First of all, I want to start by saying that I am very excited about the potential for our Las Vegas Raiders draft coverage here on the Raider Ramble. We have a great team, a great topic, and an awesome idea that hasn’t been executed by a website before. I want to thank Mario Tovar for the invitation to write here and the green light I received on my ideas. I cannot forget to thank Hunter Haas and Alex Monfreda for their support and for helping me get over here.
Today, I want to break down the Raiders’ quarterbacks and what is expected in the Josh McDaniels scheme. However, first, I’m going to introduce myself a little bit and write about how I got into this line of work.
A little bit about myself
I’ve been working on the media side of the NFL Draft for the last six seasons, starting in 2018 with the cycle featuring Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson. Before then, it had been a hobby of mine as part of my vision to be an NFL analyst. My original vision was to be a leading NFL expert and I was determined to find some way to make it. It was during the 2015 cycle that I noticed that most of the leading experts on the draft were wrong most of the time. Stubborn, young John Vogel came to the conclusion that he had to watch all of these players himself. The rest is history.
I spent time with Fansided and several other websites. Last year, I became a scouting consultant for a player’s agency while I spent the season covering the NFL Draft at Draft Blitz. Now, I host three podcasts (two NFL Draft centric and one general football podcast) and write extensive NFL Draft coverage at NFL Draft Lounge.
Now, let’s dive into the Las Vegas Raiders quarterbacks…
As part of Raider Ramble’s 2024 NFL Draft coverage, the team is bringing you as close to the war room as humanly possible. In today’s article, John Vogel breaks down the Las Vegas Raiders quarterbacks and some of the prospects who fit that mold.
To truly understand what a Raiders quarterback should look like, the first factor that has to be identified about quarterbacks is what are the top five traits that head coach Josh McDaniels and his staff want from their scheme. Usually, those can be broken down into five consistent factors. I found the five most consistent traits and abilities of the Raiders quarterbacks currently on the roster.
1) Reads and decision-making
The Raiders’ offensive scheme is based heavily on making pre-snap coverage reads and then following them up with the proper decision. Josh McDaniels designs his scheme so that the quarterback should always have a place to go with the football. He likes to scheme players open with route combinations. When he does that, it makes the quarterback’s job easier, they simply need to know what they are looking at. This requires good pre-snap processing as well as vision post-snap.
McDaniels likes to put quarterbacks on a script. As for quarterbacks who get off the script, he isn’t a fan of them and traditionally hasn’t worked well with them. One of the differences between McDaniels and Derek Carr was Carr’s habit of getting off script, and it’s one of the reasons he was benched for Jarrett Stidham.
2) Short-to-intermediate accuracy
The next part of being able to make the right decision is to get the ball there accurately. most of the throws that the Raiders quarterbacks make are to the short and intermediate areas of the field; crossing routes, in-cuts, and timing concepts to the perimeter.
This puts most of the focus of throws on short-to-intermediate areas of the field. The emphasis on the offense is in short to intermediate areas of the field. That’s what Raiders coaches are looking for.
3) Play extension rather than improvability
Let’s discuss the difference a little bit here between “play extension” and “improvability.”
Play extension is the ability to move, in or outside of the pocket, to keep a play in the structure as it was designed. It typically doesn’t require any crazy athleticism to do, just a knack and understanding of how to move into where the throw is supposed to go to keep the design intact. Improvability, on the other hand, is more so the ability to create something when a play breaks down. A common term for this situation that you are probably familiar with is “scramble drill.” Some athletic quarterbacks don’t attempt to extend plays and instead skip straight to improv.
Raiders coaches prefer quarterbacks stay in the structure of the play, so they want their quarterbacks to extend them rather than try to create something.
4) Timing and touch
Much of what the Raiders quarterbacks are asked to do is throw with timing and with touch. Let’s talk about what those terms mean.
Timing is being able to anticipate where receivers are going to make a break and create a split-second of separation between them and the defender. Think of curls, comebacks, slants (when playing against zone coverage), “whip routes,” etc. Those are all situations where a quarterback is throwing to a spot – where he expects the receiver to be.
Touch is the ability to throw a catchable football. Not every pass has to be thrown like a fastball. Many throws have to be layered over defenders, or thrown with a little bit of touch because of the lack of distance between the quarterback and his target.
With all of that being said, timing and touch are required on most of the concepts that Las Vegas runs.
5) Ability to throw off platform
This is something that is relatively consistent throughout the group of quarterbacks on this team – the ability to throw the ball “off-platform,” or when their feet aren’t set, typically while on the move.
