Jalen Hurts

NFL draft rumors: Raiders could trade up for Tua Tagovailoa if QB falls

NFL draft rumors: Raiders could trade up for Tua Tagovailoa if QB falls

The Raiders enter the 2020 NFL Draft with huge needs at wide receiver and cornerback. They also need to add a piece on the defensive line.

In short, quarterback is not a need that tops the list. Derek Carr will be the starter entering the season and Marcus Mariota will push him and be there to take over should Carr falter. The Raiders could look to draft a guy like Jalen Hurts on Day 2, but they are not expected to be a player for the likes of Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa or Jordan Love.

However, should Tagovailoa start to slide in the draft, the Raiders reportedly could "sniff up" for trade scenarios, The Athletic' Ben Standing reported, citing a "connected source."

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Tagovailoa was seen as the presumptive No. 1 pick entering the college football season. But the meteoric rise of LSU's Joe Burrow and the dislocated hip Tagovailoa suffered in November have caused him to drop. Most draft experts still expect the left-handed gunslinger to be off the board by the No. 6 overall pick (Los Angeles Chargers), but there's a world in which Tagovailoa drops. Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, teams have not been able to have their own medical staff evaluate Tagovailoa's hip.

If the Dolphins draft Herbert, as is expected, and the Chargers pass on Tagovailoa, the Alabama product could begin a precipitous slide. The Carolina Panthers (Teddy Bridgewater), Arizona Cardinals (Kyler Murray), Jacksonville Jaguars (Gardner Minshew), Cleveland Browns (Baker Mayfield) and New York Jets (Sam Darnold) all have their starting quarterbacks. The Jaguars seem like the likeliest landing spot, but all reports indicate they want to see what they have with Minshew.

Teams like the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers certainly will look to move up if Tagovailoa slides, but the Raiders -- with two first-round picks and three third-round selections -- are in a great spot to trade up and grab a possible franchise quarterback with Drew Brees upside. 

Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have been extremely complimentary of Carr and gave Mariota a lucrative contract that suggests they believe he could be the right guy to lead the Silver and Black. Mayock said the Raiders plan to "rebuild" Mariota and give him the time and support to become the best version of himself.

All that points to a team with two quarterbacks on the roster who could be the franchise guy. With other holes to fill, would it be worth it for the Raiders to sell draft capital for Tagovailoa?

The short answer is probably not. Carr and Mariota give Gruden and Mayock the luxury of building up the rest of the roster while having two capable signal-callers on the team. Tagovailoa has enticing, sky-high potential, but he also comes with injury red flags and gambling and missing on a quarterback in the top 10 can set a franchise rebuild back years.

[RELATED: Mayock should follow his gut, make Lamb a Raider]

If Tagovailoa does slide, I expect the Raiders to discuss and be intrigued by the possibility of solving their quarterback question. But it's more prudent for them to stand pat, add a dynamic receiver and a lockdown corner and go from there.

Enter 2020 with two quarterbacks who have shown they can win at the NFL and see if either Carr or Mariota is the guy. If not, the Raiders can look to address the quarterback position starting in 2021.

NFL Draft 2020: Jalen Hurts among quarterbacks Raiders could consider

NFL Draft 2020: Jalen Hurts among quarterbacks Raiders could consider

The Raiders don’t need a quarterback. They still could take one in the 2020 NFL Draft.

That doesn’t mean we’re going to spend the next 650 words destroying Derek Carr or minimizing Marcus Mariota.

It does imply, accurately so, that the Raiders have quarterback freedom. They can release Carr next offseason for a $2.5 million cap hit and Mariota for free next offseason. They also could be so thrilled with Carr that they let him play out a contract that runs through 2022 and pays a roughly $19.5 million pay-as-you-go salary.

Either way, they aren’t bound to anyone.

Carr is the presumptive starter. Mariota is a luxury car backup. Nathan Peterman has received a restricted free agent contract tender worthy of the No. 3 spot or better. That’s why we shouldn’t expect Jordan Love to hear his name called. That’s why we shouldn’t expect the Raiders to trade up for Justin Herbert or Tua Tagvailoa.

We should, however, consider quarterback a draft need heading into the 2020 NFL season.

Jalen Hurts is a realistic possibility considering the team’s connection to him during the pre-draft process. The former Sooner is one of the signal-callers the Raiders could consider selecting, even if a first-round selection isn’t likely.

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Let’s take a look at some NFL draft options should the Raiders consider taking a quarterback:

Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma

The Raiders could snag him with one of three third-round picks, though they might have to trade into the second to get him after an excellent final season in Oklahoma and a stellar performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. He has been connected to the Raiders at several stages and could be a solid selection should the Raiders choose to address the quarterback spot.

