Oakland Raiders Training Camp preview: Five rookies to watch

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Nov 22, 2014; Reno, NV, USA; Nevada wolf pack quarterback Cody Fajardo (17) passes in the first half of their NCAA football game with Fresno State bulldogs at MacKay Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

1. Cody Fajardo, Rookie Quarterback

Perhaps no one coming into camp has a more uphill battle to make a roster spot than Cody Fajardo. Modern NFL teams generally carry three quarterbacks (though the Raiders have very recently carried only two) and right now the Raiders have four on the roster. Three have started multiple NFL games. Cody Fajardo is a rookie who wasn’t even drafted.

But that might be helpful to Fajardo in some ways. The quarterback depth chart appears completely set going into camp: last year’s rookie sensation Derek Carr – potentially the Raiders’ franchise passer – is established as the starter. Former 12th overall pick of the 2011 draft Christian Ponder – who played for Raider OC Bill Musgrave in Minnesota – is the backup, and has 36 games of starting experience. Rounding out the list is third-year man Matt McGloin, who was an undrafted free agent rookie for the Raiders in 2013 when he came in and started six games.

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McGloin, who was once the Raiders starting quarterback, has seen his standing drop since 2013: he came into last season second on the depth chart behind veteran Matt Schaub only to be leapfrogged by Carr. He did spend a large part of 2014 as the second string QB, and threw one TD and two picks in relief of Carr during a horrific loss to Miami. There has been word that McGloin is unhappy with his role in Oakland, and would like a chance to compete for a starting job elsewhere rather than be stuck at third on the Raider depth chart.

And while the franchise is not obligated to help Matt McGloin pursue his career goals, there isn’t much of a point keeping him (he has no guaranteed money) if they don’t plan on using him. Furthermore, McGloin is not the type of quarterback that Musgrave tends to prefer: McGloin is relatively undersized, and is not particularly good with his feet or throwing on the move. While he has a capable arm, he is not the type of QB that could take advantage of Musgrave’s run-heavy scheme (that uses a QB who can throw on the run out of play action) or the new Chip Kelly-inspired fast paced offense that Musgrave has promised.

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  • Fajardo meanwhile has experience running a read-option based scheme coming out of the University of Nevada. He was an accomplished running QB in college, amassing nearly 3,500 rushing yards and 44 TD’s. Despite an underwhelming arm and a tendency to misread plays, Fajardo also finished his college career with almost 9,700 passing yards and 57 TD’s, completing over 65% of his throws in college.

    Fajardo actually has superior numbers to apparent second stringer Christian Ponder coming out of college. Ponder, who came out of Florida State, was a mobile passer but didn’t run the ball himself as effectively or as often in Jimbo Fisher’s pro-style scheme. Ponder also had worse passing stats than Fajardo and started fewer games than the four years starter out of Nevada.

    Fajardo is a talented developmental prospect out of the Mountain West who likely would have been somebody’s 2nd or 3rd round pick if he’d played in a Power 5 conference. He also gives the Raiders a player on the roster with some ability in special packages, such as a Wildcat or Read-Option look. He’s an ideal candidate for a third string quarterback, as he hasn’t done anything in the NFL yet and will play his role and work hard. Look for him to make the cut, or failing that, to be stashed on the Raiders practice squad so he can run opposing offenses with the scout team.

    Next: Rookie Watch: Max Valles, Pass Rusher (Virginia)