GM Mike Mayock's pre-draft press conference transcript

Opening Statement: First of all everybody, I'd like to extend my family's thoughts and prayers in a very difficult period of time both for our country and internationally. I've been moved by several gestures from both my family and our Raider family, recently. [Owner] Mark Davis donated $1 million to the Las Vegas community to fight the coronavirus. Our first-round pick a year ago, Cle [Clelin] Ferrell donated $100,000 to his hometown of Richmond Virginia in their Eviction Diversion Program, helping struggling families make ends meet. Then my wife showed me the other day that four of our rookies from last season — Alec Ingold, Hunter Renfrow, Foster Moreau and Josh Jacobs — have partnered with Three Square in Vegas to provide emergency food funds to people that need it. Just this past weekend, my son Michael was involved in feeding 3,500 healthcare workers at 10 area hospitals in Philadelphia.

My wife, Mandy, and I sat back wondered why we weren't helping. So, what we'd like to do, my wife and I will be making $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 Delivering with Dignity program assists people who are most at risk for contracting coronavirus. If they leave their homes to benefiting youth who are sheltered in place, the elderly and those with underlining conditions. If you want more information on this program, [Senior Director of Media Relations] Will Kiss can provide it later today. I think it's pretty cool, tie it into the draft a little bit.

We have seven picks right now, so that's $7,000. If we trade up and lose a couple of picks, we'll keep it at a minimum of $7,000. If we trade down and get more picks, it'll go up to whatever it goes up to. Mandy and I are both very, very excited about it and would appreciate any potential support. Thank you. Having said that, which a lot more than I usually say, let's open it up to questions.

Q: You're about to embark on a virtual draft followed by a virtual offseason program. Can you speak to the challenges of that?

Mayock: Yeah, it's a good question. First of all, as far as this draft is concerned, I kind of laughed. Everybody is talking about this virtual draft and how high tech it is, if you could see my living room right now, it's the ultimate low tech. I have five huge whiteboards and I probably have 1,000 magnets with names on them all over the place. So I feel like I'm sitting in the middle of the 1976 draft room. It's kind of back to the future.

But you're 100 percent right. As far as the process is concerned in the draft, we've spent a lot of time on Zoom. Our coaches have done an unbelievable job of preparing information to challenge the college player via Zoom. I don't even know how many we've done so far, but it's been pretty cool spending up to an hour with each of these individual kids and getting to know them that way. From a draft process we're all doing it the same way. Nobody has an advantage. The Raiders are 100 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.

I think the harder thing about this draft is the medical side of it. Just trying to verify, especially the guys that had surgery after the new year, what kind of rehab they're having. Are they going to be in time for training camp? Then we get into the whole process of, will there be a training camp? Is there any part of the offseason program that won't be virtual? I think that's where it really gets tricky. That's where I'm really happy with [Head] Coach [Jon] Gruden and the coaching staff. We think we're going to start on April 27, so that our rookies can be involved and our draft picks can be involved. Again, it's going to be a lot of meetings via Zoom or Microsoft Teams or whatever we're going to use for that. We're going to emphasize the installation, the mental side of it. This is where having the right guys in the locker room mean a lot. Who's working out on their own? Who's doing what's necessary to stay in shape to the extent that they can?

You mentioned the quarterback position, we're very appreciative to have Derek Carr. He knows Jon's offense. He's going into Year 3 of it. Marcus Mariota, Jon and I both know him very, very well. We feel really good about the quarterback position. And we feel good about the type of kids we have in our program. The hard part is we have a big free agency class and we have to get them invested and up to speed as soon as possible. I think that really is the trick right there.

Q: I know you say that there's no advantage because everyone is in the same boat with having the draft done virtual, but given your history as a virtual GM for all 32 teams with the NFL Network, how much more comfortable are you heading into this virtual draft?

Mayock: That's an interesting question. A virtual GM for 32 teams, huh? (laughing) I like that. That's a fancy way of saying I sat in my living room and watched a lot of film.

I think you have two decisions to make. You can go one of two ways when the NFL decreed what was going to happen here. I think you either embrace it and say, 'This is pretty freaking cool that we're just going to watch film and trust who we are as evaluators and trust in who we want in our building.' Or you can kind of look at it and say, 'Oh, well I don't have verified medicals and I don't have verified 40's and I don't have verified height, weight and speed.' and panic about it. I think we as a team, as a building, we've collectively said we're going to embrace it. To be honest with you, for me personally, part of it is kind of what I've done for the last 20 years. It truly is. I feel very comfortable sitting at my dining room crunching tape, calling college coaches and looking to get any advantage, any information I can on every guy we're interested in. it's a really good question and to be honest with you, we're, as a group, embracing it. I think it's been a great process.

