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Josh McDaniels says Raiders focused on QBs at combine

Updated March 2, 2023 - 7:29 pm

INDIANAPOLIS — The Raiders have descended on Indianapolis this week hunting for a quarterback.

That doesn’t mean they will return home with a definitive answer among a deep class of prospects at the NFL scouting combine, a group headed by Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson.

But their plethora of needs also means focusing on other position groups beyond quarterback. Or, as Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said Tuesday, there is a long overdue need to infuse the defense with a heavy dose of toughness, explosiveness and intelligence.

Let’s face it, though, it all starts at quarterback. And only Chase Garbers is under contract for the Raiders after they released longtime starter Derek Carr two weeks ago.

“The goal eventually is try to have a young player here that’s going to be a Raider for a long time,” McDaniels said.

Ideally for the Raiders, they will leave Indianapolis with at least an idea if that quarterback of the future — and the next face of the franchise — is available in this draft class. He would be someone they can build their team around over the next few years, taking advantage of the cost-effectiveness of a quarterback on a rookie contract.

“You see the teams that are having success right now in our league, I would say in our conference and specifically in our division, they’re young players that were drafted by their clubs and being developed there under the same continuity,” McDaniels said.

Hence, McDaniels’ blunt answer when asked whether he goes to sleep and wakes up these days thinking about a quarterback.

“Yes,” he said, laughing.

It’s why he and general manager Dave Ziegler worked deep into Tuesday meeting with a slew of the top prospects. The 18-minute meetings per player gave them a chance to talk with the quarterbacks on their radar and get a sense of their personality and football acumen.

“It’s not enough to make an evaluation,” McDaniels said. “It’s an impression.”

The next phase unfolds Saturday when the quarterbacks take the Lucas Oil Stadium field for their combine workouts, though Young is not expected to throw. After that, expect the Raiders to attend every important college pro day between now and the draft.

McDaniels and Ziegler will be open-minded in their evaluations, determined to let the process guide them to their decision. That could mean the Raiders deciding that their franchise quarterback is in Indianapolis. But it also might mean them resisting the urge to push the issue just because they have a need and potentially making a massive mistake by reaching for an undeserving prospect.

“I don’t think that’s really a smart decision,” McDaniels said.

McDaniels also is open to drafting a quarterback who doesn’t necessarily fit what the perception might be of his ideal quarterback. There are so many differences among the prospects that it could mean the Raiders turning to a classic pocket-passer such as Stroud or a dual-threat such as Richardson.

“Our system’s going to fit the player,” McDaniels said. “They don’t have to just be a specific set of traits. If they have talents that we can use in other ways, then we’re going to use them.”

The first step is identifying their guy, a process that begins in earnest this week.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on Twitter.

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