We’re just hours away from the start of the 2014 NFL Draft, and the rumors and speculation have reached a fever pitch. Last minute mocks are projecting this and the so-called “experts” are predicting that. The waters are well and truly muddied, and the only certainty at this point seems to be that there are no certainties. How it all plays out is anybody’s guess right now.
Holding the fifth pick in the draft, what GM Reggie McKenzie and the Oakland Raiders are planning to do with it is one of the more intriguing mysteries. While they’ve retooled much of the team and did a lot to address some of the more glaring areas of weakness, the Raiders still have some work to do yet. Taking a playmaking wide receiver with the potential to be the true No. 1 they’ve lacked for so long or a high impact player on defense seem to be the most obvious and more pressing concern. Yet some continue to insist that Oakland must take a quarterback with the No. 5 pick. If McKenzie gives in and takes Blake Bortles or worse still, Johnny Manziel, he would be making a big mistake — a mistake that could potentially cost him his job.
Despite what some people think and are arguing, McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen do, in fact, have to win now. Perhaps they don’t have to win a Super Bowl title this season, but it has been made abundantly clear that if the Raiders do not improve from back-to-back 4-12 seasons, both will be looking for work elsewhere. To that end, there is about zero chance that they are going to put their fortunes – or their jobs – in the hands of a rookie quarterback, regardless of their measurables, how highly they’re being touted or how much promise they show. For McKenzie and Allen, there is too much riding on this season and the pressure to win is mounting.
Knowing they needed a QB with experience and a track record of success, McKenzie brought in former Houston Texans star Matt Schaub to run the offense and have declared that he will be the starter going into 2014 and possibly beyond. They also feel comfortable enough with McGloin as Schaub’s backup that they jettisoned Terrelle Pryor. If they had planned to draft a Bortles or Manziel with the intent of letting them run the offense, the offseason would have looked far different.
This is not to say that the Raiders might not add a young arm in the draft. With Schaub and McGloin the only really viable quarterbacks on the roster, they very well may look at taking a young arm in the draft — just not in the first round, and especially not with the fifth overall pick. They may look at taking LSU‘s Zach Mettenberger, Fresno State‘s Derek Carr, or San Jose State‘s David Fales, all of whom McKenzie is reported to be very high on. And it’s very likely that any of the three of those quarterbacks can be had in the later rounds. If they feel they must add a young QB, the Raiders would be wise to wait until later in the draft.
McKenzie, Allen and the Raiders need to win and they need to win now. And everything they’ve done this offseason – from acquiring Matt Schaub, James Jones, Maurice Jones-Drew, Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley and all the other veteran leaders they’ve signed – has been with that understanding. With that hanging over their heads, the last thing McKenzie and Allen are going to do is subvert the whole process now by using the No. 5 pick on one of the draft’s top quarterbacks – none of whom they are “in love with” — and then turn the team over to that rookie and simply hope for the best.
The Raiders have the pieces in place that will allow them to win this season. Picking up an impact player in the draft will only bolster those chances, but they need somebody who can contribute now. They need to draft a Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans or a Khalil Mack. McKenzie and Allen are fighting for their jobs right now, and they simply cannot and should not burn the fifth overall pick on a quarterback who can’t contribute or help them win right now.