COMMENTARY | Let’s face it, Raider Nation: The Oakland Raiders are looking up to the league in 2013. Because of the lack in talent on the current roster, they are the favorites to land the 1st overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. With that 1st pick, who should they pick? Should it be the franchise QB, or the best player? This situation looks awfully similar to the 2007 NFL Draft.
In 2007, Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson was rated as the top overall prospect by many publications. Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson was right after him based on talent alone. However, he was considered too injury-prone to warrant that high of a selection. Also in the running for the No. 1 spot was Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn, coming of a decorated career for the Irish under Charlie Weis’ tutelage. A darkhorse candidate was LSU breakout QB JaMarcus Russell, a cannon-armed QB who utterly outperformed Quinn in the 2007 Allstate Sugar Bowl.
In the days leading up to the draft, owner Al Davis became enamored with Russell, who had the necessary arm to lead his preferred vertical passing attack. From then, the issue became whether Davis will take the high risk/high reward player in Russell over a can’t miss prospect in Johnson, effectively ending any chance of Quinn going to Oakland. With the QB position a bigger need, Davis drafted the LSU QB 1st overall. Johnson went 2nd to the Detroit Lions. There’s no need to explain what happened next.
The top overall prospect for 2014 is South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney. He’s a 6′-6″, 260-plus lb, sub 4.5 40 speed demon who was recently compared to Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor by National Football Post analyst Greg Gabriel, who’s been scouting football players since 1981. While that might be an unfair comparison, you can see the why scouts drool about this kid based on tape. Since logic dictates the worst team takes the best player available, this is a no-brainer, right?
The argument in taking a player other than Clowney is that we live in a QB-based league today. A franchise QB can alter the outlook of a team, no doubt about it. Recent history shows us the immediate success of luminaries such as Robert Griffin III (Washington), Andrew Luck (Indianapolis), Matt Ryan (Atlanta), Russell Wilson (Seattle), Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco) and Joe Flacco (Baltimore). Others, such as Cam Newton (Carolina), and Andy Dalton (Cincinnati) gives their team hope for the future.
The top QBs available for 2014 are Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd. While both are excellent prospects (and without Russell’s major red-flags), they do not have Clowney’s potential. Unlike 2013, this upcoming draft figures to be a deep class, allowing the Raiders to take Clowney 1st and addressing QB in the later rounds. Based on their needs for next season, QBs available from the 2nd round on include San Jose State’s David Fales, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, Fresno State’s Derek Carr, and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel.
It’s important for the Raiders to hit on their draft picks, especially considering that they have, arguably, the worst collection of talent in the NFL. They cannot afford to swing and miss, just like 2007. Should they own the 1st pick, Clowney is the correct choice.