While he was watching practice leading up to the 2019 Senior Bowl, Jim Nagy leaned over to someone on the sidelines and told them that if anyone knew the ins and outs of the 90-ish players in Mobile, Ala., that week, it was Mike Mayock.
And while the Executive Director of the game was only semi-serious, what he said was based in fact as the Oakland Raiders general manager had been privy to the construction of the two rosters since early in the college football season.
Mayock – then the premier draft analyst for NFL Network – in an effort to better broadcast the game and analyze its participants, reached out to Nagy with a simple request after seeing the latter post a picture of his player board on twitter.
"I posted a picture of [the board] on Twitter, and Mike called me the next day and said, 'Jimmy, can you do me a favor? Can you shoot me a picture of that every week, so I can stay current on it?" recounted Nagy.
Nagy had no issues sharing updates to the board as long as Mayock kept a tight lid on the information, and just like that, weekly texts between the pair began.
"I was shooting him [Mayock] pictures of it every week," Nagy said. "And one of the early weeks in the year, I had Johnathan Abram up pretty high on the board, but I had a couple of safeties above him, and I remember him saying, 'Why do you have those two guys above him? What's keeping those two guys above John Abram?' I had a feeling way back then that he was a John Abram fan."
Turns out that Mayock and Head Coach Jon Gruden were indeed fans of the hard-hitting safety from Mississippi State, as well as six other plays they saw during their week in Alabama coaching up the North team.
In total, the Silver and Black drafted four players from the Senior Bowl – signing three more as undrafted free agents – which gave nearly half of their incoming rookie class a direct tie to the all-star game in Mobile.
"Coaching and being there really helped us a lot," Mayock said following the Draft. "It really is a big deal to be involved in that game."
"I did get that impression, that they came down here with a sense of urgency, knowing that they could help their team," Nagy added. "That's the advantage that Mike had of being on the network side for all those years. He always stayed and did the game. I think he's seen the importance of it from afar, and this was really his first opportunity to take advantage of it. Not only being a GM, and being on the NFL side now, but being a GM with a team in the game. I know Mike took it seriously, and Coach [Jon] Gruden has coached the game before. It [had] been a long time, so I think he was excited to get back down and understood the value of it."
Coming off a four-win campaign in 2018, the Raiders have much to accomplish to return to relevance in the AFC West, but Nagy believes that the Silver and Black's head coach/general manager combination started off the new season on the right foot.
"[Gruden and Mayock] went into the process when the marriage was formed in January, talking about [how] the goal was to add guys who loved football," Nagy said. "A lot of times, over the course of the process, teams don't stick to their guns, and it was really cool on Draft Weekend to see Mike and Jon stick to their guns, and bring in those guys… You added a great rookie class. I think they're all good players, and they're all truly guys who will help get that thing turned."
*Nagy also shared his thoughts on a handful of players the Silver and Black picked up from the Senior Bowl
Wide Receiver Keelan Doss
"The other guy to me that it was a shock he didn't get drafted was Keelan Doss. It didn't make any sense to me, other than he hurt his pec at the combine… The vast majority [of teams] had Keelan in the fourth or fifth round, maybe there were a couple that had him in the sixth. Nobody had him in the seventh. The surprising thing was, I thought he was better watching him live than when I saw him on tape. He's a really nuanced route runner. He's one of those guys that really just knows how to get open. He was quicker in person than I thought he was on tape. He catches everything."
Fullback Alec Ingold
"I think Alec Ingold should make your football team. You guys want to play with a fullback. I filled out a majority of the roster probably about 90 of the roster spots… I reached out to 17 teams and basically went position by position on the backend of the roster, and Alec Ingold had a draftable grade on all 17 boards. He was the only fullback that was even close to that. For him to not get drafted was a huge surprise to me."
Cornerback Isaiah Johnson
"Isaiah would probably take a little more time than the other guys because there is so much rawness because of the receiver conversion, but really good pick because he's so long, he's so fast, and he has an awesome attitude."
Tight End Foster Moreau
"I really think you guys nailed it. John Abram is a no brainer, but I think Foster Moreau was the most underrated tight end in the draft. I saw him play twice in the fall, and he was arguably – with [T.J.] Hockenson – right up there in the conversation. You could make an argument he was the best blocking tight end in the draft. In the pass game, he was really underutilized at LSU."
Wide Receiver Hunter Renfrow
"I think Hunter Renfrow is going to be able to contribute immediately in the slot. I don't think there's anything right now keeping him back from getting on the field next year and helping you guys in the slot."