How Mike Mayock plans to approach his first NFL Draft as Raiders GM


How Mike Mayock plans to approach his first NFL Draft as Raiders GM

Most of Mike Mayock’s NFL draft prospect evaluations reside in the public domain. The Raiders general manager got paid to voice his opinions on the NFL Network, leaving video clips and epically conference call transcripts as evidence on how he views talent.

He was also charged with matching talent with team needs, providing insight from relationships within NFL organizations. There was nobody better than Mayock in doing exactly that.

“My job was to be in all 32 buildings,” Mayock said a few weeks back, during a sitdown with Raiders beat writers at the Senior Bowl. “I had a team that wanted to hire me several years ago that looked at that as an advantage. They were like you’re not scouting for any one team. You’re scouting for the whole league the way you have to do it and they liked that. They also liked the fact that I had a lot of information on a lot of coaches and GMs around the league and what they prefer.”

Then, Mayock broke down Hall of Fame former GM Bill Polian’s tendencies. Polian didn’t like to move around. He preferred players from big schools, and always wanted to secure “his guy.”

Bill Belichick was next, and Mayock cited his propensity for moving around the draft board with trades.

“Every guy has a footprint,” Mayock said.

Many are wondering what Mayock’s will look like now that he’s a GM himself. Head coach Jon Gruden remains the team’s last word and chief decision maker, but Mayock will have massive influence over the NFL draft process and selections.

Mayock said he wants to be open-minded and flexible with his draft plan heading into a 2019 NFL Draft, where the Raiders have three first-round picks and four selections in the top 35.

“I’ve always thought (that), if I had to first pick in the draft or if I had two picks (in the first round), I’d be open for business,” Mayock said. “I think you have to be. I’m not trying to say I’m Vegas Mike or anything like that.

“I’m just saying, whether you have 10 picks or four picks in the draft, I think you have to be open. I mean, let’s be honest, would I move up to get somebody? Sure I would. If it’s the guy you feel like you have to have, but you’re diminishing your odds a little bit when you trade up and give away draft picks.”

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Being open to movement really just says the Raiders could do anything, which is what teams want the competition to think. The Raiders have the capital required to make big moves in the April's draft, especially if they're trading up to get someone. That would mean fewer opportunities to mine this draft ore for the most important selections in recent Raiders memory, though.

The Raiders could fall in love and do whatever it takes to get a player, or they could stand pat and hope that four top picks turn into at least two (or three) quality starters with those early picks.

Why Raiders will keep close eye on NFL franchise tags in 2019 offseason


Why Raiders will keep close eye on NFL franchise tags in 2019 offseason

NFL teams can start tagging players Tuesday. Don’t expect the Raiders to slap one on any of their prospective free agents during this two-week tagging window, but they will keep a close eye on others who do.

There’s a glut of top-flight edge rushers set to hit the market, and though most won’t reach it thanks to franchise (and, far less likely) transition tags. There are backup plans enacted when teams can’t reach a long-term pact with an elite player.

As a quick refresher, players who sign and play on the tag get a lofty sum (it varies based upon the tag designation) for one year of service. It’s a tool teams use to retain a top player’s rights – the Raiders could’ve used one on Khalil Mack this offseason had they played hardball and retained his rights without a long-term contract – but it’s not a long-term solution.

It’s typically a security blanket to keep a star player, and tags could get applied in volume this offseason on edge rushers especially. Dallas (DeMarcus Lawrence), Houston (Jadeveon Clowney), Seattle (Frank Clark) and Kansas City (Dee Ford) could all essentially take pass rushers off the market. Other teams can sign franchise players, but it costs a pretty penny and draft compensation.

The Raiders wouldn’t go that big to sign a veteran free agent, especially after being unwilling to lock Mack down last summer.

Detroit’s Ziggy Ansah, New England’s Trey Flowers and Minnesota’s Anthony Barr are also possible tag targets, though those guys seem less likely to receive a designation.

