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Graney: After all that, Raiders’ QB battle back where it started

Tom Telesco as new general manager of the Raiders said he didn’t try particularly hard to trade up and take a quarterback in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday.

That the team had a plan to do so if the opportunity presented itself.

It didn’t. They moved on.

Reports suggested the Raiders attempted to position themselves better than No. 13 overall and select Michael Penix Jr. Such speculation ended when the Falcons (shockingly) drafted the Washington quarterback at No. 8.

Didn’t matter in the end. The decision was made for the Raiders when six of the top 12 picks were quarterbacks.

So they took a tight end in Georgia star Brock Bowers. Who will at least make the Raiders’ quarterback better. Whoever it is.

Which means we’re back to the beginning: The competition for who starts the season is between Gardner Minshew and Aidan O’Connell.

“As I sit here right now,” Telesco said, “that’s it, yeah. I’ll be honest — they haven’t done anything but lifting and running. I just haven’t seen enough other than them interacting with their teammates and each other, which is positive. That’s why I can’t wait to get through Day 3 of the draft and get the team here and all the players here and start getting on the grass.”

Already upgraded

What some are missing: The Raiders might have wanted like nobody’s business to trade up and get into the top three picks. To potentially get the quarterback (Jayden Daniels) coach Antonio Pierce coveted most.

But the Bears, Commanders and Patriots also needed to desperately fill the position. There’s every chance — and what is probably the case — that each dug their heels into the turf long ago and weren’t coming off those picks, no matter the ransom some teams might have offered.

Penix would have been a reach at 13. He really would have been a reach (and was) any higher given his injury history, no matter how good a prospect he is. I’m assuming the Raiders would have taken such a chance, but perhaps it’s a good thing he didn’t fall to them.

It doesn’t mean they won’t still draft a quarterback between rounds 4 through 7 on Saturday. Some good ones are still available. None went in Friday’s second and third rounds. Yeah. Spencer Rattler is still out there.

But here’s the deal: The Raiders already upgraded at quarterback from last year by signing Minshew to a two-year deal. They just didn’t do so in a spectacularly flashy manner that first-round picks usually garner.

The position is better now than when Jimmy Garoppolo was going 3-3 as a starter before being benched and O’Connell was more often than not playing like a rookie as a fourth-round choice.

Minshew might not allow the Raiders to win at a level they desire right now, but you can do worse than him as a Band-Aid before the team can ultimately find that franchise quarterback. Much worse than a player who made the Pro Bowl with the Colts last season.

And there is every chance that face might not come from any draft.

What about a player like Dak Prescott in silver and black?

The Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones might continue to say the plan is to sign Prescott to a long-term deal, but it hasn’t happened yet for a player who will be a free agent at season’s end. There will be other such options.

“I’m always looking for opportunities to compete, man, and this is a great one here,” Minshew said when first introduced as a Raider. “Excited to get in and compete with a team that I feel like has a chance to be really good.”

Could be proven right. There are weapons for whoever starts. I expect it to be Minshew.

Offense can produce

There is one of the better wide receivers in the NFL (Davante Adams), a solid No. 2 (Jakobi Meyers), someone who can take the top off (Tre Tucker), a versatile rookie tight end (Bowers), a second-year talent at the same spot (Michael Mayer) and a running back (Zamir White) who showed promise when starting last season.

If the Raiders can build their offensive line — they seemed to begin such a process Friday by drafting Oregon guard Jackson Powers-Johnson with their second-round pick and tackle DJ Glaze from Maryland in the third— they have the offensive skill to produce behind a quarterback such as Minshew.

“I’ll play wherever they want me to,” the 6-foot-3-inch, 320-pound Powers-Johnson said. “If they want me to throw the ball, I’ll throw it.”

Easy there, big fella.

Things aren’t that bad.

Draft pick or not.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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