Derek Carr continues to be a topic that divides Raider Nation but whether you believe in him or not, it’s time the team started building a succession plan and looking at promising rookie quarterbacks.
As the Las Vegas Raiders brass spends time at the Senior Bowl in Alabama this week, the talk will all be about defensive players to help the woeful defense get better. Yet, in the NFL, organizations must think about the future now even when they’re winning and making the playoffs – which the Raiders have failed to do so far. Included in that planning for the future should be potential rookie quarterbacks Jon Gruden can develop behind the starter Derek Carr.
Derek Carr has won 43 of the 110 games he has started for the Raiders since 2014, leading the team to the playoffs only once during that time span. He has also thrown for over 20 touchdowns every season — except one where he threw 19 — and helped the Raiders average the 10th most points per game this season.
Carr, in some ways at no fault of his own, has become the divisive figurehead for Raider Nation with just as many having his back as there are calling for his head. The team has continued to put their support behind him as the starter but this past offseason they brought in Marcus Mariota on an expensive contract for a backup, showing that they’re ready to put some pressure on Carr.
Mariota — the former No. 2 overall selection — only got to see very limited action this season but did get to play most of the Week 15 contest against the Los Angeles Chargers after Carr left with an injury.
While his results moving the ball through the air were mixed, Mariota did manage to gash the Chargers for 88 yards and a touchdown on only nine carries. His play demonstrated the success a dual-threat quarterback can have in this offense and was an example of a more modern attack.
Saying all that, it’s likely that Mariota will not be a Raider on Week 1 of next season and Carr will be 30 by that time. No matter if the Raiders believe in him or not, it’s time to start looking for a player that could at least sit behind Carr and start to get a feel for the playbook and team.
The image of Mariota running wild against Los Angeles should stick in the mind of the front office as they look for an heir to the signal-caller position. Modernizing this offense by adding a dual-threat quarterback would only make it that much more dangerous. Keeping that in mind, here are three rookie quarterbacks at this week’s Reese’s Senior Bowl to watch:
Jamie Newman – Georgia
Jamie Newman offers a tantalizing package of physical skills out of all the rookie quarterbacks, but after transferring to Georgia he opted out of the 2021 college football season. This means there’s a year-long gap in his scouting, but this could work well for the Raiders as he has slid down draft-boards as a result.
He played his first three college seasons at Wake Forest and in his final season as a starter he threw for 26 touchdowns and ran for six more. It’s this tantalizing combination of arm and legs that has scouts interested, but with plenty of questions left to be answered Newman will be closely examined at the upcoming Senior Bowl.
In fact, the Senior Bowl will be crucial for Newman as it could mean the difference between going in one of the first few rounds or not being drafted at all. Scouts know that he is a physical specimen who will likely score well among the rookie quarterbacks at the combine but concerns remain over the finer points of his game.
The Wake Forest offense used a large variety of RPOs to get Newman going and scouts will want to see him make more complex reads than simply identifying the strong side. He also threw 11 interceptions over 12 games in 2019, displaying his less than stellar accuracy.
Overall, no one has seen Newman play in over a year and the Senior Bowl will prove to be a large test for the young quarterback. If he impresses, he could be a solid fit to enter the Raiders system and give them a different look at QB as he develops.
Kellen Mond – Texas A&M
Kellen Mond is another intriguing player who isn’t a day one starter but could be an intriguing fit to sit on the bench for a few years before he takes over. In his senior season, he threw for 19 touchdowns against only three interceptions and managed to rush for another four scores. He’s another candidate for the Raiders to look at amongst this crop of rookie quarterbacks.
Mond started all four seasons at Texas A&M and is another player who would add a mobile dimension to the offense, stretching defenses on the ground and then exploiting the resulting holes in the passing game.
While not quite as much of a physical freak as Newman, Mond also posses good zip on his throws and is thought of as having an above-average arm. His offensive line did him no favors this past season and Mond routinely had to make throws while under pressure, yet he still managed to make many nice plays and used his ability to throw on the run to escape pressure.
Mond’s biggest question marks are around his accuracy and his consistency. Scouts lamented the fact that he would sometimes make questionable decisions where he was hoping to be bailed out by large receivers. These lapses in decision-making would come and go, worrying scouts that Mond will be prone to mistakes at the professional level.
Mond will also be attending the Senior Bowl where he will look to make a good impression and prove to scouts that he has the accuracy and decision-making ability to be a starter in the NFL.
Shane Buechele – SMU
Last but not least on this list is Shane Buechele, a player who is not as much of a dual-threat as the others on this list but one that can still use his legs to move around the pocket and buy himself some time.
There’s a chance that Buechele goes undrafted and if that were to happen then the Raiders should extend an offer to training camp as he has many strong qualities.
He has relatively good accuracy and can fit the ball into smaller windows. He’s fearless — stepping into hits to make big plays — and isn’t afraid to try to stretch the defence.
While these are all great traits in a quarterback, the big question surrounding Buechele’s transition to the next level surrounds his arm strength. He hasn’t shown that he has the cannon that is needed in the NFL, not only to make the deep throws but to get the ball to the receivers quickly on the short throws as well.
Still, Buechele offers a low-risk option that the Raiders could pursue without spending much draft capital on one of this year’s rookie quarterbacks and that low-risk bet might just pay off.