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New Raiders GM expected to be aggressive in search for top QB

Updated February 17, 2024 - 6:53 pm

If Tom Telesco’s past offers clues about his future, expect the Raiders’ new general manager to be aggressive in bringing in a top-level quarterback this offseason.

The four teams Telesco worked for before taking over the Raiders settled for nothing less. And with the Raiders holding the 13th pick in April’s draft, it seems likely they will explore trading up to get a quarterback they deem a potential difference-maker.

Recent history proves that surrendering significant draft capital to move up to select a high-level quarterback is a worthy approach.

Just ask the Chiefs, who sent two firsts and a third to the Bills to move up from No. 27 to No. 10 to draft Patrick Mahomes in 2017. Or the Rams, who traded six draft picks — two firsts, two seconds and two thirds — to move from No. 15 to No. 1 to draft Jared Goff in 2016.

Or the Eagles, who sent two firsts, a second, a third and a fourth to the Browns to move from No. 8 to No. 2 to pick Carson Wentz in 2016. Or the Bills, who traded a first and two seconds to move from No. 12 to No. 7 to draft Josh Allen in 2018.

Those teams have combined to appear in every Super Bowl since 2017 and won five titles overall. The Bills have not reached the Super Bowl, but Allen has led Buffalo to at least the divisional round of the playoffs for four straight seasons.

The 49ers survived the swing and miss they took in 2021, when they traded three firsts and a third to the Dolphins to move from No. 12 to No. 3 to select Trey Lance. Lance struggled with injuries and was ultimately traded to Dallas, but the 49ers remain one of the best teams in the NFL, having just lost in overtime in Super Bowl 58.

History of top picks

Couple that history with Telesco’s past.

As a front office intern in Buffalo from 1991 to ’94, Telesco watched Jim Kelly, taken with the No. 14 overall pick in 1983, push the Bills to the last three of his four straight Super Bowl appearances.

Telesco’s Bills mentor, Bill Polian, brought him to Carolina to help run the expansion Panthers in 1995, and they used the franchise’s first pick to select Penn State quarterback Kerry Collins. A year later, the Panthers reached the NFC championship game.

Telesco followed Polian to Indianapolis in 1998, and the Colts used the No. 1 pick to select Peyton Manning. In Telesco’s final season in Indianapolis in 2012, the Colts drafted Andrew Luck first overall.

Philip Rivers was in place when Telesco assumed control of the Chargers in 2013, but the offseason Rivers left, Telesco used the No. 6 pick to draft Justin Herbert.

Those teams didn’t have to trade up to draft their quarterback of the future, but Telesco knows winning at a high level in the NFL typically starts with having a great player under center.

Top of the class

This year, three prospects have separated themselves in a deep quarterback class: Southern California’s Caleb Williams, North Carolina’s Drake Maye and Louisiana State’s Jayden Daniels. They are expected to be taken with the first three picks, held by the Bears at No. 1, the Commanders at No. 2 and the Patriots at No. 3.

The Bears face a big decision, as they have Justin Fields in place. If they hold onto Fields and trade the top pick, the Raiders are expected to be involved.

A more likely scenario involves the third pick, which the Patriots are reportedly open to trading. If the Raiders are open to any of the top three prospects — at this point, the consensus No. 3 is Daniels — they will be in the mix.

What would it take to make it happen? Nothing less than the haul the 49ers gave up to draft Lance.

The Raiders could stand pat and hope Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy is available at No. 13.

But with the quarterback-needy Vikings and Broncos drafting directly ahead of them, can the Raiders afford to hope McCarthy is still there, especially if they are convinced he is a top-level prospect?

Potential trade partners in that scenario include the Giants at No. 6 and Titans at No. 7. The Falcons at No. 8 could also be willing to trade if they acquire their quarterback in Fields from the Bears.

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

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