Hurts is a great leader with a good arm who shows poise under duress, with the athleticism required to perform well under pressure. He can function well outside the pocket, something Jon Gruden’s looking for in an NFL quarterback working in a world with Patrick Mahomes as the dominant predator.

His coverage recognition leaves something to be desired and he needs to perform better in the pocket, but Hurts is someone worth strong consideration if available when the Raiders are on the clock after the initial round.

He’s the priority on the NFL draft’s second day, though there are some other players to consider beyond that in later rounds.

Anthony Gordon, Washington State

The Pacifica native has a solid arm and nice touch on the ball and is willing to work through his progressions trying to find the right receiver. He has solid football IQ and can make throws at all three levels. His footwork needs some, well, work, and he isn’t a great scrambler outside the pocket but is a playmaker when required.

Steven Montez, Colorado

The former Buffalo has the size and strength required to be an NFL signal-caller and can get the ball out fast with accuracy. He can move well within the pocket and can make plays outside of it if required. He’s good directing traffic and making plays on the move, traits Gruden would like. He isn’t great performing under pressure and can be slow with his reads but could be a playmaker who can be taught to perform well in the right system.

[RELATED: Gruden's draft history tells us Raiders won't select QB early]

J’Mar Smith, Louisiana Tech

He has impressice athleticism and arm talent and is capable of making every throw in the NFL. He can run the zone-read offense and make plays in a pro-style system, a benefit of selecting him later in the NFL draft. He doesn’t often react to pressure and doesn’t have great decision-making ability, but that can be taught by the right coach. He’s a project, but one the Raiders could work with given their positioning at starter and backup

NFL Draft 2020: Jon Gruden's history suggests Raiders won't take QB high

NFL Draft 2020: Jon Gruden's history suggests Raiders won't take QB high

Raiders head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock took Kyler Murray to a fancy Dallas steakhouse around this time last year. They wined and dined the former Oklahoma quarterback (and Athletics draft pick) at Al Bernat, knowing full well everyone was only getting an awesome meal and some intel out of the deal.

Murray was going No. 1 overall to Arizona. The whole world knew that. The Raiders were not trading up to get him. Odds are they would’ve taken Nick Bosa first anyway, with a supreme talent and pressing need melding well.

It still didn’t stop the Raiders brass from buying Murray a great steak putting him through the paces.

The Raiders did almost the same thing with Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins. They worked him out and challenged him on the whiteboard.

They generated a bunch of quarterback buzz and a good smokescreen for those outside the know, and then stayed put  (despite efforts to trade down) and took Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 overall. The quarterback meetings probably would’ve made for some great TV, on Gruden’s QB Camp or Mayock’s NFL Network segments.

They ultimately didn’t matter. Flirting doesn’t mean you'll ask someone on a date.

That’s especially true with Gruden, who often professes love for quarterbacks while rarely taking them.

Gruden has made the final call on eight NFL drafts and has selected three quarterbacks. He has never drafted one before the third round. He certainly had some influence when the Raiders took Marques Tuiasosopo in the second round back in 2001, but that ultimately was Al Davis’ call.

He took Chris Simms (1999) in the third round, Bruce Gradkowski (2006) in the sixth and Josh Johnson (2008) in the fifth.

That’s it.

Simms saw significant time in his second year and Gradkowski started as a rookie, largely because of Simms’ struggles.

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Gruden’s preference for veteran quarterbacks is well known, with the Raiders and Buccaneers doing best under Gruden with Rich Gannon and Brad Johnson at the helm.

Why, therefore, should we raise a Chucky-style eyebrow every time the Raiders interact with an NFL-draft eligible quarterback?

The fan base is increasingly skeptical that Derek Carr’s the quarterback of Gruden’s future despite the Fresno State alum setting statistical milestones in each of his first two years under the Raiders head coach.

He’s the Raiders’ presumptive starting quarterback next season, despite the Raiders making Marcus Mariota the NFL’s highest-paid backup quarterback.

All that evidence doesn’t eliminate the possibility of the Raiders taking a quarterback at some point, a topic we’ll delve into extensively on Tuesday on the website and the Raiders Insider Podcast. Gruden likes to develop young arms and enjoys reclamation projects with raw talent, as we’re seeing with Mariota and Nathan Peterman.

He also likes smart, battle-tested quarterbacks. Carr is one and surrounding him with talent seems the best course of action.

[RELATED: If Henderson's rise is real, Raiders could land grand prize]

While connecting the Raiders to this year’s top quarterbacks in 2020 has decreased over last year, the Raiders have still done due diligence and spoken to Oregon’s Justin Herbert via video conference. They have analyzed Tua Tagovailoa and Jordan Love to be sure.

They have been connected with Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, though he may have elevated his draft stock too high for the Raiders to take him.

Whether the Raiders take a quarterback or not remains uncertain, but Gruden’s draft history suggests a selection isn’t always as obvious and imminent as it seems.