Preparing for free agency and the NFL Draft is a rigorous and tedious ordeal, but when a specific philosophy is established between the coaching staff and the scouting department it makes the preparation that much easier. This might seem obvious, but according to Oakland Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock this is an area that a lot of teams struggle with around the league.
Good news for the Raiders, that's not an issue.
"I've always believed the biggest dysfunction in NFL buildings is an inability for the coaching staff and the scouting staff to be on the same page philosophically consistently," Mayock said during his press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine Wednesday. "I can walk in the building day one and know all those coaches, and immediately there's a bond, and I think that's the biggest thing we've been able to do in a couple of months is just kind of build that philosophy and understand that there's really only one way to do things in our building."
Mayock has earned a reputation as an elite talent evaluator for his work the past two decades, and the relationships he's built along the way made it easy to create a bond with Raiders coordinators Paul Guenther and Rich Bisaccia. As Mayock and the rest of the Raiders coaching staff continue their draft evaluation, it's important that all of them carry on with the same vision.
Last month at the Senior Bowl, Mayock mentioned that he — along with Head Coach Jon Gruden — will be looking for their "Raiders Star" this offseason. That could mean a few things, but it's important that the duo identify the players that fit their philosophy, which he elaborated on Wednesday morning at the Combine.
"When we're talking about a 'Raiders Star' we're not talking about a star in the sense of a star in the NFL," he explained during his press conference. "We're talking about somebody that we think fits what we're looking for ideally as an Oakland Raider. I think every team has it — they call it something different — but every team has the same philosophy, and simplistically what we're looking for is big, fast guys that can run and love the game of football. [Players] that love it, that are professional, they show up every day, they give you a full day of work, and they can't wait to compete and work on Sunday. That oversimplifies it, but to us that's what a 'Raiders Star' is."
Take a look at which players NFL analysts are predicting the Raiders will select in round one of the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Senior Bowl allowed Mayock and Gruden to get up close and personal with many of this year's top prospects, but the Combine will provide a more extensive interview process. It's easy to get wrapped up in the measurables, but if the prospect doesn't truly love the game it means nothing. The mental aspect of the Combine is what Mayock will be focused on this week, and understanding the way these prospects think is high on the priority list.
"There's always the height, weight, speed, measurable component and that's really important by position what you're looking for; whether it's change of direction, straight line speed, every position is a little different," he said. "I think you're also trying to take the temperature of all the players, and that's again where I'm most excited this week. We met a couple of kids last night, we have more tonight, 60 overall. How do they react in the interview room? We're going to challenge them a little bit. How do they react after they ran a 40 [yard dash] and they don't think they ran well? There's a lot of nuance to it and we're just trying to figure the kid out. What makes the kid tick is more important than anything that comes out this week."
It's safe to assume that a majority of the players under the microscope this week will be defensive linemen, considering it's one of the Raiders' greatest needs. We're in the early stages of the Combine, but as the week progresses we'll learn more about many of the top prospects here in Indianapolis, and I'm sure we'll see some players that fit the Raiders mold.