Leading Off

Leading Off: Raiders need to nab a top QB in NFL draft

The Raiders badly want to return to respectability, and the quickest way is to find a strong starting quarterback.

And, no, Raiders fans, neither Terrelle Pryor nor Matt McGloin is that guy. The Raiders reportedly are close to parting ways with Pryor, and McGloin is considered a solid backup at best.

The Raiders have the fifth pick in the draft, and it’s likely one of the three quarterbacks expected to be among the top picks will be available.

There’s almost no consensus among the numerous mock drafts. Some have the Texans using the No. 1 pick on Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, others have them taking Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, and still others are predicting it will be Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel.

Bridgewater is considered the most pro-ready, and Bortles has prototypical size (6-foot-5, 232 pounds).

Manziel, who won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman and arguably had a better season as a sophomore, may be the most polarizing prospect in this year’s draft. Last week, ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski said he wouldn’t take Manziel in the first three rounds. Yet fellow ESPN talking head and former NFL coach Jon Gruden compared Manziel to former 49ers great Steve Young.

The one thing that can’t be debated about Manziel is that he’s exciting to watch. He’s fast, has great instincts and is poised under pressure. In 26 games for the Aggies, his passer rating was 164.1, and he threw for 7,820 yards and 63 touchdowns.

Most important, he’s a winner. He won 20 of his 26 starts, including a very dramatic 52-48 victory over Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl to cap his college career.

And Manziel’s colorful and controversial reputation should endear him to Raiders fans.

– Tom Couzens


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