Skip to content

Why there’s hope for Giants, Raiders despite sitting out the mad dash for first-round QBs

As the record-setting early run on quarterbacks rippled through the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft, team decision-makers followed the dynamic closely.

Seven teams, many believed, could be in the market for a first-round quarterback (they’d later learn an eighth team was lurking).

Talent evaluators deemed up to six quarterbacks worthy of the draft’s highest tiers.

Which team would miss their chance?

The Chicago Bears selected USC prospect Caleb Williams first overall, a given long before late April. The Washington Commanders opted for LSU’s Jayden Daniels, also an expectation if less of a given. The New England Patriots stayed put at No. 3 to select UNC’s Drake Maye.

And for the first time in NFL history, by the 12th overall pick, six quarterbacks were already claimed.

With the Atlanta Falcons’ surprise selection of Michael Penix Jr. eighth overall, not one but two teams widely considered in contention for quarterback exited the draft without one in any round, much less than the first.

That doesn’t mean you should count out the New York Giants and Las Vegas Raiders.

Because as quarterback desperation reaches historic levels, coaches and executives across the league don’t view the Giants’ and Raiders’ quarterback-less draft classes as whiffs.

In a league where first-round quarterbacks routinely flame out, some cast more doubt on the decision to draft first-round quarterbacks with such haste rather than to sit out the race. Take Oregon quarterback Bo Nix, whom the Broncos selected 12th overall, a decision the Raiders avoided and the Giants intentionally sidestepped.

“You and I can’t sit here and have a conversation and be like, ‘[Broncos head coach] Sean Payton was thrilled to have the sixth quarterback off the board,’” an NFC assistant coach said. “There’s no f***ing way. … If you’re not in that prime top two or three, you don’t know who you’re gonna get. So now you’re settling.

“Congratulations, you got the sixth-best quarterback of this class. Is that really what we’re looking for?”

The short answer: It depends.

Team draft strategy factors in more than just a player’s talent. Franchises consider their specific evaluation of a prospect (it’s possible Nix was higher than the sixth QB for Denver); their evaluation of the holes on their roster entering the draft; which draft positions have more and less depth; and the life cycle of a team’s talent threshold.

The Bears, Commanders and Patriots positioned themselves for relatively straightforward decisions when they held the top-3 draft picks after each traded away their quarterback in the offseason. From there, the calculus deepened.

Teams needing a quarterback had to not only consider if they believed in a player but also how much they could afford to sacrifice capital for a potential trade-up. Which quarterbacks were franchise-caliber, and how much were evaluators willing to bet on that outcome?

Decision-makers know that a quarterback can’t contribute to a team’s growth while he develops as much as players at other positions can. If the prospect’s potential doesn’t surpass the value of a quarterback in place on the roster, decision-makers exercise caution in recommending a pick.

“The worst thing you can do in that situation is reach and force,” an NFC executive told Yahoo Sports by phone this week. “Because as soon as you force it and you allocate real resources, that can inhibit your ability to build your team. And the level of success you have with that move is gonna define you.”

The Giants (6-11) and Raiders (8-9) each entered this draft with losing records but pockets of talent.

So they made calls.

Giants general manager Joe Schoen confirmed during draft weekend that he engaged in calls about trading up and down from the sixth overall pick. Many in the league believe the Giants would have been interested in selecting Maye had the Patriots not selected him third overall. It’s unclear how much the Giants were willing to mortgage for the opportunity to secure Maye, but ultimately their potential trade partner needed Maye as well.

The Raiders, at 13, were widely considered to have interest in Penix had he fallen to them.

General manager Tom Telesco confirmed the club “looked into” trading up on Day 1 albeit “not particularly hard.”

“We had kind of a plan to move up if the opportunity was there,” Telesco said after the first night of the draft. “It wasn’t there, and we kept moving.”

Each team instead selected a dynamic offensive weapon, the Giants opting for LSU receiver Malik Nabers while the Raiders grabbed Georgia tight end Brock Bowers.

