Normally Mike Mayock is a fast talking, well-spoken, and charismatic presence in front of a microphone. He can go on for hours about his passion for draft evaluations. Thursday he stepped in front of the mic for his first pre-draft press conference as Raiders GM, and it was clear this draft season was a lot more intensive than in years past.
Several times Mayock stumbled over his words, even going as far as to call Derek Carr David — a flub he instantly corrected, and was clearly embarrassed by it. And with every uncharacteristic flub, he shook his head in exasperation and remarked how tired he was.
“Basically we’re in the middle of a grind,” Mayock said of his first draft prep as a GM. “It’s kind of cool. The coaches and scouts are all working pretty much 24/7 on this draft. It’s a great process, the scouts are in now, I’m working with the scouts on the draft, the coaches with coach Gruden, I’m jumping between rooms. It’s really been awesome. It’s been a great process, especially with what we’ve got with 8 picks and 4 in the first 35.”
There’s a lot more on his plate and a lot more responsibility now that he’s not just trying to make predictions as to where prospects will be selected and which teams would select them. Granted he had to evaluate these prospects as well, but mostly just to project their draft order and with it their potential as a pro. If he’s wrong, no big deal. There is a lot of leeway given to draft predictions because the draft is an inexact science.
Now, however, there’s a lot more at stake. Now he will be taking his evaluations and have to select a player or at least have a major voice in who is selected. And he may have to pull the trigger a few times as well. That’s a new experience for him.
Along with that responsibility comes the ‘war room’ pressures and the need to make a major decision in a matter of minutes while making and fielding phone calls about potential trades at the same time. Just like a live game situation, it’s an experience that will require some practice.
“What we’re going to do is try to have our board completely stacked, both by position and by number by the end of next week and by the week of the draft, we’re going to spend an awful lot of time in there. In our war room, in our draft room with the people that are going to be there and kind of going through every scenario we can,” Mayock said.
“I’m going to have people calling in on the phones and trying to get Jon and I rattled and propose trades. And let’s be honest I haven’t done it before, so again, If I’m going to evaluate myself I got to make sure I’m prepared. There’s two minutes left on the clock and three phones are ringing and there’s a trade. What is the process, how are we going to react as a team, where’s everybody even sitting in the room, what’s the feedback, how quickly am I going to get the information on the trades and the point values. So there’s a whole bunch of stuff and I’ve kind of got it… I said to Jon, it’s kind of like it’s game week and we want to get in and practice our game plan, no different than he would for a a Sunday game.”
“I think the important thing is at the end of the day is just some of these practices putting some pressure on ourselves and hoping, just like a coach would, hoping that if we put enough pressure on ourselves Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, under a bunch of different conversations in trades that when Thursday night comes and Friday, Saturday, we’re more than prepared to deal with anything.”
So far Mayock has seemingly passed the test of free agency. The next test will be the area of his expertise and the reason he was brought here in the first place. And fittingly he will have the most draft capital of any team in the league, with four picks in the top 35 at his fingertips. With that comes a lot of responsibility to get it right.
“As Jon says to me ‘Don’t mess it up, dude. I took a lot of slings to get you three first round picks’,” Mayock said. “We laugh about it all the time, but a) I don’t feel any pressure about it b) I love it and embrace it because it’s going to give us an opportunity to try to continue to try to turn the corner here and become a good football team. I think what it really gives us is flexibility. And that what I love about it. Obviously we can move up. You got to know what you’re trying to do and how you’re trying to do it. You can try and increase your capital by moving down or you stay the same. Four of the first 35 picks gives you the opportunity to consider all those scenarios multiple times. And again, that’s why we’re opening up the line of communication with all the teams around the league. I keep telling our guys . . . we need to be nimble. And nimble means depending on what the situation is, to be able to react quickly according to the situation and make the right decision.”
Even if Mayock claims he isn’t feeling any pressure, it would be understandable if he is. This isn’t a game anymore. This isn’t a simulation. This isn’t a mock. This is real. No doubt it’s exciting too and one Mayock relishes. But to reap the harvest, you must till the soil. For a new GM, that soil can be hard to break through the first time.
“At the end of the day, despite all the pressure and the influence, you just kind of have to close the door and get your head space back and say what do I believe in and who do I want to fight for in this draft.”