ALAMEDA – Mike Mayock had been Raiders general manager for barely a week when he scouted the college national championship game between Alabama and Clemson at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.
He came away wowed by Crimson Tide running back Josh Jacobs. The performance stood up on tape the morning after, so much so that he took the prospect to head coach Jon Gruden.
“I cut up six plays out of the film and I walked into his office. I’m on the job less than a week. And I said Jon this could be one of our picks right here. And I showed him six plays. And he was like (wow). So that’s how long he’s been on our radar. And that’s the impression he made on me that night.”
It was so strong the Raiders took him No. 24 overall in the NFL draft. He wasn’t the only participant from that game to make a strong impression.
The Raiders drafted three of their first four picks played in that game, starting right at the top. They grabbed Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell at No. 4, Jacobs at No. 24 and Clemson cornerback Trayvon Mullen at No. 40 overall after trading back twice in the second round. Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram is currently the lone pick who didn't play in that game.
"I was just brand new here and, just being on the field before the game, you had to say ‘wow,’" Mayock said. "I told somebody, ‘I would five of these guys and go home right now.’ And here we are, and we have three of them. It’s really exciting. It really is."
The Raiders have looked for players from big schools and winning programs, guys with character and leadership skill. Alabama and Clemson are the nation’s best right now, and the Raiders are trying to add players who also know how to win.
“Coming from the school that I came from, Josh too, it’s a long process trying to win a national championship,” Ferrell said. “It’s a lot of struggle going into it from the inside and the outside.”
That was the last game for all three new Raiders, as they declared for the NFL draft shortly after Clemson’s 44-16 victory.
Jacobs and Ferrell had their moments in the national championship game, but Mullen was the real standout. The junior cornerback was named the game’s defensive MVP after recording six tackles, a sack, an interception and a forced fumble.
Mullen believes that game, with Mayock and so many NFL decision makers watching, really helped his draft stock.
“I think it did a lot. Just the way I went out there and showed the world the elite player that I am, how confident I am, how strong and physical I am and just showing my capability and the type of good athlete I am. I believe that game played a big role. I was really excited after that game. It motivated me a lot to even make my decision to coming out early.”
The Raiders want guys who want to win after so many years of losing. They want guys who work hard and have performed on the biggest stage, as the Silver and Black try to build a new culture within the Gruden era.
Those programs set high standards and developed leaders the Raiders mined in the draft.
“Coming from the school that I came from, Josh too, it’s a long process trying to win a national championship,” Ferrell said. “It’s a lot of struggle going into it from the inside and the outside. You want to go through that with guys that you love, that you have a respect for, and have a relationship with. How can you ask a guy to give it your all when you know he doesn’t care about you?”