Being able to extend plays is the lifeblood of an offense, especially under McDaniels. First of all, it’s incredibly difficult for an offensive line to hold up against modern NFL defenses. They are finding ways to go “a hat for a hat,” or one-on-one across the entire offensive line. Defensive linemen are becoming so athletic that it increases their chances of winning against an offensive lineman. Throwing off-platform is something that Jimmy Garoppolo has done very well throughout his career.
What is missing from the Raiders quarterbacks as compared to other teams?
You should notice something very interesting about what is missing from that group of talents – arm strength. Josh McDaniels and this scheme is not one that puts a lot of weight into arm strength and being able to throw the ball deep down the field. Jimmy Garoppolo, Brian Hoyer, Aidan O’Connell, and Chase Garbers are all quarterbacks on the roster right now that don’t have strong arms and can push the ball deep down the field.
Why is that?
As I mentioned about the scheme, McDaniels likes to scheme receivers open. If you had to classify the philosophy, it’s very similar to what Bill Walsh designed with the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980’s and what Bill Belichick refined in New England. We know that scheme as a “West Coast” style.
What is the West Coast scheme?
The West Coast scheme is built and predicated on driving the ball long distances with a reliable, mobile quarterback and a strong running game. The idea is to keep the ball and maintain the time of possession. It relies heavily on long drives and smart quarterbacking, chipping away at an opposing defense.
To scheme players open often involves concepts that stay within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage. As a result, the Raiders don’t need a quarterback who can throw the ball deep very often. The philosophy of the offense won’t ask a quarterback to do that very much. The Raiders’ offense, as a result, relies on methodical marches down the field and wants their big plays to be the result of run-after-the-catch by their receivers.
Derek Carr and Jarrett Stidham attempted a grand total of 96 passes (5.6 per game) beyond 20 yards last season. The only reason why that number was as high as it was is due to the fact that the Raiders were behind a lot of the time and had to push the ball down the field. It’s not something that the Raiders want to find themselves in a situation trying to do. That is the downside to this approach to the offense. It needs consistent quarterback play and a strong defense so that the offense can dictate the pace of the game with ball-control football.
The Raiders quarterbacks’ contracts
The Raiders could be in the quarterback market next year. As we’ve discussed on this site before with the Jimmy Garoppolo contract situation, they could be going into a train wreck of a season at quarterback. If Jimmy can’t pass a physical at any time, the Raiders have the right to release him and not pay out the remainder of his contract. Taking that into mind, let us see what the Raiders’ contract situation looks like at the quarterback position.
Despite what you see on the contracts, I don’t believe that the plan is to stick with Garoppolo long-term in Las Vegas. I do believe that they are looking for the quarterback of the future. Having a veteran like Jimmy certainly helps the staff not force a young rookie into playing time early. It makes the transition easier, especially with a guy who has served the role of mentor before. Additionally, Garoppolo’s injury history already isn’t good. He cannot be relied upon as a player who will start 17 games.
What is the plan for the backend of the roster?
The most surprising contract on the roster is probably Brian Hoyer, taking a two-year deal to come to Las Vegas with a substantial increase in his salary in year two. What is the plan with Hoyer, who has been an NFL journeyman across several NFL teams? I think Hoyer at this point is more of a coach than he is a spot starter, and I don’t know what his future plans are. It’s hard to envision himself walking away next year to retirement, and he will get paid if he’s released. It puts the Raiders in a stable spot in terms of roster movement but doesn’t offer a lot of flexibility if things go wrong.
What was the vision with Aidan O’Connell? O’Connell is a quarterback who relies completely on timing to make throws and doesn’t have an arm that can stretch the ball very far downfield. If I had to compare him to someone, I’d say he’s a poor man’s Joe Burrow. O’Connell isn’t a future starter, and I don’t think that the Raiders see him as such. The plan is to have a capable backup quarterback who can spot start in the situation that Jimmy Garoppolo cannot play throughout the season.
Chase Garbers has a chance to stick around on the practice squad, but I’d consider his chances slim. It all depends on the new quarterback rule – a team can carry a third quarterback without him counting toward the active game-day roster, which means teams could potentially carry four quarterbacks through a season. I’d say that his chances are slim right now – unless he can outplay Brian Hoyer (who is taking first-team snaps without Garoppolo at practice).
With all of these consistent factors – which college prospects fit this mold?
As an immediate starter (first round) – Bo Nix, Oregon
This is probably not the answer that many fans who are familiar with college football want to hear. Bo Nix has a lot of momentum building as an NFL Draft prospect. Several NFL teams really like what he has shown in the Oregon offense.
