No one with half a brain can doubt that the Raiders have turned it around this year. We've all seen and loved the results.
That said, as we all know we've still got a way to go before we can consider ourselves a power in the AFC. While there are a few areas we need to upgrade for this to happen (O-Line, probably another receiver with good hands to name a couple) possibly the most important area where we need to upgrade is at quarterback.
It's not a cliche to point out that the quarterback is the most important position in football, even more so with recent rule changes. No matter how good your defense, running game and special teams may be, you're not making Super Bowls with Rex Grossman as your QB any more.
After the JaMarcus the Fat C*** era, it's hard to argue for all except the most die-hard Jason Campbell haters that we have seen an improvement from our quarterback play this season, be it from JC or Bruce Gradkowski.
However, it's also not hard to notice that neither of them are going to be the long term answer at QB for the Raiders. Both have significant flaws (for Bruce it's his injury prone body and frequently reckless throws; for Jason, it's his struggles to get the ball to his receivers and inaccuracy with the deep ball) which will hinder our chances of going too far with either of them under center.
Therefore, whatever anyone (even the most die-hard Bruce fans) may say, we need to look at all potential alternatives.
So instead of studying for my exams, I found myself digging through online scouting reports. The result is this FanPost where I'll be taking a look at the quarterback class of 2011 and how its members would fit in Oakland (as well as our chances of getting them). You will notice that I've left Andrew Luck off the list. The reasons are simple - I'm not sure he declares this year, and if he does there's absolutely no chance in hell he slips out of the top 3. We can't trade up that far.
PEDIGREE: Fifth-year senior at University of Washington.
STRENGTHS: The best athlete in this year's QB class - Locker was a true dual-threat at Washington. His arm strength is good - not great, but probably on par with Campbell (and Locker has shown he isn't afraid to throw deep in college, despite his mediocre receivers) and definitely better than Bruce, who he shares a quick release and the ability to throw on the run with. He's achieved a lot in college despite being stuck with a terrible O-Line and the aforementioned average receivers. The intangibles are all there - by all accounts he has a strong work ethic and those more qualified than me drool over his upside.
WEAKNESSES: Even considering his crappy supporting cast, his game seems to have taken a major step back this year - 64 yards against Stanford, a 4 from 20 against Nebraska - and he seems to have also lost a step in his running game. He tends to lock onto receivers and not always fully read the game - call it Jason Campbell Disease. While he's normally very accurate he can get flustered and make bad throws. Probably not ready to start right away.
NFL PROSPECTS: Locker clearly has what it takes to become an NFL franchise quarterback, especially when you consider that a lot of his problems this year aren't entirely his fault. That said, he probably regrets going back to college - had he declared last year he would have been a top-5 pick for sure, but the talking heads are saying he's not even a first round lock any more.
CHANCE OF SEEING HIM IN THE SILVER AND BLACK: As much as I'd like to believe that he's going to fall into the mid-second round for us, ultimately I'm a realist. I don't see any way he goes past Seattle, who need a quarterback and surely can't pass up the local hero.
That said, if he does fall into the late 1st/early 2nd round, I'd be hoping that Al can move up the board for him. And if he somehow falls to us and we pass...well, you'll hear me screaming abuse from across the Pacific.
PEDIGREE: Redshirt junior at University of Arkansas. Transferred in 2008 from University of Michigan.
STRENGTHS: Absolute cannon for an arm - probably the best in this year's draft by some margin. A big guy (6'7", 238) who can take a hit. Despite his arm strength, he has a quick release and decent accuracy when he's on. Checks down when appropriate and rarely locks onto single receivers. Those in the know rave about his upside and potential.
WEAKNESSES: Immobile - can't handle a strong pass rush. Inconsistent accuracy - his off days can get pretty ugly. Apparent technical flaws in throwing motion (I'm going by what I've heard here, I'm not qualified to judge). Despite his arm strength, he doesn't always put a lot of zip on throws. Character issues aplenty - he was once arrested for being a pisshead in public, plenty of questions about his work ethic. Not the sharpest tool in the shed.
NFL PROSPECTS: Definitely not ready to start right now, but he's the kind of guy who could go either way. He could be a future Pro Bowler or playing in Canada in three years. It's a question of whether he's willing to put in the effort. His ceiling is probably Jay Cutler - his floor, the white JaMarcus.
CHANCES OF SEEING HIM IN THE SILVER AND BLACK: Mallett is very much an Al Davis quarterback, for all the good and bad in that statement, and if we had a first round pick this year I'd be worrying that Al would be using it on him. He's not a first round talent - not at this stage, anyway - but I suspect that there will be some team who falls in love with his size and arm and wastes a No.1 on him when he's really more a second/third round talent right now.
If he's there in the third round for us and we don't go QB in the second, I take him in a crackhead heartbeat. If it's the second...maybe. I'd probably rather upgrade the O-Line first though.
PEDIGREE: Fifth-year senior from Florida State.
STRENGTHS: Very accurate - 68% completion rate in 2009. Good arm strength - not in the Mallett category, but it's not a weakness either as his accuracy extends to the deep ball. Good enough athlete to be a running threat and keep pass rushers honest. Reads the field well and knows how to find open receivers. Great pocket awareness. A real leader and warrior on the field. Great work ethic and intangibles - came into FSU mostly as a running QB but improved his game into that of a mobile pocket passer.
WEAKNESSES: Decision making - makes at least one WTF pass per game. Tends to stare down receivers and struggles to check down when needed. Doesn't always put zip on his passes and can throw them too high - not the greatest situation given that our main receivers can struggle with their hands.
NFL PROSPECTS: Everything's there with Ponder, it just needs a bit of polish. Like most rookie quarterbacks, he's probably not ready to start for a couple of years but he could well develop into a terrific quarterback in the right system.
CHANCES OF SEEING HIM IN THE SILVER AND BLACK: Ponder's projections are all over the place right now - everywhere from top-10 to the third round. My guess is he'll probably get passed over in the first round, but some team will pick him up in the second.
If I were Al Davis, I may not try too hard to move up for Ponder, but if he fell to me I'd take him without asking any questions.
These are the only three I bothered to comment on for a number of reasons.
1) I don't know how the Cam Newton situation is gonna play out.
2) Other than these three and Newton, there's no other QB in this year's draft that I would want and the Raiders could get.
Well, I'm off. I gotta get some sleep before an 8am exam tomorrow. Huzzah for open book tests.
Peace out, SBP.