Mike Mayock doesn’t like mock drafts. He did one per year for NFL Network, a practice initially done kicking and screaming.
Those were designed to satiate fans while working his old job. This week’s mock draft was of a different kind, specifically designed to prepare for his new one.
The preeminent NFL draft analyst was named Raiders general manager last New Year’s Eve and will run his first NFL draft representing a team at any level of scouting or a personnel department.
Head coach Jon Gruden ultimately has the final say on players selected, but Mayock helped set the Raiders' draft board, and will be the team’s liaison negotiating trades during a three-day event that begins with Thursday night’s opening round.
It’s the first time he’ll be under fire with the Raiders on the clock or trade offers made on the fly, and Mayock wanted to prep for that. The Raiders stacked their draft board, and planned to set up some actual mock drafts with calls coming in so Mayock and Gruden could see how they react in real time.
“The week of the draft, I think we’re going to spend an awful lot of time in there, in our war room, in our draft room with the people that are going to be there, kind of going through every scenario that we can,” Mayock said on April 11, at his pre-draft press conference. “I’m going to have people calling in on the phones and trying to get Jon and I rattled and proposes. Let’s be honest, I haven’t done it before. So, if I’m going to evaluate myself, I have to make sure I’m prepared.”
That endeavor started on Monday, per NFL Network. The Raiders planned to work on specific scenarios that required quick answers and an ability to adjust properly.
“There’s two minutes left on the clock and three phones are ringing. What is the process?” Mayock said. “How are we going to react as a team? Where is everybody even sitting in the room? What’s the feedback? How quickly am I going to get the information on the trades and the point values? So, there’s a whole bunch of stuff and I’ve kind of got it, I said to Jon, it’s game week. We want to get in there and practice our game plan no different than the team would for a Sunday game.”
The Raiders pared the room down before preparing for draft day. Mayock told his scouts to head home on April 19, the final weekend before the draft and asked them not to return. That decision created some waves, though it’s understandable considering all the information had been gathered – other teams don’t let scouts see the draft board – and it was a terribly-kept secret that major turnover was coming to the scouting department. Even director of college scouting Shaun Herock – like most scouts, he was hired by previous GM Reggie McKenzie -- was asked to leave and is expected to work elsewhere in 2019.
The Raiders have closed ranks to keep things quiet and remain unpredictable heading into a pivotal NFL draft where they own three first-round picks and four in the top 35 overall.
A leak still got out, however, with NFL Media’s Mike Silver reporting that Mayock made some early trades and took picks without red flags in the early going.
Mayock wasn’t going into this completely green. He has great NFL connections and has covered the draft long enough to know how it’s run inside draft rooms. It was still important for Mayock to feel as prepared as possible heading into this big moment.
“Over the last 18 years or whatever, I’ve got pretty good feedback for what happens, how it happens, the pressures, the time frames,” Mayock said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people in this building about how they’ve done it in the past. Where’s everybody sitting? What’s up on the boards? I’ve changed some things already with what’s going to be up in the room and some of the information available to us and how we’re going to process that information. I think the important thing, Michael, is at the end of the day is just some of these practices, putting some pressure on ourselves and hoping that if we put enough pressure on ourselves Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday under a bunch of different kind of conversations and trades, that when Thursday night comes and Friday Saturday, we’re more than prepared to deal with anything.”
Gruden is confident that, when the clock starts and calls come flying in on trades and scenarios – they certainly, with the Raiders owning three first-round picks – Mayock will execute well.
“He is such a great communicator and has so many connections in the league, it helps to get deals done,” Gruden said. “He is not afraid, he's got the guts and he has the knowledge to pull the trigger. That is what I really like.”