, and one of them is about the Las Vegas Raiders targeting a quarterback at 17. While we should always expect the unexpected when it comes to the draft, is this a smokescreen or legitimate?
Death, taxes, and rumors about the Las Vegas Raiders selecting a quarterback in the first round. Since Jon Gruden’s return to the Silver and Black, these rumors have yet to cease. Year in and year out both Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have to publicly voice their support for Derek Carr.
Despite their public endorsement, however, the rumors are persistent. This year the rumor mill focused on Deshaun Watson chatter. Last year it was primarily about bringing in Tom Brady. The year before, it was trading up to draft Kyler Murray. Now it’s the possibility of drafting a top quarterback prospect in the player selection meeting.
Why would the Raiders take a quarterback?
On Friday Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported the Raiders could be an interesting watch if one of the top four prospects slides past 10. Rapoport mentioned on social media that this move would be something with long-term implications. A la Patrick Mahomes, this prospect would sit behind Carr for a year or two then take over for the foreseeable future.
This model of prospect development has proven to be successful a few times. with Aaron Rodgers and Mahomes as prime examples. If Mayock and Gruden are simply lying and biding their time it could be something the Raiders follow. This decision really comes down to what the team’s brass is saying and feeling behind closed doors.
If the front office brass is truly looking for an alternate long-term answer this is the year to do it. The quarterback class is full of talent. In no particular order: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance rank as the top four talents in this class. It’ll be one of those four the Raiders will look to fall to 17.
Who could realistically fall to 17?
The primary stipulation to draft and stash a prospect is they’re either NFL ready on day one or very close to it. Lawrence and Wilson both appear to be pro-ready but they’ll most likely go number one and two overall respectively. Fields and Lance could benefit immensely from some time out of the spotlight to work on some minor mechanical issues.
The San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons are the catalysts to the Raiders taking quarterback becoming even remotely possible. According to Michael Silver of NFL Media, the Niners are rumored to be interested in Alabama prospect Mac Jones. That would leave both Fields and Lance available for Atlanta at four.
However, there’s a strong possibility that the Falcons take top tight end prospect Kyle Pitts at four. That would leave just the Denver Broncos as the only quarterback-needy team in the top 10. The Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers made trades for Jared Goff and Sam Darnold respectively. It is presumed both Goff and Darnold will be looked at as the long-term answer for their new teams. Thus, essentially ruling them out of the quarterback sweepstakes.
If draft night played out in this scenario either Fields or Lance could potentially be available at 17. That would then potentially force the brass to decide what they truly value. Filling glaring roster holes or finding a potential quarterback of the future.
Should Las Vegas go quarterback in the first round?
The quick and short answer is no. With holes all over the roster taking a quarterback at 17 would seem reckless and a waste of a pick. Furthermore, Carr has progressed well under Gruden the past three years. Carr also had his best statistical year in 2020.
Carr might not be the flashiest quarterback in the league but winning is a potential reality with him under center. However, it almost seems impossible to get an accurate read on what Gruden really feels. If he feels as if 4 is not the answer and the draft sets up in the aforementioned scenario, a quarterback selection is a very realistic option.
The NFL draft is one of the most unpredictable events in the sports world. Gruden is also one of the most unpredictable coaches in the league. Anything is possible on draft night, especially with Gruden calling the shots. What they decide to at 17 is obviously yet to be seen. If a top-four quarterback prospect falls past, 10 the drama that ensues will be must-watch television.
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*Top Photo: Alex Gallardo/Associated Press