Will The Raiders Get Their Own Justin Herbert At Next Year’s NFL Draft?

Will The Raiders Get Their Own Justin Herbert At Next Year’s NFL Draft?

The Los Angeles Chargers announced a lucrative contract extension for quarterback Justin Herbert, to the tune of $262 million over the next five seasons. With all three divisional foes boasting $250 million+ signal-callers, it begs the question: Will the Raiders find their future franchise quarterback at next year’s NFL Draft?

Will The Raiders Find Their Own “Justin Herbert” At The 2024 NFL Draft?

To assess the future, let’s first look at the current options on the depth chart. With Jimmy Garoppolo cleared for action and veteran Brian Hoyer entrenched behind him, it left Aidan O’Connell and Chase Garbers vying for the final spot. To no surprise, O’Connell, the team’s most recent fourth-round pick, was elected QB3. Garbers, on the other hand, got sent packing.

I am a believer in Garoppolo, assuming he stays healthy – which I admit is quite the assumption. But if he stays upright, Jimmy G is the ideal bridge quarterback. He can win games in the meantime without putting a log jam in front of whoever is tabbed as his successor. Brian Hoyer is a solid backup in his own right, but he will not factor into long-term plans.

This brings us back to O’Connell. Perhaps the Purdue signal-caller really is “the steal of the draft”, but my pre-draft evaluation paints a different picture. The 6-foot-3 passer checks the boxes physically, but his arm strength underwhelmed me on tape. He is slow to react, and misses windows that could’ve otherwise resulted in chunk yardage. For my money, the Boilermaker product is not the future at quarterback—unless that future is mediocrity.

So, what college prospects could be on the radar for the Raiders? We will separate them into three tiers: Early First-Round, Mid-to-Late First-Round, and Non-First-Round Targets.

Early First-Round Targets

•Caleb Williams (USC)
If the Silver and Black want Caleb Williams, it will require being the worst team in the NFL. Vegas likely won’t qualify for the playoffs this season, but it would take a slew of injuries and regression to be that abysmal in 2023.

Williams flexes franchise quarterback traits, including effortless arm strength, top-tier improv skills, and the type of personality a locker room will rally around. He is exactly what the Raiders need to turn things around. Don’t hold your breath, though.

•Drake Maye (North Carolina)
Drake Maye is a more reasonable target for the Raiders, even if it is unlikely without a top-five selection. As far as fit, it is hard to find a better option for head coach Josh McDaniels. Maye is deadly-accurate from a clean pocket, evidenced by a sparkling 79.9 adjusted completion percentage when protected.

The Tar Heel star boasts one of the best deep balls in the class. He also excels at attacking the middle of the field and the seams — a requirement for the McDaniels scheme. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, while also possessing deceptive agility, Maye is a threat with his legs. In a perfect world, the gifted quarterback will take over as Las Vegas’ QB1 in 2024.

Mid-To-Late First-Round Targets

•Quinn Ewers (Texas)
Quinn Ewers is similar to Maye in several areas, but he is much more raw at this stage of his development. That could put the Raiders in the perfect spot for the former No. 1 overall recruit. The Texas signal-caller improved his ball placement and security throughout the 2022 season. If Ewers continues fixing his mechanics, he will go early in the 2024 NFL Draft. The anticipation and creativity he exhibits should garner first-round interest next April.

•Cam Ward (Washington State)
Cam Ward is equally as raw as Ewers, but offers even more upside from a physical aspect. They share similar height and weight profiles, but Ward’s build is sturdier, and his arm is even stronger. However, the Cougar quarterback must clean up his decision-making and lower-body mechanics. If Ward keeps a wider base on dropbacks and is more willing to throw the ball away, it could shoot him into first-round status.

Later-Round Targets

Speaking of Justin Herbert, these final three names compare favorably to the Bolts’ signal-caller.

•J.J. McCarthy (Michigan)

First up, J.J. McCarthy. The QB1 at Michigan, McCarthy has steered the ship admirably since taking over. He protects the ball, makes clutch throws when needed, and is an underrated athlete. McCarthy does what he is asked to do. Unfortunately for his NFL Draft hopes, it often comes as a sacrifice to his development.

He is supremely accurate from 0–19 yards, but the deep ball is not typically a part of the Michigan offense. Is this because the coaching staff doesn’t trust McCarthy to air it out? These concerns may force the talented quarterback down draft boards, giving McDaniels a potential star if the second-year Raiders head coach can tap into his remaining potential under the surface.

•Bo Nix (Oregon)
I know, I know… Bo Nix? I would have thought the same way if Nix didn’t shred defenses last season at Oregon. During his time with Auburn, the former top recruit failed to meet his sky-high expectations. He did not develop as a passer, highlighted by consistently horrible decision-making and mechanics. But that all changed when Dan Lanning got his chance with Nix.

In the duo’s debut campaign together in Eugene, Nix grew by leaps and bounds. He completed over 70 percent of his passes, and thanks to some savvy game planning by Lanning, the turnover-worthy plays got cut in half. At 23 years old, Nix is older than the other names on this list, likely making him available after Day 1.

2024 NFL Draft: Assessing The Raiders Chances At Landing Each QB

If the Raiders are as bad as some expect, Caleb Williams and Drake Maye will be in play. If Vegas is somewhere closer to the middle of the pack, a mix of Quinn Ewers, Cam Ward, and J.J. McCarthy will garner attention.

Say Garoppolo has a great year, and the team wants to use its first-round pick to address a need elsewhere on the roster. In that event, Bo Nix might be available in round two or later. Other names to monitor include Riley Leonard (Duke), Michael Penix Jr. (Washington), Austin Reed (Western Kentucky), and Michael Pratt (Tulane).

It is always tough to forecast the quarterback position this far away from an NFL Draft, but off talent alone, the Raiders have a realistic chance at finding their version of “Justin Herbert” next April.

*Top Photo: Ed Zurga / AP Photo

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