23 Apr 19
With two days to go until the NFL draft, Raiders fans are now digesting a couple of shocking reports.
If we’re to believe what some NFL draft pundits are saying, Jon Gruden would prefer to have Kyler Murray and not Derek Carr as his quarterback, and the Raiders will really surprise folks with their first pick at No. 4 on Thursday night.
Whether these two reports are mutually exclusive or not, no one’s really saying.
Before we dive in too deep on the Raiders’ draft hearsay let’s first remember what we’ve learned about the days leading up to the draft: You can’t always believe what you read or hear.
As Titans general manager Jon Robinson said last year about NFL pre-draft rumors, “I’d say (they’re) mostly wildly untrue.”
So what are we to think when ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said, “Jon Gruden loves Kyler Murray, I’m told. And does not necessarily love Derek Carr, I’m told, which is going to be the interesting thing to see.
“It may not play out in this draft,” McShay said Monday on “Get Up! “But I think at some point it’s going to come to an end between Carr and Jon Gruden, from what I hear.”
Since most draft experts (and most teams) expect the Cardinals to select Oklahoma’s Murray with the first pick on Thursday night, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport delivered perhaps the juiciest Raiders rumor.
From Up to the Minute Live: The #Raiders pick at No. 4 could be a big surprise, based on the views of some who won't be there to witness it. pic.twitter.com/YOqY20oBy4
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 22, 2019
He theorized one of the biggest reasons the Raiders closed ranks and sent their scouts home last week was to help protect the team’s biggest secret — the surprise they’re going to deliver with the No. 4 overall pick.
Most mock drafts have the Raiders targeting defensive linemen Quinnen Williams of Alabama or Josh Allen of Kentucky, so who might qualify as a “surprise” at No. 4?
How about another defensive linemen such as Houston’s Ed Oliver or Michigan’s Rashan Gary? Maybe the call is for LSU linebacker Devin White or Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams? Or, if you subscribe to the belief Gruden isn’t in love with Carr, perhaps Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins or Murray, should he somehow fall, would be the eye-opening pick?
Although Gruden has gone out of his way to declare his belief in Carr, the quarterback rumors won’t go away. Since the Raiders are also armed with two other No. 1 picks at Nos. 24 and 27, some believe Gruden might also surprise us and select either of the two quarterbacks he coached at the Senior Bowl, Missouri’s Drew Lock or Duke’s Daniel Jones.
Although quarterback is the position Gruden is most closely associated with as a coach and when he was an analyst, it’s a bit startling to realize he’s mostly avoided quarterbacks in the draft throughout his 12-year NFL coaching career.
Gruden’s teams have only drafted four quarterbacks since his career began in 1998, with Marques Tuiasosopo being the highest-profile quarterback taken when the Raiders grabbed him in the second round in 2001. Gruden also helped select three quarterbacks while with Tampa Bay, third-rounder Chris Simms (2003), fifth-rounder Josh Johnson of Oakland (2008) and sixth-rounder Bruce Gradkowski (2006).
Gruden obviously not only prefers veteran quarterbacks, there’s at least another reason to question whether he’d be all-in on someone like Kyler Murray, an elite passer and runner who operated out of the shotgun in Oklahoma’s spac-and-pace offense. As a West Coast offense proponent, Gruden believes it’s imperative to have his quarterbacks under center the majority of the time to help with the timing of the offense and aid the running game.
Carr, who mostly operated out of the shotgun in his first four years with the Raiders, wound up under center more than he was accustomed to in 2018. After spending 68 percent of his plays in shotgun formation in both 2016 and 2017, Carr was in the ‘gun 60 percent of the time last season.
Then again, Gruden also made allowances for Carr as the quarterback still wound up running the coach’s offense from the shotgun more than any of his previous signal-callers over the years.
The temptation is to accuse teams using quarterbacks who operate primarily from under center as not progressive enough in today’s modern game. Especially since the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, the league’s most dynamic quarterback, was in the shotgun a league-leading 80 percent of his snaps. Then you consider of the four teams whose quarterbacks played from under center the most last season, three made it to the conference championships (Patriots, Rams and Saints).
The Rams, with ex-Cal star Jared Goff at the helm, led the NFL with 63 percent of their snaps from under center. The 49ers were second at 56 percent, quite a change from two years ago when their Chip Kelly-led team paced the league by a wide margin with 98 percent of their plays from shotgun.
Then there’s the issue of Murray’s height — he measured a shade over 5-foot-10 at the Combine. While some believe it won’t be real detriment, he’s probably not someone you’d want operating under center in the NFL. Given Gruden’s beliefs, Murray probably wouldn’t be a fit for him under center.
Broncos president John Elway, another man who knows a thing or two about quarterback play, is someone who sees Murray having issues playing underneath center.
“The height from shotgun doesn’t matter nearly as much as it does if you’re coming out from underneath center all the time because by the time you get back there the pocket a lot of times is caving on you,” Elway told Broncos.com recently. “That’s where height does matter a little bit more.
“But if you’re playing in shotgun every down like a lot of these guys, then the height, to me, does not have nearly the impact that it normally would if you’re coming out from underneath.”