The Raiders are 100 percent prepared and ready to go. We’re excited about this draft. GM Mike Mayock

Q: You guys were pretty active in free agency, especially defensively. Can you talk about what you were able to there and how defensive line coach Rod Marinelli fit into that with your defensive line acquisitions?

Mayock: I think what we've been able to do is spread around the money a little bit in free agency to plug some holes, especially on the defensive side of the ball, that needed to be plugged. 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. You talk about the linebackers — Cory Littleton covers as well as anybody in the league. We feel like [Nick] Kwiatkoski will wear the green dot and fit in seamlessly with what we do. Carl Nassib plays just like Ferrell and [Maxx] Crosby. He's 6-foot-6, 275, will get off the box with three long, powerful, tough defensive ends. He'll fit right in.

Maliek Collins, Rod obviously coached him last year and Rod jumped up on the table in support of what this kid could be. The cool thing about it is, and couple of them may have had birthdays, but I think all of them are 26 years old right now. So we have four potential starters. All of them are plus or minus 26-years-old and it really enhances who we are in our defensive front.

Then on the backend we have Jeff Heath who started an awful lot of football games for the Cowboys and Damarious Randall, who when he came out of Arizona State, I thought he was the No. 1 free safety in that draft. Again, we have another young player in Randall. We have Heath with experience. I think what it does is it allows us to go into the Draft on the defensive side of the ball and just say, 'OK, where's the best football player? Let's go get him.'

Q: It was on the NFL Draft's third day last year where you were able to pick up a number of impact players. Was there anything from that day or any particular pick that really stands out to you from that day?

Mayock: I'll tell you what kind of stands out is just learning a lesson, and it's not an easy one, especially in your first draft, and that is just having to be patient and the power of patience. We had talked about moving up a couple different times throughout the first two or three rounds. We talked through, we decided not to do it and we got in the second round, and we traded back twice and still got the one player we wanted, Trayvon Mullen. It gave us some extra picks on the third day. We traded back two times again in the fourth round and then traded up in the fifth round to come get Hunter Renfrow.

So I think the one thing I learned is that even though I wanted to be impulsive, I had to think that it helped that Jon and I talked everything through and kind of decided to be patient and ultimately we let the draft come to us a little bit and through that process we generated two or three extra picks that turned into pretty good football players. Obviously, you want to be aggressive, you want to go after the players you want, but in hindsight on the third day you get Maxx Crosby at 106.

We think Isaiah Johnson, who's a fourth-round pick, has a chance to be very good. Foster Moreau had a heck of a season as a rookie until he got hurt and Hunter Renfrow, as a fifth-round pick, had a big year in the slot. So, I think a lot of people get fired up and the mock drafts are all about the first round and people scream and yell about who the quarterbacks are, but at the end of the day, to me, the third day is just as important as the first, and so is the acquisition of the college free agents.

So, I think a lot of people get fired up and the mock drafts are all about the first round and people scream and yell about who the quarterbacks are, but at the end of the day, to me, the third day is just as important as the first.

Q: Why is Marcus Mariota a good fit and how do you see the QB room as a whole right now?

Mayock: I think the whole thing with my background and Jon's background is a lot of things we said and did in our past in public. So, if you're Marcus Mariota and you want to know what the General Manager of the Raiders thought about him before he came out, or what Jon Gruden thought about him before he came out, all he's got to do is go back and check public record. I mean, he went through Gruden's quarterback camp on television. I had him as the top quarterback in that draft. He knows that both of us believed in him coming out and still believe in him. He's got to get healthy. We got to rebuild him a little bit to get his confidence back. Build him up from the ground up. It's going to take a little while I think just to get him healthy and where he wants to be, but we're excited about the quarterback room.

And I thought Marcus did a great job with the first couple interviews he had, just talking about where he was, which is he wants to support Derek [Carr] and he wants to become the best version of Marcus Mariota that he can become. And that's the way we look at it. Let's see who the best Marcus Mariota is, and, in the meantime, we love what we have with Derek Carr so we're real happy with our quarterback room. We got Nate Peterman who played well until he was hurt. DeShone Kizer, a former second-round pick, so we feel like we've got a very strong quarterback room.

Q: You talked about panic compared to people who really think they're locked in with research. If the research wasn't what it was in the past, teams might be willing to come off more on these first-round picks than they have in the past and trade down if they are not completely sure. Do you think this break will make that first round even more erratic or do you think it will kind of be the same as it's always been?

