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NFL Draft 2020: Why Justin Herbert should be Raiders' next quarterback

NFL Draft 2020: Why Justin Herbert should be Raiders' next quarterback

“I want to let it fly. I want to let the ball fly. I want big plays. I want excitement, you know. These bubble screens and checkdowns only go so far with me. I want to be aggressive, I want to try and make some big plays, especially if you’ve got the offensive line and the supporting cast to back it up.”

That was Jon Gruden in the lead-up to the Raiders' Week 16 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. 

Gruden, who now has spent two years with Derek Carr as his quarterback, wants to "let it fly." He's had enough of the dink and dunk passing attack the Raiders featured in 2019. If this is true, it likely means -- plug your ears ardent backers of Carr -- the Silver and Black will need to find a new quarterback as they transition to Las Vegas. 

The Raiders' lack of explosive plays in the passing game this season wasn't all on Carr. Antonio Brown's preseason departure put Gruden's offense behind the eightball. They had to transition from one that was going to be predicated on downfield throws to one featuring a power run game and play-action passing. Carr only developed chemistry with tight end Darren Waller and rookie receiver Hunter Renfrow.

The passing game didn't strike fear into any opponents. 

Now, six years into his NFL career, Carr has shown himself to be a middle of the road quarterback. He's not as bad as those who torch him, nor is he the savior his biggest supporters believe. He's a guy who can make some plays under pristine conditions and one who will struggle without good weapons, an inventive scheme, a successful running game or solid protection.

If Gruden wants to push the ball downfield, Carr probably isn't his guy. This season Carr averaged 7.9 yards per attempt. That was good for ninth-best in the NFL. It was a higher mark than Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson. 

Seems good, right? Let's go deeper.

Getting explosive plays in the passing game requires a quarterback truly willing to go down the field. That's something Carr has shown he isn't comfortable doing, especially in 2019. This season, he ranked 30th out of 32 quarterbacks in intended air yards per pass attempt at 6.6 yards. That means Carr's average target was six yards from the line of scrimmage.

Only Brees and Jimmy Garoppolo ranked lower and it was just by a hair. 

Now again, some of that is due to lack of talent at wide receiver and therefore lack of separation. But it also speaks both to Carr's unwillingness to stretch the field and to Gruden's unwillingness to call plays that require his quarterback to do so. Since Gruden claims he wants to ramp up the air attack, it seems he's somewhat uncomfortable dialing up plays that require Carr to take shots down the field. 

If that is the case, the Raiders need to find a quarterback with the skillset that fits what Gruden wants to do once he gets the required offensive pieces in place, mainly a whole new crop of wide receivers. 

Enter: Justin Herbert. 

The Oregon signal-caller has all the physical traits desired in an NFL quarterback. He's 6-foot-6, 238 pounds with a rocket arm and athleticism to hurt teams with his legs. 

Herbert will make his final collegiate start Wednesday when No. 6 Oregon faces No. 8 Wisconsin in the 2020 Rose Bowl. 

Herbert is projected to be a first-round pick, likely the third quarterback off the board if Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa declares for the draft. The Raiders own two first-round picks -- No. 12 and No. 19 -- and while they have a lot of pressing needs on the roster, if Herbert is available at No. 12 Gruden should make him the face of the Silver and Black. 

Admittedly, Herbert is far from a finished product. His college career has been filled with three head coaches, three offensive coordinators and a scheme change from the spread to the pistol which hampered his development as quarterback. 

Herbert has been maddeningly inconsistent during his time at Oregon. He'll make a throw that pops off the screen, squeezing it into a tight window 30 yards downfield and turn around and airmail a hitch route. 

But the pros outweigh the cons. Herbert also needs a quarterback coach. Someone who can develop his natural gifts and mold him into the quarterback he can be. Sounds like someone who coaches the Raiders doesn't it?

Herbert can make brilliant throws while on the run, delivering the ball with accuracy on the move. 

His right arm is a huge asset. He has the fastball to squeeze it into air-tight windows, creating big plays when some quarterbacks would see nothing and throw the ball away. 

Now, stretching the field is important in today's NFL. While Carr ranked 30th in intended air yards per pass attempt, division rival and reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes ranked 10th while missing some games.

If the Raiders are to catch the Kansas City Chiefs, the big play down the field will be necessary to keep up with Chiefs' high-octane attack.

Herbert's deep ball is inconsistent at the moment, but he can throw a beauty. 

That ball is 50 yards on a rope. If Gruden can help Herbert polish the deep ball and maintain sound footwork, the Oregon product has the tools to be the big-armed, explosive passer Gruden sounds like he wants to feature in the Raiders offense. A Silver and Black attack led by Herbert, Renfrow, Waller, Josh Jacobs and whatever dynamic receivers (Henry Ruggs, maybe?) the Raiders select has the makings of one that could be one of the NFL's best. 

An explosive trigger-man is the key to having a feared offense in today's NFL. 

[RELATED:  Five receivers Raiders should watch in Bama-Michigan]

Herbert is tall, strong, athletic and has a huge arm. The Raiders probably will use their first-round picks on a linebacker and a wide receiver, giving Carr one more chance. But if Gruden wants explosive, No. 10 should be his guy come April. 

Not many can make this throw. 

NFL rumors: Donald Trump says season should start on time despite coronavirus

NFL rumors: Donald Trump says season should start on time despite coronavirus

President Donald Trump held a call with the commissioners of major American sports leagues Saturday and offered a prediction for the upcoming NFL season. 

