The Raiders are in the unenviable position of still being mathematically alive for a playoff berth but knowing that every victory also represents a decline in the value of their position for what could be a very consequential draft.
There are more and more indications the Raiders could look to find a franchise quarterback in April and there should be several to choose from. But there is also a possibility their preferred option could be off the board by the time they pick. The odds of losing out on such a player become shorter with every victory.
If the season ended today, the Raiders would own the No. 8 pick in the draft. They have two home games remaining against Super Bowl contenders San Francisco and Kansas City, so there is an opportunity for quite a bit of movement, particularly with so many teams bunched together in the standings.
The Raiders sit immediately behind the Colts, Falcons and Lions and immediately ahead of the Panthers in the draft order. All four of those teams could be in the market for a quarterback.
Whether the Raiders do decide to draft one of the prospects at that position depends on several factors, but the main thing will be whether there is a player the organization believes is available when the Raiders are ultimately on the clock.
There is also the question of whether they will keep Derek Carr and/or Jarrett Stidham around to mentor a young quarterback or explore what they could get for Carr on the open market.
Could Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels turn to someone like Aaron Rodgers as a bridge to remain competitive while tutoring the quarterback of the future? It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride for a Packers team that tried to do that with Jordan Love only to learn Rodgers had plenty left in the tank.
How about an old friend like Tom Brady or Jimmy Garoppolo, proven winners who are very familiar with the system and the personalities from their time with the Patriots? Maybe use next season as a rebuilding season and try to position the franchise to be able to pick Caleb Williams of USC or Drake Maye of North Carolina in 2024?
There are many options on the table and that’s just at one position. There’s still a very good chance they choose to go in a different direction either because they still believe in the quarterbacks they have or simply don’t like one of the top prospects enough to commit to them for the next four or five seasons.
For the sake of argument, however, it’s prudent to take a look at the potential first-round quarterback prospects. Something important to keep in mind when evaluating these players is that while many pundits have three signal-callers ranked in the top five for the 2023 draft, the prognostications tend to very greatly between now and April.
One or more of them will almost certainly fall down the board and everyone will act shocked. It happens every year. There will also be a player at the position who comes out of nowhere and works his way into the first round.
That also happens all the time. So there is little reason to believe none of the current top prospects will be available when the Raiders do eventually pick on draft night.
Here’s a look at the current top quarterback prospects:
Bryce Young, Alabama
The only real questions about him are his height and how he will adjust to not playing with the best talent on the field after he was in such a situation both in college at Alabama and high school at Mater Dei. Otherwise, his accuracy to all levels, athleticism and decision-making are all impressive.
C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
He has great size and arm strength, but his best ability may be the intangibles he brings as a leader. While Stroud can get the ball anywhere on the field, he is particularly good in the middle of the field, with ball placement that allows backs and receivers to catch the ball in stride and pick up yards after the catch.
Like Young, he is a California native who only recently turned 21 years old. He’s also very good at avoiding sacks even when under quick pressure.
Will Levis, Kentucky
He has ideal size for a quarterback and the tools scouts love, which should make him a bit of a combine darling. Levis is also a very capable rusher who can generate yards with his feet, though he does often tuck and run a bit early in plays.
Levis, who will be 24 by the start of training camp, really took off as a prospect when he transferred from Penn State and found himself in a pro-style offense with the Wildcats. One knock on him will be that he was held in check a bit too often this season as defenses schemed to limit his production.
A couple older prospects are possibilities to fall down the draft board and become targets on Day Two of the draft.
Stanford’s Tanner McKee overcame a subpar supporting cast and a system that wasn’t particularly quarterback friendly to put some good things on film. He did a two-year LDS mission and will turn 23 on the first night of the draft, but could be a sleeper as he goes through the pre-draft process.
Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker played at a phenomenal level for much of this season before suffering a torn ACL. He is an elite playmaker who made significant strides in his downfield accuracy with star receivers around him this year.
While he will be 25 by the start of the draft and isn’t likely to be ready for the start of the season, he could be very intriguing for a team that wants a prospect to learn behind a short-term veteran. That could very well make the Raiders a fit.