Man, when I scribbled my initial mock draft — a satirical one at that — it was rife with sarcasm. Full of jest, I postulated the Las Vegas Raiders would take Kentucky quarterback Will Levis with the No. 7 overall pick.
But all of a sudden, is Raiders satire going to become Raiders reality? With every passing week comes a myriad of mock drafts, but there’s a common theme building amongst them: Levis is projected for the Raiders.
But why was my projection of Levis a wisecrack notion?
Let’s start here: Levis’ NFL comparison is Jay Cutler. Look up how the relationship between Cutler and Josh McDaniels went when both were Denver Broncos.
Levis is a cannon-armed quarterback who lacks consistent confidence, decision-making, and rhythm, and it’ll take time for a coaching staff to refine that and work on his mechanics. Do the Raiders have that kind of time considering two things: 1. Is there pressure on the power twins of general manager Dave Ziegler and McDaniels to win now in 2023? 2. The team lacks a bridge quarterback to man the spot this coming season.
Yet, the bridge-type QB likely comes in a few weeks during free agency. Whether that’s the return of Jarrett Stidham or the potential additions of fellow ex-New England Patriots Jacoby Brissett or Jimmy Garoppolo, it remains to be seen.
What will the Raiders’ power duo decide?
Whatever the decision, expect owner Mark Davis to be involved every step of the way.
“It’s just a philosophical thing that you have to make a decision on,” Ziegler said during a pre-combine media chat. “And you have to be aligned from the top of the organization down if you draft a young guy and you’re going to commit to that person sitting all year and learning. I think you just have to have that communication on the front end because there might be some things to stomach.”
I expect a veteran presence in the QB room this month as the Raiders head into April’s NFL Draft.
Which brings us back to Levis. The kid looks tremendous at 6-foot-4 and 229 pounds. And his strong arm was on full display at the NFL Combine last week. He’s got the prototypical build that NFL personnel people covet, and Levis has the wheels to become a nuisance when he wants to take off and run. Kentucky runs a pro-style offense, and Levis was afforded the ability to take snaps directly under center, something that’s disappearing a lot in the collegiate game and being used more in the pro game.
Levis threw 43 touchdowns and 23 interceptions during his stint at Kentucky and ran for 11 more scores.
But man, is that Howitzer arm like a buckshot shell rather than a precise slug? Levis can thread the needle and beat defenders by getting the ball to a receiver with quickness, but when it needs touch and accuracy, it’s all over the place. Yet, when it comes to deep throws, Levis is an upper-echelon prospect. YOLO bombs are where this kid is going to excel.
David Carr weighs in…
And to hear David Carr tell it, maybe that’s why prognosticators are all aboard the Levis-to-Raiders hype train with first-class tickets.
Wow! David Carr @DCarr8 on @Raiders coach Josh McDaniels: Tom Brady “bullied” Josh in New England and suggests Brady ran the offense. Carr also says McDaniels wants a “jugs machine” as his next QB via @HarvesterSports #RaiderNation pic.twitter.com/lD9tKwas9u
— The Ballast (@ballastsports) March 8, 2023
McDaniels also didn’t mince words at his NFL Combine media session, noting he needs a quarterback that can deliver the ball to the end zone. Levis is a gunslinger, but he’s also a decisive runner near the goal line, as evidenced by his 17 career rushing touchdowns; his high watermark is nine from his 2021 season at Kentucky. Levis’ rushing numbers dipped severely in a trying 2022 season as he fought through injury.
That all said, Levis did show moxie playing through injury and reportedly interviewed well at the combine. With his ideal size and strong throwing arm, he’s definitely someone who can be refined by a coaching staff. The question is, is that McDaniels’ crew?
Either way, I expect the Raiders to add a quarterback when the draft is all said and done. And all avenues are open on this: the early, mid, or late rounds, or an undrafted free agent.
“Lying Season” is in full swing…
While it may be lying season, Ziegler told the stone-cold truth before the combine when asked if the team could go without drafting a signal caller.
“I never like to talk in absolutes. Could that happen? Yes, it could happen. Do I see that happening? No, I don’t see that happening,” Ziegler noted. “I think every year we’ve talked about it philosophically; I think Ron Wolf had a philosophy in Green Bay that almost every draft they wanted to come out in some form or fashion with a quarterback prospect. And I’m not going to tie myself to that, because, again, you make an absolute, and then that doesn’t happen, and then that doesn’t work out well for you. But I would say some form or fashion, we’re always looking at the quarterbacks. We had Chase Garbers last year in college free agency after the draft. But I think we want to always continue to add to that position. I think you know this year will be no different.
*Top Photo: Getty Images Pool