For the first time since the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, Las Vegas Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock addressed the media Tuesday afternoon via conference call.
Before he dove into the team's free agency moves, Mayock took a moment to announce he and his wife, Amanda, will make a generous donation for every draft selection the Raiders make this year to the Dignity Health Program in Las Vegas.
"I'd like to extend my family's thoughts and prayers during a very difficult period in time… What we'd like to do, my wife and I, we'll be donating $1,000 for each draft pick the Raiders make this year to the Clark County Delivering With Dignity program. It supports vulnerable families in the Las Vegas valley. The cool thing is that each donation will be made in the name of the individual draft selection made by the Raiders during the 2020 Draft."
The program helps bring food to families who are suffering and affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The team currently has seven draft picks, but it's possible the team acquires more via trades. Either way, it's a great gesture from the Mayock family.
Just nine days out from the 2020 NFL Draft — which will be held virtually this year due to COVID-19 — Mayock fielded myriad questions pertaining to free agency, prospects in the upcoming draft and the offseason ahead.
This will be the first time the NFL will conduct it virtually, but that could give the Raiders General Manager a leg up. For 20 years, Mayock sat behind a desk and evaluated talent, most notably on draft night as an NFL Network analyst. He's no stranger to calling up college coaches and inquiring about prospects — he thrives in this environment. NFL scouting departments will need to rely on their research up to this point and it's something Mayock feels particularly confident in.
"To be honest with you, for me personally, it is kind of what I've done for the last 20 years," Mayock said. "I feel very comfortable sitting at my dining room [table] crunching tape, calling college coaches and looking to get any advantage and any information I can on any guy we're interested in. To be honest with you, as a group, we're embracing it and I think it's been a great process."
Following the Combine, it felt pretty clear as to who Mayock and Head Coach Jon Gruden could target in the draft; however, after a successful free agency, the predictions made by NFL analysts have changed.
It was clear the Silver and Black needed to improve at the wide receiver position — Mayock even flat-out said it on Tuesday — as well as the second level of the defense, and they addressed one of those in a big way during free agency. Mayock spoke on the recent additions of linebackers Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski and how they'll play a crucial role in defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's system.
"Cory Littleton covers as well as anyone in the league," he said. "We feel like Kwiatkoski will wear the green dot and fit in seamlessly with what we do."
What does this mean for the Raiders 2020 draft?
Prior to the signings, it felt like the Raiders could potentially select either Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray or LSU linebacker Patrick Queen at No. 19 overall, considering several analysts were suggesting that in their mock drafts, but after improving the linebacking corps the likelihood of that has dropped.
The team may have addressed its woes defensively, but there's no denying the void at wide receiver, and it's something Mayock is aware of. Despite dealing with a foot injury for the majority of 2019, Tyrell Williams proved he can be a solid WR2 in Gruden's offense, and the new addition of Nelson Agoholor should add more competition at the position; however, acquiring a WR1 will probably be the top priority during the draft.
"There's quality at the top, there's depth throughout, it's no secret we need to get better at wide out, we understand that," Mayock stated pointedly. "We really like adding Nelson Agholor, but we still need to get better at wideout. Again, it's kind of like the corner conversation, I think you have to let it come to you a little bit; whether it's in the first round, second round, third round, fifth round, I'm hoping to find a wideout that fits the Raiders' need and culture."
Introducing a legend
In Las Vegas, the Raiders will continue to try and establish a winning culture, which is something recently signed tight end Jason Witten knows something about. Yes, the former Dallas Cowboy is 37 years old, but Mayock and Gruden value his knowledge and consider him one of the godfathers of the position. While the tight end room is already filled with impressive young talent, Mayock and Gruden are hopeful that one of the best players to line up at tight end can enlighten the room.
"You guys got tired of me talking about foundational players last year and the locker room, and culture, and that's who this guy is," Mayock said. "He's the quintessential culture guy. We plug him in our locker room and we have one more guy that can look around the room and tell people, with all his experience, what to do and what not to do. He can show people what to do and what not to do."
Witten will be instrumental in the growth of Darren Waller and Foster Moreau. In the eyes of Mayock, passing up an opportunity to sign him felt foolish, and it will pay positive dividends for all the players in the locker room to be around a consummate professional.
You can read Mayock's full transcript here.
Check out photos of new Raiders tight end Jason Witten's career so far. Over the veteran's sixteen-year career with the Dallas Cowboys, the eleven-time Pro Bowler has appeared in 255 contests and made 245 starts, totaling 1,215 receptions for 12,977 yards and 72 touchdown receptions.