I’m going to start right off by saying Derek Carr is going to be the starting quarterback for the Las Vegas Raiders when they take the field Week 1 next season. It doesn’t matter whether I agree that he should be or not — it’s what’s going to happen, and I’m not going to write about it below. So fellow armchair GMs, argue amongst yourselves, but spoiler alert: if the best quarterbacks you can think of as replacements are Jameis Winston, who wants at least $30 million dollars a year to throw interceptions, or Philip Rivers, and you’re delusional enough to think Drew Brees or Tom Brady is coming to the Raiders, it might be time for you to take a break from football. Also, shout out to the whoever keeps suggesting J.T. Barrett. At least you’re being original with your absurd suggestion. Now, let’s start with some honorable mentions.
Honorable Mention No. 1: Will anyone admit that Jon Gruden won the Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper trades?
Yes, Khalil Mack is a generational talent. Yes, Amari Cooper is the best wide receiver the Raiders had in a long time. Are the Raiders better off having traded them? Who am I to say? But the Cowboys and the Bears added these pieces to win in the playoffs and the Super Bowl. Neither has happened. In fact, the Bears aren’t making the playoffs this year and the Cowboys are dangerously close to missing the playoffs as well. Whether you agreed with the moves or not, the Raiders have cap space and picks to continue to build this team. And guess what? The Bears or the Cowboys can’t say the same.
Honorable Mention No. 2: Is Jon Gruden going to come up with more plays that utilize Josh Jacobs in the passing game?
Our own BD Williams did an excellent job breaking down what Jacobs brings to the passing game, which can be found here. It’s another wrinkle that can be utilized to open up the offense even more. I’m not saying that Gruden should copy his colleague Sean McVay and Todd Gurley Jacobs into oblivion, but 27 targets is not enough for someone who came out of college as an excellent route runner.
Now, let’s move on to the five biggest storylines heading into the off season:
5. What are the Raiders going to do with Tyrell Williams?
Even coming off a win, with Josh Jacobs out, I feel pretty comfortable saying that Williams was the third option in the passing game against the Chargers with Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow on the field. If the Raiders do what we think their going to do, which is draft a real WR1, then are the Raiders really going to pay Tyrell Williams $11 million dollars next season? That’s good for the 18th most expensive contract at wide receiver in the NFL. That’s too much money for a WR2. His situation reminds me of Sammy Watkins, a player with a high salary, but who is not playing up to it while surrounded by multiple weapons. Watkins doesn’t add anything to the Chiefs. I think with another strong draft, especially one deep at wide receiver, it’s fair to wonder if Williams is on the roster at his price tag.
Cyril disagrees with my opinion. Here’s his take:
“It’s obviously a high number, but I think the Raiders have so much space that I they’ll bring him back. No use in adding to their already long list of needs. Now, if he is still playing at this level next season? Then yes, he will be gone.”
4. Can Johnathan Abram stay healthy?
A consistent knock on Johnathan Abram leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft was that his playing style could lead to durability concerns. Unfortunately, that concern reared its ugly head in the very first game of the season. The Raiders needs someone else not named Trayvon Mullen to step up in the secondary next season, and Abram was drafted to be that person. He plays with a certain ferocity, but can be he balance that with staying healthy?
3. Will Paul Guenther be fired?
I don’t trust someone who doesn’t value the linebacker position in today’s NFL. I just don’t. I’ve cited his statements numerous times, and you can click here for them. The Raiders are in a division with the best tight end in football, another top ten tight end when healthy, and a rookie who’s trending upwards fairly quickly. None of these guys are going anywhere anytime soon, and the Raiders are guaranteed to play each twice a year. Old Bengals players aren’t going to do the job. Who cares about continuity if Guenther can’t adapt. This is isn’t college, where scheme can outweigh talent. We all saw how that went in Philadelphia during Chip Kelly’s time. Good coaches recognize where their strengths are and adapt, period. Plus, someone remind me, exactly how many playoff games did Guenther’s defense win in Cincinnati?
2. What will the Raiders do about the linebacker position?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Cyril made the case, inadvertently, on why Isaiah Simmons shouldn’t make it past the Jacksonville Jaguars pick. With Telvin Smith out, and the emergence of Josh Allen, our sister site Big Cat Country, believes that the Jaguars will switch to a 3-4 defense in the very near future. Myles Jack would continue to be the Mike (strong side) middle linebacker, and Simmons would plug right into the Will (weak side) middle linebacker position. Granted, I’m giving a lot of credit to the current or new GM, who will make this pick, and maybe Telvin Smith decides to come back to football, which every single Raiders fan should hope for. However, if that isn’t the case, it will leave the Raiders with the choice of Kenneth Murray or Dylan Moses. To reiterate, Isaiah Simmons will not be there when the Raiders make their first 1st round selection. Not to mention, there are some guys in free agency such as Joe Schobert and Cory Littleton available. The talent is out there.
1. Who are the Raiders going to draft with their 2020 1st Round picks?
No shit, of course this is not only the biggest storyline, but the most important question heading into the off season. In fact, with a week left of football, and the Raiders somehow still in the hunt for a playoff spot, fans are already starting to make it clear who they’d like to see the Raiders draft in April. That said, it comes down to what the two men pictured above decide.
However, there are ways to glean what the Raiders might do. Year in and year out, the gentlemen over at WalterFootball.com are the most accurate with their mock drafts, and let’s not forgot last year, former site editor Levi Damien was the only person I saw that mocked Clelin Ferrell to the Raiders. There are places you can get information about what media members are hearing the Raiders are going to do. While Levi only did one mock last year, the two analysts at WalterFootball do weekly mocks. It’s just something to keep an eye on moving forward, and at this moment, neither has the Raiders taking a quarterback.