In early February, it seemed a certainty that quarterback-starved teams such as the Texans, Browns, Jaguars and Raiders would help themselves to a buffet of highly rated passers.
Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles, among others, were considered high first-round picks.
But as the days tick off toward the opening round of the draft on May 8, those teams now seem far less in love with those prospects – especially if they stay in the top five of the draft.
Now, it seems, a number of teams – including the Raiders – may be content to take a top prospect at another position high in the first round, then wait until the second or third round to take a chance on a young quarterback.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback wrote Monday that he’s heard from sources that Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Oakland “are strongly considering passing on quarterbacks with their first picks and waiting until their second or third selections.”
The reason: none of those teams is “in love” with one of the top prospects, but believes it can get value later in the draft among prospects such as Derek Carr, A.J. McCarron, Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenburger, Jimmy Garoppolo or Logan Thomas.
Now, too, other prospects have begun to emerge through recent evaluations that weren’t even on the radar a couple of months ago, such as Tom Savage of Pittsburgh who visited the Raiders this past week.
Savage started at Rutgers, transferred to Arizona (but never played) then moved again, to Pitt, where he started this past season and threw for 2,958 yards, completed 61 percent of his passes and threw for 21 TDs vs. nine interceptions.
Some scouts now say Savage has perhaps the best arm of any quarterback prospect, and he has good size at 6-feet-4 and 228 pounds.
As Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com noted recently, Savage “would seemingly fit the mold for the Raiders, who are going all in with Matt Schaub” as their starter, with Matt McGloin as backup – for now. In other words: a pocket passer.
Bucky Brooks of the NFL Network and NFL.com, calls Savage a “sleeper” who could be one of the draft’s surprises. Former NFL exec Gil Brandt, also of NFL.com, says Savage reminds him of Hall of Famer Troy Aikman. And Mike Mayock of the NFL Network says Savage is a “wild card” of this quarterback class whose size, arm strength and raw talents could make him a future star.
But with Schaub and McGloin ahead of him, Savage would be able to develop and be coached up to NFL caliber without the pressure of performing immediately. And, says Brooks, that’s a good thing – because he’s not ready to play.
“He is erratic with his accuracy and ball placement,” wrote Brooks. “He needs to work on controlling the velocity of his ball to make it easier for receivers to catch his passes. Additionally, Savage must develop better footwork and mechanics in the pocket to make up for his lack of athleticism and mobility. Given the work Savage needs to do to become a potential starter, he will earn developmental grades (Rounds 4-7) on most boards and enter the league viewed as a probable No. 3 quarterback as a rookie.”