Even after trading for quarterback Matt Schaub, the Oakland Raiders need to find their quarterback of the future. The odds are now against the Raiders using the No. 5 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft to select a quarterback, but it’s impossible to rule one out.
The Raiders have filled so many needs via free agency that they could draft a quarterback of the future at some point in the first two rounds. Just about every quarterback in the draft could benefit from sitting a year, so Schaub’s presence wouldn’t be a deterrent.
One of the most buzz-worthy quarterback prospects is Johnny Manziel out of Texas A&M, who had his pro day Thursday. Out of all the quarterbacks in the draft, Manziel would be the biggest disaster if he landed in Oakland.
That’s not an indictment on Manziel’s ability or the Raiders, but the situation. Pairing the two together would yield poor results for both sides.
Prospects are analyzed to the point that there is little that we don’t know about them by the draft. What often dictates the performance of a draft pick is not necessarily their raw talent, but their situation.
Imagine if Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers had traded places in the 2005 NFL draft. Things would have been much different for both quarterbacks.
If Schaub starts and throws one of his signature pick-sixes early in the season, everyone will be calling for Manziel. If the Raiders also start out slow, that will only prompt more calls for the young quarterback.
Even if Manziel isn’t ready to play, the Raiders are going to be under tremendous pressure to put him on the field to see what he can do. He isn’t like every other draft prospect off the field—the media spectacle is real.
Manziel brings with him a circus-like atmosphere the likes of which we haven’t seen since Tim Tebow. Even if Schaub were adequate, people would wonder if Manziel could do better. After all, Manziel brings to the game great improvisational skills.
“The biggest thing you have to look at with Johnny, it’s really not as much what you see on the field, but all the other things surrounding him – the media attention, the ‘celebrity’ of Johnny Manziel,” Raiders head coach Dennis Allen told Brent Zwerneman of chron.com. “Those are all things, as he continues to mature, that he’ll be able to handle. And if he’s able to handle those things and keep them under control, he’s going to have a successful career.”
The Raiders risk derailing Manziel’s development by asking him to play before he’s ready. The Raiders may also be throwing away outcomes that are more predictable with Schaub. Manziel may be a lot more like Terrelle Pryor early in his career—more positive plays compared to a conventional quarterback, but also a lot more negative plays.
It’s hard to imagine Allen or general manager Reggie McKenzie wanting to put their jobs on the line while Manziel learns on the job. Manziel will have to learn to play with more control before any team can fully trust him.
Manziel has to learn protections and how to avoid taking take big hits when running the ball. Until he can do that, he’s a risk the Raiders can’t afford to draft even as a player to develop.
Last season, the Raiders cut fourth-round draft pick Tyler Wilson partly because he struggled to learn protections in training camp. Wilson mentioned multiple times that he had to learn protections, and that was new to him.
The ideal team for Manziel would have a new head coach and general manager. Manziel needs a place where he can start immediately. A new coach and general manager have enough job security to work through his issues on the fly. The current regime in Oakland doesn’t have that much time.
Then there are the off-field concerns with Manziel. The Raiders have spent the last two years trying to change the culture in the locker room. While Manziel will likely mature, he’s not the type of player McKenzie usually brings in.
If the Raiders fail to improve in 2014, Manziel could be looking at a new coaching staff in 2015. It’s possible a new regime would be less than enthusiastic about developing Manziel. Even if they liked Manziel, changing coaches after a year is usually not a good thing for a young quarterback.
Every draft pick comes with a risk. Manziel is just more risky with the Raiders than he would be elsewhere. With the Raiders needing their first-round draft pick to make an immediate impact in 2014, they will likely look elsewhere.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained first-hand.
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