The more guys who get tagged, the more competitive things could get for remaining veteran free agents. There are plenty available in the NFL draft – the Raiders could snag one with the No. 4 overall pick – but adding a veteran leader up front might help a young defensive line.

The Raiders might go after tag prospects at other positions, so they’ll want as few as possible to open options when free agents can sign with other teams in mid-March.

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For those who don’t think the Raiders are out of the tag business on spec, only Jared Cook could be considered a tag candidate. He’s coming off a career year, but he’ll be 32 soon and the franchise tag for tight ends is approximately $10.9 million. That’s too steep for one year of Cook, who could end up leaving Oakland after two solid seasons for the Raiders.

The tag window opens Tuesday and closes March 5, and the Raiders will keep an eye on what the tags do to shrink the available free-agent talent pool.

2019 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper Jr. first-round picks for 49ers, Raiders


2019 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper Jr. first-round picks for 49ers, Raiders

No team will change the fortunes of the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft quite like the Oakland Raiders, and that much is clear in the latest mock draft from ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

In his second mock draft of the year, Kiper Jr. projected the Raiders would select three different players in the first round than he did a month ago. Oakland has three selections after trading edge rusher Khalil Mack and wide receiver Amari Cooper, both of whom were first-round picks themselves. 

Meanwhile, the Raiders' counterparts across the Bay are projected to maintain their focus on the edge. Here's how Kiper Jr. thinks the first round will shake out for the 49ers and Raiders. 

49ers, No. 2: Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky

What Kiper Jr. is saying: "Two former first-round picks along the defensive line (Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas) have struggled in San Francisco, but neither has the pure pass-rushing ability of Allen, who had 17 sacks and five forced fumbles last season. Allen would fill a glaring need."

Analysis: San Francisco ranked in the bottom-third of the league in sacks (37) in 2018. There are options in free agency, but adding a cost-controlled top prospect would help the 49ers preserve their already abundant salary-cap space and allow them to address their pass-rushing deficiency immediately. Allen appears as pro-ready as any player in this draft, and is a strong consolation prize for missing out on Nick Bosa.

Raiders, No. 4: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan

What Kiper Jr. is saying: "Expect coach Jon Gruden and new [general manager] Mike Mayock to target a pass-rusher with one of their three first-round picks. Gary (6-6, 283) has some versatility to kick inside and play tackle, but he has a high ceiling as an end. When he's locked in, he can dominate a game."

Analysis: Kiper Jr. had Gary seventh on his big board a couple weeks ago, and projected him to be selected ninth in his first mock draft.  Gary said last week he is "the best player in the draft," and although that confidence probably isn't why he's moved in Kiper Jr.'s eyes, the Raiders could certainly use some bravado on the edge after trading Mack just before the season.

Raiders, No. 24: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

What Kiper Jr. is saying: "We know that Jon Gruden loves playmakers -- I heard him talk about them for years. And Murphy is one of the best defensive playmakers in this class, a ball hawk who had seven interceptions over two seasons at Washington."

Analysis: Murphy might have been the best college cornerback in 2018, and he was a first-team All-American by Pro Football Focus' estimation. Kiper Jr. projected Murphy as the third CB off of the board in his latest mock draft, so the redshirt sophomore could represent great value for Oakland if he falls to the back end of the first round.

Raiders, No. 27, Brian Burns, Florida State

What Kiper Jr. is saying: "This match is all about helping the Raiders improve their pass rush, as the 6-5, 235-pound Burns is a pure speed edge rusher. He needs to get a little bigger, but time in an NFL strength and conditioning program should help. "

Analysis: Two edge rushers in Silver and Black? After the Raiders posted the fewest sacks by a team in the last 10 years, that'd be music to Mayock and Gruden's ears. Last year, Burns recorded three fewer sacks (10) by himself than Oakland's entire pass rush.