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NFL draft: Raiders' Jon Gruden gives Mike Mayock advice as day nears

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AP

NFL draft: Raiders' Jon Gruden gives Mike Mayock advice as day nears

The Raiders have some serious 2019 NFL draft capital, with four selections in the top-35 overall. That’s a desirable position for general manager Mike Mayock entering his first draft with an NFL team after years in broadcasting, and he's always looking for insight from other evaluators experienced working with teams.

Jon Gruden’s advice has come on repeat since hiring Mayock around the new year.

“Jon keeps telling me, ‘Don’t mess it up, dude,’” Mayock on said Thursday in his pre-draft press conference. “I took a lot of slings to get you three first round picks.’”

And arrows. And blows to the ego after trading Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, essentially sacrificing the 2018 season while acquiring a bunch of high picks in 2019 and 2020.

Gruden’s advice -- he's made it public before -- is always said with a smile, and always in good fun.

The line's also said in jest for two reasons. For one, Mayock doesn't need help evaluating players, having done a bang-up job of it as the preeminent NFL draft analyst. Additionally, while Mayock will be instrumental in selecting draft picks, Gruden has the final say. If these picks don’t pan out, it’s on Gruden as much or more than Mayock.

Mayock knows he must prove himself working with a team for the first time. However, he insists that fact -- and all those high draft picks -- don’t place the weight of the world on his shoulders.

“I don’t really worry about it in all honesty,” Mayock said. “The way I look at this thing, from a ‘how do people perceive me’ perspective, is a lot of people doubted that anybody should come out of the media and go be a GM for any team. I know that, and I get that, but at the end of the day here’s the deal: if we win everything we'll be fine and if we lose I’ll get fired, and I’m perfectly fine with that.”

[RELATED: Bosa visits with Raiders in pre-draft Bay Area tour]

GMs don’t say much in these mandatory pre-draft press conferences, always claiming to be willing and able to move up, down and all around. The Raiders can actually do that, though, considering the volume of draft assets at their disposal.

“We could move up and you got to know what you are trying to do and how you are trying to do it,” Mayock said. “You can try to increase your draft capital by moving down or you stay the same, and four of the first 35 picks gives you an opportunity to consider all those scenarios multiple times, and again, that’s why we are opening up the lines of communication with all the teams around the league. I keep telling our guys, and you guys have heard me say this before, we need to be nimble, and nimble means depending on what the situation is to be able to react quickly according to the situation and make the right decision.”

Raiders draft pick Josh Jacobs pleased with 'Madden 20' rookie rating

Raiders draft pick Josh Jacobs pleased with 'Madden 20' rookie rating

It's weird to picture yourself in a video game, right? People actually take a controller and play ... well, they play you.

When it comes to playing Madden NFL, each rookie is rated every year. Baker Mayfield reacted to his ratings last season and this time around, Raiders' newly-drafted running back Josh Jacobs figured out his rating for "Madden NFL 20" -- and he appeared to be pleased with it:

The Raiders quoted his tweet saying the number is "only gonna go up," in support of Jacobs.

The 21-year-old said there was only one rookie he spoke to who had a higher rating. If you're wondering if it was Kyler Murray, he already told one Twitter commenter that it wasn't the No. 1 overall pick he was referring to. Still, a 74 rating isn't bad at all, so it's easy to see why he's happy to share the number that was granted to him.

Madden ratings for a running back are determined by acceleration, agility, and speed. They also update the determinants each season -- but the EA website does say in an article this specific position is a unique one.

"[It's unique] in the sense that rookie rushers often make immediate impacts on the field, while other positions tend to have a bit of transitional period."

[RELATED: Analyst says Jacobs in best position to succeed]

And how does EA come up with the ratings? Well, it's quite simple, really.

"It's combine numbers and then some formulas we've created spits a lot of those numbers they turn there into ratings, we also have a modifier available for guys who show something different on-field compared to their numbers," Dustin Smith, assistant producer for EA Madden NFL told NBC Sports California.

The site also references the possibilities of improvements -- so the Raiders may have a point. 

"Madden 20" will be released on August 2, but you can, of course, preorder it. 

