Raiders head coach Jon Gruden can fire up even those already excited. That was the case in the NFL draft’s second round, when the Raiders selected Clemson cornerback Trayvon Mullen No. 40 overall.
Mullen was pumped to hear his name called, a feeling amplified by the team that took him and the coach he spoke to on the phone.
“I was really happy when they called me, I was really excited,” Mullen said. “I told Coach Gruden that I could just see myself playing in that defense.”
Mullen visited the Raiders during the pre-draft process, and knew this was a perfect scheme fit. He stands 6-foot-1, 199 pounds with long arms, with the toughness required to play press-man coverage the Silver and Black prefer.
“Coming here was big for me when I got drafted here just because of the tradition of this team and the defense, and the type of corners that they draft,” Mullen said. “They have had lot of elite, big corners and they play a lot of man coverage. That’s something that we did a lot at Clemson, so it fits me well.”
Mullen mentions tradition, and that’s where Gruden raised the roof during the draft call. Gruden talked about the Raiders proud history employing excellent, physical cornerbacks, including Willie Brown, Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes. There are two gold jackets in that group, and there should probably be three.
That took Mullen from excited to ecstatic about his landing spot and potentially playing with Gruden and coordinator Paul Guenther.
Mullen considers himself the best cornerback in this draft, meaning he dreams big about playing at the same level as those top cornerbacks.
Those guys played a while ago, though. Nnamdi Asomugha was the last top Raiders corner. The recent track record of Raiders cornerbacks isn’t so proud since he left. New pairings rotated in for years until Sean Smith and then David Amerson were given longer-term contracts that were cut short well before the expiration date.
There’s plenty of talent here now. Gareon Conley could be a top cornerback if he can maintain good health. The Raiders like Daryl Worley’s physicality. Nevin Lawson is also here this year and brings experience. Conley’s the only one under contract beyond 2019, and they drafted Mullen in the second round expecting him to fit in and be a long-term solution.
That’s possible because the scheme plays to his strengths.
“I try to use my length and my body as an advantage,” Mullen said. “Try to play physical, strong, try to get my hands-on guys at the line, try to slow them down, keep my body in front of guys. Just be big and physical, especially at this level, you got a lot of great receivers so just got to be able to be physical, use your feet and hands.”
Mullen wants to build trust with coaches and teammates during the offseason program, and compete for snaps as a rookie by proving he can play well in the system.
“I feel like you’re getting someone who could potentially be a lockdown corner in this league,” said first-round defensive end Clelin Ferrell, who played with Mullen at Clemson. “He has every athletic skill set that you need in a corner, and obviously has that competitive mindset. That’s the biggest thing, you can have all the ability, but are you a competitor? That’s the thing he definitely has.”