Reports have been coming out of some of the different players the Raiders have been hosting for private workouts. And most notably, there have been quite a few quarterbacks. We know that 95% of private workouts are smoke screens. But it is clear the Raiders are looking to draft a quarterback. Most of the invited guests are just there to draw the rest of the NFL away from which of those quarterbacks they actually will choose.
In this case, there have been at least three quarterbacks that the Raiders have kicked the tires on in Alameda-- Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen, Florida's Tim Tebow and Northwestern's Mike Kafka. Between the three of them, the Raiders have a nice game of "which cup is the ball underneath?" Mainly because each of them is slated to go on different days of the draft. And while it is certainly possibly the Raiders could pass on all three of these prospects, I don't think they will. At very least we know the Raiders are looking to add a young arm to the rotation from this draft.
Here is my take on each of the three Raider guests of late as well as a few more possible Raider quarterback picks in this draft:
Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame, 6-2. 222
Many professional scouts feel that Clausen's ability to master Charlie Weis's pro-style offense, make him an enticing option as a prospect. He is a classic drop-back quarterback with above-average accuracy, good mechanics and a very quick release. Many also point to the fact that in 2009, despite the offense's struggles, Clausen showed mental and physical toughness and the ability to command the huddle, to keep his team into games well into the fourth quarter.
He has been both criticized and lauded for his firey demeanor on the field. Some see his on-field presence as arrogant and immature while others see it as being a highly competitive, demanding leader. From a Raider perspective, the first would be a Jeff George and the latter would be a Rich Gannon. One thing is for sure, he is not a shrinking violet.
He is considered to be very good in nearly every tangible category-- with the ever important Accuracy as his strongest area. He ranked third in the nation with a 161.42 pass efficiency rating and completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,722 yards and 28 touchdowns. Only three quarterbacks at the FBS level had less interceptions than Clausen's four during 2009. These numbers earned him being named a finalist for the Manning Award, and semi-finalist for both the Maxwell and Davy O'Brien Awards. All the while, maintaining a 3.27 GPA.
But despite Clausen's many accolades and accomplishments, he remains second behind Brady Quinn for the Fighting Irish in nearly every major category including passing yards per game, passing yards in a season, passing Tds in a season and passing TD in a single game. By many accounts, he is considered a mirror image of Quinn.
Both Clausen and Quinn came from the same system with the same coach and therefore both have had scouts drooling over their "NFL readiness" due to their success working in a pro-style offense. This would present a red flag for me if I were an NFL GM simply by looking at the lack of success that Quinn has had since entering the NFL. He has never shown that NFL readiness he was supposed to have and it eventually led to his being traded this off-season by the Browns. I personally think that a quarterback working in a Pro-style offense is about as overrated as a 40 yard dash time. Simply because the playeris not running that offense against NFL calibre defenses.
The one thing Clausen has in his favor is his superior completion percentage. That has long been one of the most proven measures of a prospect's talent translating to the NFL. It has been often said "if they don't have a high completion percentage in college, they won't have one in the pros."
However, how he translates to the Raiders in particular is another story. He has good arm strength but no where near the kind of arm strength Al Davis typically requires of his quarterbacks-- Especially a quarterback taken in the first round. Add the fact that big Al takes a quarterback number one about once every 10 or 15 years, and the likelihood of Clausen being a Raider is slim to none. The interest the Raiders are showing in him is a clear cut case of a smokescreen. Regardless of the fact that Mel Kiper has him going to the Raiders in his latest draft. He of all people should know not to put much stock in private workouts.
Tim Tebow, Florida, 6-3, 236
As a pro prospect, however, he has heard the other end of the spectrum. He has been told that he should be open to switching positions because his playing style is not suited to play quarterback in the NFL. He has since gone on another mission-- to prove those ideas false. First and foremost, he has been working on re-inventing his throwing motion to make it quicker and more technically sound. His elongated throwing motion has been his biggest detractor by the standards of NFL scouts as it is seen as making him prone to turnovers. Partially due to the possibility of an oncoming rusher swatting the ball out of his hand and partially due to defensive backs getting an extra step in their reads on where he is going with the ball. Like most of Tebow's missions, he has made this process work in his favor. He has approached this newfound doubt in his abilities as an opportunity to show scouts his work ethic and determination as well as his ability to adapt quickly. Therefore, even if he isn't able to change his delivery flawlessly in the short few months he has had since the end of last season, if he shows improvement in that time, scouts will know that given a couple of training camps and a year as an NFL backup, he will no doubt make huge strides in becoming the kind of quarterback at the next level that he was at the previous one.