Raiders OTA primer: Five questions entering important offseason phase

Raiders OTA primer: Five questions entering important offseason phase

The Raiders are progressing right through the offseason program, which starts its third and final phase on Tuesday when organized team activities formally begin. The first phase is all about conditioning and meetings. The second allows on-field workouts, without helmets or offense vs. defense work.

They can put it all together over the next four weeks. Well, almost. Players can put helmets on at least, but there’s no live contact over the course of 10 OTA practices and a mandatory minicamp in mid-June.

Units can go against each other these days, a vital part of learning/mastering Raiders schemes. And the competition for roster spots formally starts Monday. Nothing will be decided for months, but players can make an early impression on an organization looking for improved production in most spots. The 2019 Raiders really start coming together now.

Here are some key questions to keep an eye on throughout OTAs and minicamp:

Will veteran LBs flash old form?

Vontaze Burfict and Brandon Marshall know how to run a defensive front seven. Both guys have done so for the Bengals and Broncos, respectively, for several years. Injuries (and maybe age) have pushed them out of old markets and toward the Silver and Black, where they’re looking to restart careers representing new colors.

Recent past creates question marks about whether they can find old form and be three-down mainstays for a Raiders defense needing stability inside. Burfict’s intimate knowledge of Paul Guenther’s scheme while working with him Cincinnati should help tremendously. So should Burfict’s aggressive play inside.

Marshall’s a cerebral sort and a sure tackler capable of playing any linebacker spot.

Those guys could help a great deal. Keyword: could. Don’t forget the optimism surrounding Derrick Johnson last offseason, when spring promises of upgraded play were never met.

Marshall and Burfict will start fitting into this Raiders' defense during OTAs, and we’ll see how much spring remains in veteran steps. Both guys are working on one-year contracts but hope to remain for a longer term. They’ll have to prove themselves deserving in 2019 to stick around.

How will TE shakeup shake out?

The Raiders have mixed up their tight end position group this offseason, letting Jared Cook walk in free agency before cutting Lee Smith recently.

Darren Waller’s set for a big receiving role that he’ll have to earn in OTAs and training camp. He has all the speed and athleticism needed for success, but he must be reliable in the pattern to get targets in the passing game.

Fourth-round pick Foster Moreau will compete for a role, alongside Luke Willson and Derek Carrier. The group will look different, and those guys must step up and fill an important blocking role in the run game, especially. Competition for snaps should be fierce in that group. OTAs will give some a leg up heading into training camp.

Chemistry class in session?

Quarterback Derek Carr worked extensively with new receivers Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams at universities and even public parks trying to establish an early rapport with his new receivers. The offseason program has afforded regular opportunities to do so with them and other newbies Ryan Grant and J.J. Nelson and even fifth-round draft pick Hunter Renfrow.

Thus far, they’ve only worked against air. Adding coverage and defensive resistance will be a solid litmus test to see if the timing is in fact right. There’s no real worry even if not, considering how much time remains to get it right.

Will three first-rounders make a good OTA impression?

The Raiders used three first-round picks on guys who need pads to truly be evaluated. That’s especially true for defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell (No. 4 overall) and running back Josh Jacobs (No. 24), who won’t really be able to thump until training camp.

Athleticism and burst and elusiveness could be seen clearly in OTAs, where these guys could jump right into top units. Safety Johnathan Abram will be asked to cover and do a bit of everything, but he might be brought along initially behind Karl Joseph at strong safety. That doesn’t mean the hierarchy will remain, but it could ease Abram’s initial transition.

The Raiders are counting on all three first-rounders to make an immediate impact, and they’d like to hit the ground running and show positive flashes while learning the scheme.

[RELATED: AB posts cryptic tweet after Big Ben apology]

Who jumps out in cornerback rotation?

Gareon Conley seems set to start at one outside cornerback spot. Daryl Worley’s favored to start on the opposite end, with safety Lamarcus Joyner sliding into the slot when required. Veteran Nevin Lawson will have something to say about that. And the Raiders didn’t draft Trayon Mullen at No. 40 overall to sit around and play fourth fiddle.

Expect some competition from that position group during OTAs and beyond, as we find out who can excel playing the physical coverage style Guenther requires. Rashaan Melvin never figured it out, and had a rough 2018. There’s enough talent here that a slow start could hurt fighting for regular-season snaps, as we see how a premium position group fares against a loaded receiver corps that will start testing coverage ability immediately.