Mike Mayock prefers the Senior Bowl to the NFL Scouting Combine. There’s actual football played at the offseason’s final college all-star game/NFL-draft showcase, unlike what goes on this week in Indianapolis.
There are obvious benefits to watching prospects practice and play the game itself, but the combine is not without its merits.
“It started because teams wanted to share medical information,” Mayock said last month. “That’s why it started. It’s turned into the underwear Olympics.”
Mayock’s right. Most of what you’ll see on television this week is athletes running fast, jumping high and/or far and bench pressing heavy things.
Those standardized tests hold some value, far less than what goes on behind closed doors during meetings, medical checks, and individual player interviews.
Mayock will spend more time there than ever during this combine, his first since leaving NFL Network to become the Raiders' general manager. Head coach Jon Gruden still has final say on personnel, but Mayock will have a massive influence on the NFL draft evaluation process through this spring’s selections.
“We start to stack board for two weeks leading into combine we start adding character alerts and medical questions,” Mayock said. “(Answers will start coming) from the combine.”
We’re used to Mayock’s thoughts and opinions accessible in the public sphere, often as a soundtrack to what we’re watching during NFLN’s combine coverage. He was the gold standard for NFL draft analysis, armed with personal player evaluation and insight from relationships inside every scouting department.
Mayock will be a lot quieter this year. He’ll hold a press conference Wednesday morning and will surely do some interviews, but won’t say much of value. It goes against his base instinct to be insightful and engaging, but keeping opinions private is part of the job description now.
“I’m trying to train myself a little bit because I have a big frigging mouth when I talk football,” Mayock said. “I have to watch myself a little bit.”
Gruden has been impressed by Mayock’s presence since joining the Raiders in early January.
“He has had a real impact on me in terms of studying players and his passion for football,” Gruden said on a podcast released on the Raiders website. “He’s the perfect guy at the perfect time for this franchise. He has a tremendous work ethic. He’s really on top of players and loves studying them. He has great leadership skills, and he has set the tone in our building with his work ethic. I think the two of us have been getting along great. It’s nice to have a guy who you … have the same philosophical beliefs regarding football and what we’re looking for in this franchise.”
The combine will be another key point in this offseason, not only for pre-draft insight but free agency as well. Teams can formally negotiate with veteran free agents until mid-March, but foundations will be set here to gauge interest and market value of particular players.
There are also trades to explore, and Mayock’s relationships across the league could be beneficial in this regard.
“That’s one of the things I’m really excited about Mike Mayock and what he brings to the table,” Gruden said. “He has great resources around the NFL. He’s been in every building. He’s on the first-name basis with many because everybody knows Mike.”