Raiders general manager Mike Mayock conceded Tuesday he’s got a ways to go before he feels prepared for the 2020 NFL draft.
The first round awaits on Thursday, April 23, with the second and third rounds on Friday (April 24) and Rounds 4 through 7 on Saturday (April 25). Mayock has already done a deep dive on all the college talent, as has has coach Jon Gruden, assistant coaches and the personnel staff.
As for essentially being the command center of the Raiders draft and communicating to everyone involved from his East Bay home, that’s another story.
“I’ve got to spend some time later this week once we get our telecommunications stuff set up,” Mayock said Tuesday in a pre-draft conference call. “I’m about 100 years old, so I’ve got to figure out how to screen share and have four different people on one screen, make sure I understand if there are multiple trades going on at the same time. Are we texting? Can I see anything visually?”
It won’t be anything like Mayock’s first draft as a general manager at the Raiders’ Alameda facility, which is currently off-limits due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s a lot easier when someone is sitting across from me and passing a note saying, ‘Hey, Atlanta would like to talk to you,’ when I’m on the phone with Detroit. I think if you practice enough at anything you can get good at it. I’m anxious to get the communication stuff inside my house and start practicing.”
At the moment, Mayock’s home base has a retro feel.
“If you could see my living room now it’s the ultimate in low tech,” Mayock said. “I’ve got five huge white boards and probably have a thousand magnets with names on them all over the place. I kind of feel like I’m sitting in the middle of a 1976 draft room.”
While the draft will be unlike any other and has presented challenges in terms of getting medical information and erased face-to-face contact with most prospects, Mayock said he feels good about the Raiders’ process.
“You could go one or two ways,” Mayock said. “Either embrace it and say we’re just going to watch film and trust who we are as evaluators and trust who we want in our building, or say, ‘I don’t have verified medicals, verified 40s, height and weight, speed, and panic about it.’ I think we as a team collective said we’re going to embrace it.”
Following the draft, the Raiders will begin a “virtual” offseason program with classroom-style learning beginning on April 27. It’s conceivable there will be no team activities in person through the offseason and training camp is in jeopardy as well.
“We’re all doing it the same way,” Mayock said. “No one’s got an advantage and the Raiders are a hundred percent prepared and ready to go. We’re excited about this draft. I don’t think it necessarily hurts anybody. We’re all playing by the same rules.”
Mayock said it will be a challenge getting several new defenders up to speed, having added new pieces to all three levels of their defense.
Defensive end Carl Nassib, defensive tackle Maliek Collins and linebackers Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski are all potential starters, as is free safety Damarious Randall, with safety Jeff Heath also having starting experience in Dallas. Littleton and Kwiatkoski will start barring injury, Nassib and Collins will be integral parts of the defensive rotation.
“We’ve been able to spread around the money in free agency to plug some holes, especially on the defensive side of the ball, that needed to be plugged,” Mayock said. “We’ve done it with guys that are both young and have a consistent amount of playing ability and a lot of them have been starters.”
Randall has played corner and safety, but Mayock said he is being looked at as a free safety.
THE CARR ADVANTAGE
With the offseason in jeopardy, Mayock feels good about having an incumbent quarterback in Derek Carr and a backup in Marcus Mariota who can take his time to rebuild his game.
“We’re very appreciative to have Derek Carr. He knows Jon’s offense. He’s going into Year 3 of it,” Mayock said.
Getting Mariota aboard was a natural given that Mayock had him the top ranked quarterback coming out of the 2015 draft, and Gruden had worked with him on his ESPN”Quarterback Camp” show.
“The cool thing with my background and Jon’s background is a lot of things we did in our past are public,” Mayock said. “He knows both of us believed in him coming out and still believe in him. We’ve got to rebuild him a little bit, get his confidence back, build him from the ground up.”
So how come the Raiders added so many mostly young players and brought in a 37-year-old tight end in Jason Witten? Witten will make $4 million on a team that already has Darren Waller and a promising second-year player in Foster Moreau.
“If there’s a Mount Rushmore of NFL tight ends, he’s on it,” Mayock said. “He’s still a competitive football player. He’s the quintessential culture guy. Jon and I were joined at the hip on this decision. It was a good opportunity for our locker room. And by the way the guy can still play a little bit.”
Moreau, Mayock said, “is head of schedule” after a late-season ACL surgery and has been rehabbing in Louisiana at LSU.
After seeing owner owner Mark Davis pledge $1 million toward the coronavirus relief effort in the Las Vegas area as well as several players and his own son finding ways to lend support, Mayock and his wife Mandy came up with an idea.
Mayock said he and his wife will donate $1,000 in the name of every Raiders draft pick to the Clark County Delivering with Dignity program in the Las Vegas area. The program supports the elderly and those most in danger of attracting the virus.
“Right now we’ve got seven picks, that’s $7,000,” Mayock said. “If we trade up and lose a couple we’ll keep the minimum at $7,000. If we get more picks it will go up to whatever it goes up to.”