To different extents, each weapon will give his franchise another chance to evaluate whether their in-house quarterbacks are sufficient or better. Multiple coaches and executives expressed agreement that they would have evaluated the two teams’ options similarly to stay put at quarterback.

“It’s such a tricky deal, because if you’re wrong on that, it can really set you back multiple years,” the assistant told Yahoo Sports by phone. “To me, the successful model, at least what it seems like it’s shifting to, is what Atlanta did: Build it up and then import somebody [at quarterback] to go and take it over.”

The irony of putting the Falcons on this strategic pedestal was not lost on an AFC assistant.

The Falcons’ offseason quarterback plan has created cognitive dissonance through the league.

“Signing Kirk Cousins is a good idea,” the AFC assistant said. “Drafting Michael Penix is a good idea. Doing both of those things at the same time is a terrible idea.”

And yet … the building blocks that make either move a good idea in a vacuum are notable.

The Falcons and Chicago Bears each welcome their first-round quarterbacks to a roster with multiple first-round talent pass catchers and a more experienced offensive line than their predecessors had.

Could the 2025 Raiders and Giants be headed down the same road?

The quarterbacks currently in each building will influence the decision.

In New York, Daniel Jones is just two seasons removed from completing 67.2% of passes for 3,205 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. His league-low 1.1% interception rating contributed to a 92.5 passer rating (14th-best) and Jones also rushed for 708 yards and seven touchdowns as the Giants won a playoff game.

The franchise benefited less from Jones in 2023, as injuries to himself and teammates derailed the 2024 season. Was Jones’ 2:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio more reflective of his ability and decision-making, or the crumbling cast around him? Jones technically completed passes at a higher clip (67.5%), but lack of availability was his top issue. A neck injury and then season-ending ACL tear limited him to six games. The Giants are on track to open 2024 with Jones in the driver’s seat.

“Our expectation was Daniel would be our starter and we brought Drew Lock to be his backup and Tommy [DeVito] has been a backup, so that’s where we are and that’s how we’ll move forward this season,” Schoen said after the draft. “Daniel is still under contract for three more years. As it sits today, that’s where we are.”

The Raiders, meanwhile, went 5-5 last season behind 2023 fourth-rounder Aidan O’Connell completing 62.1% of passes for 2,218 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. They then signed veteran journeyman Gardner Minshew to a two-year contract worth up to $25 million, with $15 million fully guaranteed. Minshew completed 62.2% of passes for 3,305 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season as fourth overall pick Anthony Richardson underwent season-ending surgery.

With developmental upside to each player, sources agreed any quarterback beneath the top tier in this draft class would have been superfluous to the team-building process.

An NFC assistant considered Minshew a “borderline playoff quarterback” while an NFC executive described him as a “game manager” who could succeed with the Raiders’ top-10 defense.

“They’re probably gonna be reliant on their run game,” the executive said. “It’s gonna be play-action pass heavy, they’re gonna attack the middle of the field. Gardner Minshew is gonna be cognizant of where his checkdowns are.

“It’s not gonna be an explosive offense, but it’s not gonna make a lot of mistakes either.”

And if the offense is good, but not great? The Raiders may find themselves back in the middle of the first round of the draft, trying to decide between sacrificing capital to move up for their coveted quarterback or going another year with two good, but not great players. Murmurs around the league also wonder whether team owner Mark Davis would pay to pursue a free agent like the Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott or Cousins — if the Falcons roll with Penix earlier than expected.

The Giants’ answer seems like it will be more clear. If Jones stays healthy and excels, the Giants will opt not to exit his voidable contract. His $40 million salary will increasingly look palatable against his counterparts who have surpassed $50 million a year. If a weapon like Nabers isn’t sufficient to recapture Jones’ 2022 form or better, or he cannot stay healthy, the Giants’ results will likely position them to pick his successor early.

The league will watch with interest, speculating about a plan that the decision-makers themselves are unable to yet envision.

“There’s a certain element of just implementing your process, believing in your process and just increasing odds because you’re making bets in a moment,” an NFC executive said. “That’s why you have a process [to] increase your probability of being successful.

“Because nobody knows.”