Mayock: I think the bigger change comes on the third day and thereafter because the first-day prospects for the most part, you've got two to three years of film. Most of them at least were at the Combine and you have at least the height and weight, if not verified 40-times, etc.

So for the bigger-name guys there are less question marks with the one exception of medical, and that's the one, again, where I think most teams have the most concern. We don't know as well as we have in years past with combine re-checks and medical, and there's always been a consistency of how that will perform. So, I think the biggest issue early on is just the medical status of a lot of these guys, but outside of that if you don't know these first-round guys I mean there is plenty of tape, plenty of opportunity to get on Zoom with them.

I think it's more kind of that third day when you start talking about guys that don't have as much tape, guys that don't have verifies, guys that were not at the combine. We are getting an awful lot of tape and information from agents that are doing ad hoc Pro Days and how much of that can you trust or not trust. So, I think more of the question marks begin to surface the further you get into this draft. I think the first round, for the most part, will be similar to most years.

Q: You and Coach Gruden were so nimble at the Draft last year at trading and moving around, especially later in the Draft. Do you think that given the constraints this year, in terms of who's allowed to be where, will have any impact on if you guys are able to do that?

Mayock: I hope there is no impact. I've got to spend some time later this week once we get all our telecommunications stuff set up and I basically have to figure out, and I'm 100 years old, so I've got to sit here and figure out how to screen share and have four different people on one screen and make sure I understand if there are multiple trades going on at the same time how we are handling it, how we are communicating. Are we texting? Can I see anything visually?

So, really the challenge for me because I'm not very good at that kind of stuff. It's a lot easier when somebody is sitting across from me and passing me a note saying, 'Hey, Atlanta wants to talk to you,' while I'm on the phone with Detroit. So, I'm kind of old school in the sense that I think if you practice enough at anything, you can get good at it. I'm anxious to get the communications stuff into my house. I'm anxious to get everybody around the country that I need to communicate with together and I got to start practicing because I'll be the first to tell you I'm clueless when it comes to sharing a screen.

Q: You talked about the additions you made on defense. The one position you guys weren't able to do much on was cornerback. Where do you see that spot on the roster now and is that something you are hoping you'd to be able address next week in the draft ?

Mayock: Well, where we are today is, we feel like we got a bunch of talented young kids that we don't know enough about yet. Trayvon [Mullen] played really well the second half of the season. We believe that he's going to be a starter for years to come. Isaiah Johnson was a fourth-round pick, a former wide receiver with all kinds of physical skill set. We love his traits. He got hurt early, we brought him back late. He's a guy we can't wait to see play. Keisean Nixon was a free agent out of South Carolina who made the team and played well on special teams. He's a really competitive young man. And Dylan Mabin is another kid out of Fordham who got hurt and didn't get a chance to show what he can do.

So, we've got four or five young corners who we're kind of intrigued by. Now, do we think that we need to get better there? Yeah. But you always have to be careful to see how the board will fall. I think the biggest mistakes people make, is trying to reach for need. So, the board will fall whatever way it falls and if we're fortunate enough to get a corner that'd be great.

Q: You mentioned at the Combine and over several months that there is needs to fill sort of all over the roster, but one glaring one was at the wide receiver position. With the amount of talent there is at wideout in this year's draft, is that a position you think you could possibly take a closer look at compared to others?

Mayock: I think wideout this year is pretty cool. The comment I made at the Combine was, in a typical year the average is 12 to 13 wide receivers typically get drafted in the first three rounds of the draft over the last five years. And I think you could have plus or minus 20 of them that are graded that way. I'm not saying they'll go that way, but they're certainly graded that way. So, there are a bunch of guys at the top end of the draft that are considered first-round. There are going to be guys in the fourth round that typically would go in the third round or earlier. There is quality at the top, there is depth throughout.

There's no secret that we need to get better at wideout, we understand that. We really like adding Nelson Agholor, but we still need to get better at wideout. And again, it's kind of like the corner conversation, I think you got to let it come to you a little bit and whether it's in the first round, second round, third round, fifth round I'm hoping we can find a wideout that fits what the Raiders need and fits our culture.

There’s no secret that we need to get better at wideout; we understand that.

Q: How do you search for players used for depth rather than players whom you expect to be starters?

Mayock: As far as the depth conversation, it's a good one. I think it starts with, where are you with the salary cap? Where are you on your own roster, if you look a year or two down the road, where are the positions where players are getting older or making a lot of money and at some point, where can you bring in a younger guy that may not necessarily start year one, but by year two or three begins to infill for the aging veteran that may be making a lot of money.