Trump told NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the other members on the call that the NFL season should start on time despite the coronavirus outbreak, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Adam Schefter reported. Trump reportedly told the commissioners that he expects arenas and stadiums to be filled come August and September, according to Wojnarowski and Schefter. 

However, it currently is unclear if public health officials agree with Trump's prediction. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as well as a lead member of the White House's coronavirus taskforce, told Warriors star Steph Curry that sports only can return once the country as a whole has turned the corner with the outbreak and the medical system no longer is under strain. Then it will be easier to identify cases and the cities won't be overwhelmed. 

It is unknown when sports will return and how it will look when they do.

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While Trump's optimism might lift some spirits, it will be up to public health officials to determine when it is safe for sports to begin and be held with fans in attendance. With many epidemiologists expecting the virus to surge in the fall, the NFL's season could be in jeopardy.

While all major sports currently are on pause, the NFL is planning to start the season on schedule and hold games as normal with fans in attendance.

The NBA suspended its season indefinitely after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11. The NHL, MLB, PGA Tour and MLS all followed suit, with the NCAA choosing to cancel the men's and women's tournaments altogether.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver reportedly said on the call that the NBA would love to "lead the way" in jumpstarting the economy but they only can do so once they are told by public health officials that it is safe.

[RELATED: Raiders reportedly eyeing DT at No. 19 in draft]

Trump reportedly also brought up the idea of the leagues lobbying for a tax credit that used to exist for fans. This credit would allow fans to deduct concessions and ticket prices from their taxes, according to Schefter and Wojnarowski.

The call included commissioners and top executives from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, WNBA, WWE, PGA Tour, LPGA, UFC, IndyCar and Breeders' Cup, according to a White House pool report.

As of Saturday, there were more than 270,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States and more than 7,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and NBC News reporting.

NFL draft rumors: Raiders expected to take defensive tackle in Round 1

NFL draft rumors: Raiders expected to take defensive tackle in Round 1

The Raiders stocked up in free agency, spending big to fix a defense that was leaky at best in 2019.

Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock now must turn their attention to hitting another home run in the NFL draft. With the No. 12 and No. 19 overall picks, most expect the Raiders, who have glaring needs at wide receiver and cornerback, to address those holes in some manner with their first two picks. That might not be where Gruden and Mayock are planning to go, though.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller reported Friday, citing league sources, that most around the league expect the Silver and Black to draft a top wide receiver with the No. 12 pick, but use their second pick on a "middle-of-the-field" defender since the Raiders would like to make an upgrade at defensive tackle.

The middle of the field was a massive problem for the Raiders' defense in 2019. But they went out and added defensive tackle Maliek Collins and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski to lead the unit. They also lucked into signing safety Damarious Randall, upgrading the middle of the field at all three levels.

However, the Raiders do still need some help in the middle of their defensive line. Collins is young and thrives beating double teams, but he only signed a one-year deal. Maurice Hurst had a nice 2019 but he still needs to improve and Johnathan Hankins, while great against the run, doesn't move the needle rushing the passer.

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If the Raiders do want to draft a defensive tackle -- it might not be the best use of a first-round pick -- there are a few elite talents they could look at.

Derrick Brown leads this year's defensive tackle class. The 6-foot-5, 318-pound Auburn product might be the most complete defensive tackle to enter the draft since Aaron Donald. He has powerful hands, an unreal motor and can play in odd and even fronts. He's a Day 1 plug-and-play starter with All-Pro potential. Brown is expected to be a top-10 pick so the likelihood of him donning and Silver and Black is low.

Second on the list is South Carolina's Javon Kinlaw. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Gamecock is an elite pass-rusher with all the tools and the strength of a bull. He has a great first step and unreal explosiveness. Kinlaw might be a shade below Brown but he appears to have Pro Bowler written all over him. He could be available for the Raiders at No. 12, but it's doubtful he slips to No. 19.

The next two players are end of Day 1-beginning of Day 2 guys, which means the Raiders must be sure they can contribute right away to take them at No. 19 or must trade down to make the pick lineup with the talent.

Next up is TCU's Ross Blacklock, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound load who has all the goods to be a star at the NFL level. Blacklock has the size, length, power and athleticism to be a dynamic playmaker at the NFL level. While some evaluators believe it might take him some time to adjust to the NFL game, he has all the tools you want in a three-down interior defensive lineman.

The last high-end interior defensive lineman is Oklahoma's Neville Gallimore. The rare defensive tackle that is defined by his speed, the 6-foot-2, 302-pound Gallimore has all the looks of a Day 1 NFL starter who can collapse the pocket and put the quarterback on his heels. His quickness, motor and power are traits that leap off the tape.

[RELATED: McKinney headlines top DB prospects for Raiders to target]

Now a middle-of-the-field defender could mean a safety like Alabama's Xavier McKinney, which would mean the Raiders would shift Randall to corner where they have a huge hole after Eli Apple's contract couldn't get finalized.

If Kinlaw or Brown falls to the Raiders, Gruden and Mayock should snap them up. Both would be a powerful inside presence who could open up rushing lanes for Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby.

But if both are off the board and corner like Florida's C.J. Henderson or even LSU's Kristian Fulton still are available, it might be wise to address to cornerback need first and see if a defensive tackle like Davon Hamilton,  Raekwon Davis or Justin Madubuike falls to them in the third round.