Leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft, many wondered how first-year General Manager Mike Mayock would fair during his first NFL Draft.
Would he fold under the pressure? How would he handle potential trade offers? What if the player he coveted wasn't on the board?
Nothing phased Mayock.
The Oakland Raiders concluded the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft with two defensive studs, Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell and Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram, as well as the best running back in the draft, Alabama's Josh Jacobs.
Several analysts pegged Jacobs and Abram as potential fits for the Raiders in iterations of their mock drafts, and it came to fruition. While some might say that the team reached for Ferrell at No. 4 overall, other analysts will tell you that the Clemson Tiger has the highest ceiling out of any of the pass rushers in the 2019 class, and more importantly he's a guy that Mayock had tied with Nick Bosa as his top pass rusher.
"Look, it all goes back to there were flashier players, players that other people may have had higher on their boards, teams may have had higher on their boards. On our board, it was he and [Nick] Bosa at that position, right next to each other at that position, so we pretty much knew he'd probably be there," Mayock told the media during his press conference after Round One. "Everybody else had all the big names up there, but Jon and I went in [Thursday] morning, and kind of double checked everything, and he was our guy, and again, he checked all the boxes. He is going to be a three-down player, he is 267 pounds, he's a captain. When you talk to the guys at Clemson, they all talk about this kid being the cornerstone of that defense. Everything he does reminds me of what we want in the Raiders."
With three first-round picks for the first time since 1988, Mayock had some big decisions to make, but he executed them the way he envisioned it; however, admittedly he was a little nervous before everything got underway.
"I'm not going to lie, I was a little nervous," he said with a smile. "What was really cool was I had a bunch of phone calls this morning from a lot of GM's around the league who said, 'Enjoy tonight, your first night as a GM, with the first round as a GM is a special night.' One of the guys said, 'It's the closest you can get to playing again,' and he was kind of right. I had more nerves and butterflies than I've had in years and that's why I got back in it."
"Don't let him kid you. He was fired up in there. laughter) He did great," Head Coach Jon Gruden added. "I think I said a couple weeks ago, he's energized the building. Mayock has energized me and our franchise will benefit from not only tonight, but the next two days and in the future. Great job, Mike."
Gruden has always been known as an offensive-minded coach and the addition of Josh Jacobs to a unit that features quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Antonio Brown, tackle Trent Brown, wide receiver Tyrell Williams, and many more is more than enough reason to get fired up about the possibilities waiting in 2019.
So much of Mayock's time for the past decade-and-a-half has been spent creating mock drafts and breaking down the various possibilities for all 32 teams around the league. Football is his passion, but he wasn't getting the same satisfaction out of covering the draft as an analyst anymore, and after his first night in the draft room he got the adrenaline rush he was looking for.
The Raiders added foundation pieces with each of their first-round picks, and Mayock, as well as the rest of the coaching staff, are eager to get to work.
"Josh Jacobs was a guy I'd already seen a lot of tape on and really liked, even though he was an under-publicized guy," he said. "Johnathan Abram is a guy what I call with the scouts, 'a-ha' moments. You watch hours and hours of tapes, and you kind of click back and forth. There's good players, and there's 'okay' players, and there's bad players. But every once in a while, you go, 'Oh my gosh, wow.' That's an aha moment, okay? You see something that just jumps off the tape, and that's one of the things I texted Jon [Gruden] before I took the job. I gave him the definition of a Raider and one of the definitions for me of a Raider was a guy who jumps off the tape, and all three of these guys jump off the tape for different reasons."
I think it's fair to say Ferrell, Jacobs, and Abram embody the definition of being a Raider.