Raiders can afford to relax in quarterback-rich draft

OAKLAND, Calif. — The final five seasons of quarterback play in Tampa under Jon Gruden were forgettable.

Four different players led the Buccaneers in single-season passing from 2004 to 2008. None of those four — Brian Griese, Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski and Jeff Garcia — reached 2,800 yards in a respective year. All in all, the Bucs’ passing game was certifiably middle of the road.

And so, this draft represents a change of pace for Gruden.

He largely can forget the position.

Derek Carr was a core piece to what lured Gruden from broadcasting back onto an NFL sideline. With Carr under center, the club has no inclination to address quarterback on April 26. Still, the position should impact the club’s No. 10 overall pick, as other teams jostle to select a franchise-caliber prospect early in the draft.

Four quarterbacks very well could be taken within the top 10 picks.

At worst, this activity will bump a relevant crop of defenders down the board toward the Raiders. At best, the quarterback crop could create options, perhaps tempting Reggie McKenzie to trade back in the first round for the second time in his GM tenure. In 2013, he moved from No. 3 to 12 overall when selecting cornerback D.J. Hayden.

Carr signed a five-year, $125 million extension last June. He is under contract through 2022.

Behind him, the Raiders conceivably could add a developmental project during the draft’s third day on April 28. There is no shortage of backup arms on the roster now between EJ Manuel, Connor Cook and Josh Johnson.

Manuel, 28, projects as the primary reserve for a second straight season. He signed a one-year deal in March. Johnson, 31, signed a similar deal in March, although unlike Manuel, he has no history with the club. Johnson, a 2008 fifth-round pick, is the last quarterback a Gruden-led organization has drafted.

Cook likely is ahead of Johnson for the No. 3 quarterback spot. The 2016 fourth-round pick has two more seasons under his rookie contract.

He did not appear in a game last year.

Top QBs in 2018 draft

■ Sam Darnold, Southern California. 6 feet, 3 inches; 221 pounds. Poise and physical tools of franchise leader. Ball security a concern (13 interceptions, nine fumbles lost in 2017).

■ Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: 6 feet, 2 inches; 215 pounds. Completed 70.5 percent with 43 touchdowns, six interceptions in 2017 Heisman Trophy Award year. Lacks prototypical size.

■ Josh Allen, Wyoming: 6 feet, 5 inches; 237 pounds. Elite-echelon arm strength. Accuracy the looming question after 56.2 percent career completion rate as two-year starter.

■ Josh Rosen, UCLA: 6 feet, 4 inches; 226 pounds. Suffered two concussions in 2017. Has faced some (unfair?) criticism for being perhaps too strong-minded.

■ Lamar Jackson, Louisville: 6 feet, 2 inches; 216 pounds. Opted out of 40-yard dash at combine and pro day. But averaged 1,586 yards, 19.5 touchdowns rushing in final two seasons.

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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