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Raiders head to scouting combine with all eyes on QBs

INDIANAPOLIS — The Raiders make their annual pilgrimage to the heartland this week to get a better handle on the 2024 draft class.

The scouting combine represents one piece of the draft puzzle, albeit a sizable one, given the access clubs get to prospects through interviews and their medical records.

For first-year Raiders general manager Tom Telesco and coach Antonio Pierce, the trip to Indianapolis represents their first major venture together since partnering up in late January. Accompanying them will be staffers from the personnel department and coaching staff, a handful of them carryovers from the previous regime and others newly hired.

Their ability to mesh and work together will go a long way toward determining how well the Raiders pull off a critical offseason. That includes their first draft, in which they hold nine picks over seven rounds and likely their first crack at securing the franchise quarterback who has eluded the Raiders for decades.

The 2024 quarterback class, considered one of the deepest in years, draws comparisons to the 2020 group that produced Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa and Jordan Love. If this year’s class can have a similar impact — two Super Bowl appearances and multiple playoff trips — it behooves the Raiders to get involved.

Holding the 13th pick overall, the Raiders are unlikely to have access to the consensus top four — Southern California’s Caleb Williams, North Carolina’s Drake Maye, Louisiana State’s Jayden Daniels and Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy — and that spot might be too high to take Washington’s Michael Penix or Oregon’s Bo Nix.

Hence, the importance of the next seven days.

The Raiders will be hyperfocused on the quarterbacks at the combine. Eventually, they will marry their intel from the combine with their film work, upcoming pro day workouts and private visits to make one of the more significant decisions in years.

Questions abound.

Are Williams, Maye, Daniels or McCarthy capable of being the difference-making quarterback the Raiders need? How high do they have to move up in the draft to secure one of them? Are they willing to pay the price to do so?

Are Penix and Nix worthy of being picked 13th overall? Can the Raiders wait until they pick at No. 44 in the second round to secure either of them? Or do they need to trade back into the end of the first round or higher up in the second to select them?

Or, can someone from the next tier of quarterback prospects make a similar impact? Among that group are South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler, Tulane’s Michael Pratt, Florida State’s Jordan Travis, South Alabama’s Carter Bradley and Tennessee’s Joe Milton.

Top-down approach

Williams is the consensus top quarterback, although it only takes one team to fall in love with any of the other three to push him off that spot. The Bears, who pick first overall, get the first crack to decide if Williams is a must-have.

Maye and Daniels fill out the next tier. Either would be a fit for the Commanders, who pick second, but the sense is Maye is their preference.

It gets interesting at No. 3, the pick held by the Patriots and the likely starting point for a Raiders team looking to move up. Daniels has ties to Pierce, who coached him during their time at Arizona State, and appears an ideal fit for the elements of the West Coast offense new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy brings to the Raiders.

Daniels threw for 3,812 yards and 40 touchdowns against just four interceptions while completing 72.2 percent of his passes last year in winning the Heisman Trophy. He also ran for 1,134 yards and 10 scores.

His rare combination of arm strength, accuracy, and athletic ability reveal a player with an already lofty floor and an even higher ceiling. His outgoing disposition is star-quality.

“You see him smiling on the sideline all the time,” LSU coach Brian Kelly told reporters last season. “That’s the way he is whether he’s in meetings, whether he’s in the football building. He has that personality, and I think it’s infectious.”

Trade worth it?

Reports out of Boston suggest the Patriots are open to trading the pick. Using the 49ers’ trade from No. 12 to No. 3 in 2021 as a model, the cost to move from No. 13 to No. 3 would be the Raiders’ 2024 first-round pick, a first and third in 2025, and a first in 2026.

That’s why this week is so important for the Raiders. As an NFL personnel executive pondered, how highly do the Raiders rank the third-best quarterback over the fourth-best in McCarthy?

“What is the price difference between QB3 and QB4?” the executive said. “Maybe you like Daniels or Maye better than McCarthy. But two first-round picks better?”

Suppose the Raiders believe Daniels or Maye are only negligibly better than McCarthy. Would is make more sense to target the Giants (No. 5) or Titans (No. 7) in a more cost-effective draft deal to secure the former Michigan star?

McCarthy’s QB4 distinction might be a case of circumstance over talent. His Michigan teams were so loaded that he wasn’t needed or required to carry them with his arm or legs.

When he was, he was often brilliant, as evidenced by his 75.6 adjusted completion percentage (Burrow was 75.6 during his last year at LSU); his 71.4 completion percentage on scrambles, which is the highest among the top quarterback prospects, according to Pro Football Focus; and his 73.0 completion percentage on third-and-longs.

And the 27-1 record he compiled at Michigan cannot be overlooked.

Getting a better handle on how to proceed is priority No. 1 for the Raiders this week.

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

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