Mike Mayock said he has been preparing for his first draft as an NFL general manager amid a constant reminder from Raiders head coach Jon Gruden.
“Jon keeps telling me, ‘Don’t mess it up, dude,’” Mayock said. “‘I took a lot of slings to get you three first-round picks.’”
Mayock and the Raiders will be especially busy the night of April 25. They hold the No. 4, 24 and 27 picks in the draft’s opening round, the product of a 4-12 record last season and trades of Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. And as Mayock reiterated on Thursday, the Raiders are keeping their options open about how to use them.
“Regardless of the scenario, we have to be ready to pick at No. 4 and be excited about a player,” Mayock said. “Now, we might move up. We might move back. We won’t know until draft night. But if we’re ‘stuck’ at 4, we’ve got to be ready to go.”
Holding the No. 4 pick narrows the scenarios that could play out before the Raiders are on the clock. A trio of defensive linemen – edge rushers Nick Bosa and Josh Allen and tackle Quinnen Williams – are widely seen as the draft’s top prospects. At question is whether the Cardinals, who have the No. 1 pick, might use it on Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray.
The 49ers (No. 2) have quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo returning from an ACL injury and the Jets (No. 3) took quarterback Sam Darnold with the third overall pick last year. The Raiders need to improve their pass-rush after recording an NFL-low 13 sacks last season, and could address that with any of the three aforementioned linemen being available at No. 4.
Bosa visited the Raiders at their Alameda facility on Thursday, after meeting with the 49ers over the previous two days, and spent time during the team’s local pro day chatting with Mayock, Gruden and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther on the field, among others. Allen and Williams were reportedly scheduled to visit both Bay Area teams earlier this month.
This year’s is viewed as a deep pass-rushing class, though. And what Mayock said he values about the Raiders’ draft assets – they also have the No. 35 overall pick – is the “flexibility” it offers.
“That’s why we’re opening up lines of communication with all the teams around the league,” he said. “I keep telling our guys – you guys have heard me say this before – we need to be nimble.”
The Raiders maneuvered through the first day of last year’s draft, trading down from No. 10 to No. 15 – selecting offensive tackle Kolton Miller – and using a third-round pick acquired in that deal to trade for Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant.
Both moves were influenced by Gruden, who prioritized pass protection in drafting Miller. Gruden, as Mayock has acknowledged, holds final say in personnel decisions. On draft day, Mayock said, his own role will be partly to offer a broad view of options available to the Raiders.
“Coaches think need, and we’re a coach-driven building,” Mayock said. “Our coaches are highly involved and that’s good, I embrace that. The flipside is, you can’t reach.”
After the No. 35 pick, the Raiders currently don’t own another pick until No. 106 overall, having traded their third-round selection to Pittsburgh for Antonio Brown.
Mayock said he has an affinity for picks 20-through-60 and finds players there “are safer sometimes than top-10 picks.” Given the Raiders’ early draft capital, Mayock was asked if he might urge trading back to add picks in that range.
“I’d love to get a couple more picks in there,” Mayock said. “I just think we’ve got a lot of holes that need to be filled. And I think that’s a really good place to go fishing. And if we can, we can.
“But the other cool thing is, if we do nothing but sit there and go 4, 24, 27, (35), what we keep talking about upstairs is we’d better get four foundation football players. We define foundation as talent and football character … And if we don’t move up, down or anywhere, we’d better get four of those guys.”