The Oakland Raiders tried something "different" for them this year when they retained head coach Dennis Allen for a third season despite a 4-12 finish in 2013. General manager Reggie McKenzie has put faith into himself and Allen to finally turn things around for the Raiders, and they know that it won't just require stability in the front office and on the coaching staff, but also at the most important position of all: quarterback.
While Allen could become the first head coach in Oakland to get a full three seasons with the team since Jon Gruden (1998-2001), the Raiders are also still searching for a QB who they can hang their helmets on for the long term. Oakland hasn't had the same leading passer for more than two consecutive seasons since Rich Gannon in 2003. Despite this, the Raiders have only drafted one quarterback over the last six years: They selected Tyler Wilson in the fourth round of the 2013 draft.
Though Oakland did spend a 2011 supplemental third-round pick on QB Terrelle Pryor, the Raiders haven't found themselves in a good position to draft a quarterback early in quite some time.
After drafting JaMarcus Russell first overall in 2007, they passed on Joe Flacco in 2008 and then Josh Freeman in 2009. The best quarterback prospects available to them in 2010 would have been Tim Tebow and Jimmy Clausen, and we know how that worked out. They didn't even have first-round picks in 2011 or 2012, and the 2013 draft was one of the weakest quarterback classes of recent memory.
Now the Raiders have the fifth overall pick in May's draft and there are three quarterbacks sitting at the top of most draft boards. Is Oakland targeting one of these three players or is it going to take the best player available and take another route towards finding a quarterback of the future? That is, if the team doesn't feel that Pryor or Matt McGloin could still fill those shoes.
McKenzie told reporters on Wednesday that he has a "really good idea" as to who next season's starter will be, but wouldn't give away who that player is. It's an interesting notion to consider, especially since nobody knows yet which of the three quarterbacks -- Central Florida's Blake Bortles, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater -- will be taken in the top four. If McKenzie has an idea who his starter will be, could it be one of the top three prospects?
Allen has already gone to scout Bortles and Bridgewater in person and is next scheduled to pay a visit to Manziel, so we know that the Raiders are doing their due diligence on the prospects available. McKenzie has seen David Fales of San Jose State and is going to next watch Fresno State's Derek Carr in person. Those two could be second-round options, should Oakland opt to take a player like wide receiver Sammy Watkins of Clemson, offensive tackle Greg Robinson of Auburn or linebacker Khalil Mack of Buffalo.
The truth is that the Raiders can go in just about any direction because after a 4-12 finish last year, their 11th straight non-winning season, Oakland just needs talent all over the field.
SB Nation NFL
SB Nation NFL
If they don't decide to take the best quarterback available, the Raiders could also still fill the position in free agency, trade or in-house. They have been linked to free agent Michael Vick and possible soon-to-be free agent Matt Schaub. If not one of those two, both Pryor and McGloin flashed some promise last year before ultimately falling apart, but perhaps they could play better if given better players around them. A receiver like Watkins or a tackle like Robinson would be a good start.
Last year, Oakland traded down from the third overall pick and passed on players like tackle Lane Johnson and then selected cornerback D.J. Hayden 12th overall instead of defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Hayden played in eight games and struggled, while Richardson won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors for the Jets. The Raiders can't afford to miss on their high draft pick again.
Whether it's Manziel or Watkins, or even a possible trade up with the St. Louis Rams to select Jadeveon Clowney of South Carolina, the only thing we know for sure for Oakland is this:
After more than a decade of being among the worst in the NFL, the Raiders need to do things differently. Giving Allen a third season was the beginning of that, and selecting an elite player in the draft should be the next part. Even if it's not a quarterback.