I think that's the reality of our league, that's the reality of managing the salary cap and I think while we're all looking for starters, let's face it, we're also looking for guys that need a year or two to develop and ultimately could fit into a role for a team.

Q: When you look at who most presume as the three top receivers – Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs – is it a matter of finding what is best for your scheme when you see three players that all do many things very well?

Mayock: Yeah, I think that's fair at every position. That's a conversation that Jon and I have all the time – fit. What is the right fit? A guy could be a dynamic player at any position and you look at him and you say, 'Does he fit what we are looking for at this position?' And I think you're right. I think the three guys that you mentioned all have different traits. I think they're all high-level players. There's a whole bunch of wide outs. I think that's one thing I said in December also – there's all kinds of flavors and sizes. If you need a big X (wide receiver position), there's a bunch of big X receivers out there. If you need a guy that can play slot and 'Z', check, there's a bunch of them. Are you looking for a wide receiver No. 1? There could be a wide receiver No. 1 in the third round.

Again, to your point, yeah, fit is really important. I think the cool thing though about Jon's offense, and I think what he showed last year especially with what he did with our tight ends, Jon's adaptable to whoever he has. That's the cool thing. That's been a kind of fun thing to talk to him about the wide receiver about, 'What could this guy do for us versus what could that guy do for us? Jon, what do you think is the best fit?' We've had some great conversations about it and I'm sure we will continue to do so right up until the draft.

Q: You told us last year on the call that you have always been fond of picks 20 through 60 and right now you do not have any selections in that range. When the draft is over, would you be surprised if you didn't pick someone in slots 20 through 60?

Mayock: (laughter) I guess all my words come back to me in shades of mediocracy. I do like picks 20 through 60. What's intriguing about our picks this year, obviously I am very thankful to have two first round picks, but we have three in the third. That to me, three picks in the third is just like stealing. If we're doing our jobs the right way, hopefully that's three more starters. Could we move up to get one, could we move back to get one, between 20 and 60, sure.

Again, we're running through every possible scenario that we could be looking at. We won't know until draft night or day two or whatever. I think we're always open to something that makes sense for the Raiders. Would I love to be 20 through 60, would we love to be 20 through 60, sure. But we also love 12, 19, 80, 81, 91, 121 and 159. So, it's all going to depend on what happens while we're on the clock during the draft.

Q: How much time and contact have you been able to have with guys who ended the year injured?

Mayock: Our medical people are allowed to talk to them, which they do. Foster [Moreau] is doing really well. He's been in Baton Rouge, obviously he's an LSU guy. He's been rehabbing there at LSU. He's ahead of schedule. If you know the kind of kid that Foster Moreau is, you know he's working his tail off. If anybody can come back and be ready for training camp coming off that ACL, it's going to be Foster. He's done great.

Q: I wanted to ask you about the signing of Jason Witten. Is it fair to say that it was not in an area of need?

Mayock: Here's the way I look at it. I think Jon and I looked at it the same way. If there's a Mount Rushmore of NFL tight ends, he's on it. I know he's 37 years old and I know we have a pretty good tight end room, but when you talk about bringing in a guy like him, not only can he still play, he had over 60 catches, can block the backside c-gap, still a competitive football player, but on top of that, he brings this wealth of knowledge about how to be a professional. You guys got tired of hearing me talk about foundational players last year and the locker room and culture, that's who this guy is. He's the quintessential culture guy.

We plug him in our locker room and we have one more veteran that can look around the room and tell people what to do and what not to do. And even more importantly in the tight end room, you have a guy like Foster coming off an ACL, hopefully he's going to be 100 percent day one, but if he's not, we have a conventional Y that can play, plus we have a guy in that tight end room that I think is going to help the young guys, and I'm talking about all of them, Darren [Waller], Foster, Derek [Carrier]. Jon and I looked at this, we were jointed at the hip on this decision.

We just thought it was too good of an opportunity both for our locker room and for our tight ends room, and by the way the guy can still play a little bit.

Q: With his experience at both safety and cornerback, where do you see Damarious Randall fitting in on the defense?

Mayock: Yeah, that's one of those things, when he came out of college he had kind of that corner, free safety versatility. Day One he'll be a free safety. He'll be competing for the opportunity to play with John Abram and those other guys on the back end. We love the fact that he can drop down and cover the slot and man-to-man. But initially, we'd like to see him at free safety, and I think that's his best position.

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