The hottest name on everyone's mind entering the home stretch toward April's NFL draft is Oklahoma's quarterback Kyler Murray.
Just about every team suspected of needing a new QB has been linked to possibly selecting the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner somewhere in the first round. Of these teams, the Oakland Raiders have been mentioned more than once, as speculation continues to allege that head coach Jon Gruden was less-than impressed with QB Derek Carr's 2018 performance.
While many in Raider Nation seem to be completely sold on the former-Fresno State signal caller, several major sports media outlets continue to project that GM Mike Mayock and Gruden could be gearing up to select a talented replacement in the upcoming draft.
Sports Illustrated's Peter King boldly states the Raider organization's stance on its quarterback situation, in a piece for NBC Sports/Pro Football Talk:
"For the record, teams who will be interested in quarterbacks, and where they pick in round one: Oakland (4, 24, 27) ... Lots of suspicion that Jon Gruden/Mike Mayock will take a quarterback high (they’ve got three first-round picks) and NOT trade Derek Carr."
ESPN's Paul Gutierrez left the door open, if ever so slightly, implying the Raiders' interest in selecting Murray (or another QB, perhaps) in the first round:
"Yes, before adding journeyman Mike Glennon on Friday, Nathan Peterman was the Raiders' only other quarterback, besides $125 million man Derek Carr, so maybe Gruden's purported interest in Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins is not simply a smokescreen."
NFL.com's Chad Reuter has the Raiders selecting the recently fast-rising Missouri quarterback Drew Lock, with the no. 4 overall pick. The only reason for Oakland not taking Murray being that Reuter already has the Cardinals taking him with the first overall pick. However, the Raiders' path to Murray would necessitate a trade, which would have to include the no. 4 packaged with either the no. 24 or no. 27 overall pick.
With all of this seemingly wild speculation, the question remains: Should the Raiders replace Derek Carr? Let's take a look at the numbers and how the Oakland QB stacks up versus the rest of the league.
Derek Carr's 2018 statistics and NFL rank, per ESPN stats & info:
passing yards: 4,049 (12th)
completion pct: 68.9% (5th)
passing touchdowns: 19 (21st)
interceptions thrown: 10 (t-11th) *min. 300 pass attempts
passer rating: 93.9 (18th)
total QBR: 49.0 (27th)
The key figures to take into consideration are the passer rating and total QBR statistics. While Carr picked up his touchdown production and made fewer mistakes in the second half of the season, his advanced passer-metrics paint a more grave picture. Those advanced metrics are included, to a certain extent in the passer rating, but more thoroughly reflected in the total QBR stat. Beyond those hard figures, scouts around the league have continued to harp on Carr for his lack of effectiveness in or ability to adjust to blitzes, pressure, and pocket-breakdowns. Instead of allowing plays to develop and finding receivers downfield, Derek tends to resort to checking down to underneath routes or dumping off to running backs.
For anyone who has spent considerable time watching the Raider offense and Carr over the past few years, it is painfully obvious that the former second-round pick has regressed in three key areas: downfield vision, comfort and awareness in the pocket, and ability to extend plays or even pick up first downs with his legs. Each of those skills were part of Carr's arsenal and were on full display during the team's playoff-bound 2016 season. Nowadays, Raider fans are desperate to see their franchise quarterback return to his Pro Bowl form. Time may be running out, however, if the rumors and speculation regarding Murray and the other draft day-hopeful quarterbacks contain any truth.