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.”
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.”