I think that the Raiders will be doing their homework on projected first-round prospects. Right now, the two most highly projected quarterbacks are Caleb Williams from USC and Drake Maye from North Carolina. Neither option really fits what the Raiders want in a quarterback. They could live with them, but a front office wants to mesh guys together. If the Raiders aren’t competitive in 2023, they can potentially trade down in the draft and take their guy.
Nix has a stronger arm than anyone on the roster right now, but he’s very much a quarterback who wants to keep things in structure. He can extend plays with his feet very well and offers the scrambling ability that a healthy Garoppolo can offer. Out of the quarterbacks that the NFL collectively likes right now, Nix might be the best fit for the Raiders.
Another immediate starter (first round) option – Quinn Ewers, Texas
Overall, the first round is where I find it most likely that the Raiders target a quarterback, and another prospect that the NFL views very highly is Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers. First of all, he has to have a solid 2023 season. He was one of the highest-rated high school recruits in history and played well against Alabama before leaving the game with an injury.
People in the media think that Ewers has a cannon for an arm. I don’t see it personally. Ewers struggles to drive the football to the perimeter of the field, something that Bo Nix holds as an advantage over Ewers. However, Ewers can extend plays and improvise seamlessly and flashes some awesome placement on timing concepts. I think if a first-round quarterback is being considered, Ewers is absolutely in the mix.
As a developmental prospect (second-third round) – Devin Leary, Kentucky
Devin Leary is currently considered a top-100 prospect by most NFL teams. That’s really due to his consistency over the last few years as a starter at North Carolina State. Leary hit the transfer portal this season and ended up replacing Will Levis at Kentucky. With the return of offensive coordinator Liam Coen, it can be assumed that Leary will have a strong 2023 season.
The likelihood of the Raiders waiting to target a quarterback in this range is slim. That’s especially true with Aidan O’Connell now in the fold. If they decide to go with another position in the first round and this guy is there in the second, he could be a suitable target to develop into Garoppolo’s replacement.
Leary fits this mold because he has top-end touch ability, excellent mobility, and looks to extend plays to keep them alive. He works the pocket well and can maneuver through pressure to get the throw off. He moves to extend rather than create. The issue that prevents him from being a first-round prospect, in my opinion, is the fact that his feet are not consistent. That creates inconsistent accuracy and placement. He doesn’t throw as well off-platform, but those things can be developed with his feet. His injury history is lengthy too. Still, when he’s healthy, he’s been a suitable quarterback.
As a future spot starter (fourth-seventh round) – Kedon Slovis, BYU
Kedon Slovis was once a hot quarterback prospect across media circles. Some NFL Draft analysts had pegged him as a first overall selection as an underclassman at USC. But, when Lincoln Riley became the head coach, things changed. Riley brought in quarterback Caleb Williams with him from Oklahoma. Slovis then transferred to Pittsburgh where he was expected to make an easy transition. It didn’t happen. Slovis struggled last year, through scheme and injury, and ended up transferring again this winter, now to BYU.
The likelihood of the Raiders drafting another role player like Aidan O’Connell is very slim next year. Slovis might be more of a prospect that the Raiders can look at as a developmental prospect who has been hurt by constant turmoil throughout his college career. Regardless, Slovis is a prospect who is projected as a day-three draft pick.
I like what I see from Slovis sometimes. He has a good, quick release and can make accurate throws to the short and intermediate areas of the field. He’s a capable, though unwilling, athlete who wants to extend plays for as long as he can. He often tries to force the football into dangerous spaces on the field when he’s under duress which leads to unnecessary turnovers.
As an under-the-radar prospect (UDFA) – Parker McKinney, Eastern Kentucky
Parker McKinney reminds me a lot of Jimmy Garoppolo. He possesses a lot of the same tools and mechanics that Garoppolo has. This makes him a natural target for the Raiders, who have made it very clear this offseason that they like a specific type.
As a camp arm, McKinney is perfect. For a role beyond that, we want to get a chance to see how he develops in 2023. He’s been a starter for the past five seasons, starting the final two games of his redshirt season at Eastern Kentucky. Last year, McKinney threw for 3,947 yards and 33 touchdowns while leading his team to an upset 7OT win over Bowling Green on the road.
McKinney shows solid touch and placement, even though he was mostly a one-read quarterback. While he flashed the ability to look defenders off with his eyes, it was not something he did consistently. I see McKinney making a training camp roster and competing for a role on the practice squad.
*Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images