Fans, media personalities and pundits all have their favorites when it comes to the NFL Draft. With mock drafts aplenty, prognostication season is in full swing. No matter the creator of the mock – fun as they might be – it’s all guesses. Some are more educated than others, but in the end, it’s a best guess, because there are only a handful of people privy to a team’s draft board.
Such is the case for the Oakland Raiders. The secrecy behind general manager Mike Mayock’s draft day intentions is both intriguing and impressive. This is a personnel man that took his draft binder into the restroom with him while having lunch with his daughter, lest it be seen by eyes that aren’t going to be inside the Raiders war room the weekend of April 25. What was once an open and very public TV draft analyst, Mayock is now shrouded in a Dr. Doom-like cloak.
Here’s to hoping he’s just as a mad scientist as the comic book character. For it doesn’t matter who the Raiders pick with their upcoming selections. In truth, the team’s selections won’t make everyone happy. There will be both raucous cheers for a prospect taken as there will be venomous jeers for those who are passed up.
There will come the Mayock vs. Jon Gruden debate. The one where people will have trivial discourse over who is making all the personnel decisions – the neophyte GM or the $100 million coach?
The person who pulled the trigger is irrelevant.
What RaiderNation should be more interested in is this: Will the team develop the players they select properly?
Gruden stated the biggest proponent for taking offensive tackles Kolton Miller in the first and Brandon Parker in the third rounds was O-line boss Tom Cable. Exhibit A of can the Raiders coaching staff properly develop draft picks. There was a myriad of reasons as to why Miller started off well and faded down the stretch (injuries to both himself and tag team partner at left guard Kelechi Osemele, to name a big one). Parker was slated to be a developmental type who learned while watching and participating in practices. Yet, injuries forced him into the lineup.
Regardless if it was Gruden or former GM Reggie McKenzie making the draft-day calls, it’s up to Cable to turn them from good collegiate products into NFL linemen. It was a mixed back – at best.
Same goes for the Raiders defensive lineman taking in the draft. PJ Hall (second round), Arden Key (third) and Maurice Hurst (fifth) were under Mike Trgovac’s tutelage their rookie years and now have Brentson Buckner as defensive line boss this season. Buckner is from the 4-3 line of coaching while Trgovac (now a senior defensive advisor) was from the 3-4 tree – odd fit, no?
All Picks Matter
Mayock is living every draft analysts’ fantasy right now: The point person for a team with four picks in the top 35. All eyes will be keen on what the Raiders do with the choices at No. 4, 24, 27 and 35.
But Mayock has wisely stated time and again those first four picks matter just as much as the final two in the seventh round. This is the proper approach. For a team devoid of talent at many positions, the Raiders need the most out of all investments. They can’t operate without impunity like some other franchises can. They haven’t earned that yet.
Another sound idea Mayock is rolling out is using some of the Top-30 visits on late-round and undrafted types. Mayock says it plants the seed in prospects heads as teams burn up the phone lines trying to land deals with undrafted prospects immediately after the three-day spectacle.
There is plenty of talent after Mr. Irrelevant’s name scrolls on the ticker on TV and the Raiders need to land them. However, just like the players that had their names called during the draft, it is up to the team to develop the undrafted ones.