What the Raiders could see in him is the anti-JaMarcus. Because while Tebow's work ethic is unquestioned, Russell's is non-existent. While Tebow spends his offseason feeding the less fortunate, Russell spends it feeding himself-- a LOT. While Tebow takes trips to poor countries, Russell takes trips to Vegas. While Tebow is seen on the sideline with blood running down his face, firing up his teammates, Russell is seen on the sideline looking half asleep with a bag of Skittles sticking out of his pants. These two couldn't be more different. And that could be the best thing about him.
Mike Kafka, Northwestern, 6-3, 225
Kafka is moving up draft boards after some impressive pre-draft workouts and NFL scouts are taking notice-- The Raiders among them. At Kafka's March 20 pro day, he wowed scouts with a 40 yard dash in the mid 4.8 range, a 32.5 in vertical jump, a 4.10-second short shuttle and a 6.81-second three-cone drill. All of these numbers would have placed him among the top performers in each category at the combine while his 4.10 second short shuttle would have been by far the best among Qbs and his 6.81 second three cone drill would have been second only to Tim Tebow. Kafka is most well known for his athleticism and mobility. But he also showed that he can make all the throws on the move and that he is extremely accurate with near perfect mechanics.
The Chicago native stayed in town to play collegiately, and it looked as though he would play immediately after his redshirt season. But an injury combined with the solid play of C.J Bacher kept Kafka from getting his shot until his senior season.
Finally given the chance to be the full-time starter last fall, Kafka had a stellar season, completing about 65 percent of his passes for 3,430 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also ran for 299 yards and eight scores. His play earned him second-team All-Big Ten honors and put him on the draft map.
Following his terrific season, he played in the 2010 East-West Shrine Game, where he Completed 18-of-27 passes for 150 yards and a TD in the game to lead the East Team to a 13-10 come-from-behind victory . He would be named the game's Offensive MVP.
Working in a spread offense, however, lowers his stock as an NFL prospect. Combine that with his 12 interceptions also does not sit particularly well with scouts. But his overall numbers in 2009, as well as his record setting 532 yard passing performance in the Outback bowl vs Auburn, are hard to ignore. Add to that his eye opening pro day and he has moved himself into a mid-round selection.
He is a project type of quarterback who would most likely not be expected to start for a couple of years at least. He has worked in a shot gun, spread offense so it could take some time for him to acclimate to the NFL style of play. He has the intelligence as well as great arm strength to keep his potential intriguing. Especially with a few scouts comparing some of his qualities to that of Brett Favre.
Expectedly so, after his great pro day, the Raiders had him in for a private workout. This pick seems like one of the more likely for the Raiders with Kafkas physical prowess. He is the type of player that could either be a true quarterback of the future for the Raiders. He would be a worthwhile selection with one of the Raiders round five picks.
Here are few other quarterbacks that you should not be surprised if you hear their name called as a Raider selection on draft day:
Tony Pike, Cincinnati, 6-6, 223
He is a big, tough passer, with good arm strength who delivers the ball where it is supposed to be. What more do you want eh? He was highly productive and successful last season for the Bearcats and he looked to be a odds on favorite to go as high as round 2. Then in passing drills at the combine, he put in a stagnant performance causing some scouts to question whether he has the necessary intangibles. He grades out as a round 3 or 4 selection.
John Skelton, Fordham, 6-5, 243
Has one of the strongest arms in the draft. Although, he can often get a bit wild with the ball. He is considered a pretty good athlete for his size. Scouts question his desire and leadership. Does any of this sound familiar? You could pretty much interchange this guy with JaMarcus Russell. This is a serious buyer beware situation. If the Raiders choose Skelton it would be further proof that they have not learned from the Russell experience.
Jevan Snead, Mississippi, 6-3, 219
He was highly touted coming out of high school as one of the top recruits in the nation. He originally was supposed to go to Florida, but left when Tim Tebow committed. Then he went to Texas, and left after Colt McCoy beat him out. Hard to say whether he made the correct decisions but being stuck behind McCoy or Tebow is not a great position to be in and his stock has consistently gone down. This route is certainly not unheard of; the most recent example being Joe Flacco who transferred to Delaware from Michigan and played himself into a first rounder. Snead's skills are intriguing just the same. He also has a big arm, but he has been prone to interceptions and is not consistently accurate. If the Raiders haven't taken a quarterback by the 6th round, Snead would be a great guy to take a flier on.
Jonathan Crompton, Tennessee, 6-3, 222
He is considered as being elusive with the ability to tuck it and run for good yardage as well as being able to make all the necessary NFL throws. He was considered an underachiever at Tennessee and was an inconsistent thrower, both in terms of accuracy and reading defenses. There is no real consensus on where Crompton will go in the draft. For instance, in two separate publications I saw, he was rated as a priority free agent in one, and a first round product in the other. I would venture to say he will come off the board between rounds 5 and 7.