I think it’s fair to say Mike Mayock is extremely impressionable when it comes to championship games and the players in them. His first free agency, the instant he could get on the phone to reel in a free agent, he was on the phone offering record money for Patriots’ left tackle Trent Brown. He has taken that same approach in the draft.
He had four picks to work with in the top 40 and three of those four picks were players from the College Football National Championship game — Fourth overall pick Clelin Ferrel, 24th overall pick Josh Jacobs, and 40th overall pick Trayvon Mullen.
“I don’t want to put too much emphasis on that game, because obviously you scout the whole season and watch every snap with guys like this,” Mayock said after day two, “but I came away from that game... It’s really funny because it feels like yesterday. And I was just brand new here (as Raiders GM) and being on the field before the game was just like ‘Wow’. I said to somebody ‘I’d take five of these guys and go home right now,’ in all honesty. And here we are (laughs) and we got three of them. So, it’s exciting, it really is.”
Clelin Ferrell was the leader of the National Champion Clemson defense, so that obviously raised his stock to the point where the Raiders took him at fourth overall, despite most judgments being that was higher than he should have gone.
Most thought Mayock’s interest in Josh Jacobs as a first round pick may have come into focus with the news that Marshawn Lynch was not coming back. But he said he knew he wanted Jacobs since — you guessed it — the National Championship game.
“Right after I took the job I went to the National Championship game because it was right over at the 49ers stadium, and it was obviously Clemson and Alabama, and . . . the guy from Alabama that blew me away was Jacobs and I came back and I watched the film the next day. I cut up six plays out of the film, walked into his (Coach Gruden’s) office and said, ‘Jon, this could be one of our picks right here,’ and I showed him six plays and he was like ‘Oh shit!’, so that’s how long he has been on our radar and that’s the impression he made on me that night.”
He didn’t say specifically what the six plays were that he cut up, but Jacobs shared generally what Mayock told him impressed him most.
“He told me that [the National Championship game] when he knew we were potentially somebody that he would be looking at,” said Jacobs. “He was just talking about how in the game when I was catching passes and not afraid to block people and things like that, so I think that’s the majority of the things he was talking about.”
As far as his receiving in the game, Jacobs had one catch for 16 yards. His blocking, however, was highlighted by this play which was undoubtedly what Mayock had in his mind when his eyes lit up talking about Jacobs’s play in the game.
“Oh, shit!” is right. That edge rusher whose soul Jacobs stole was Austin Bryant. Something tells me Bryant won’t be among those high on Mayock’s board.
After filling the need at safety with the selection of Mississippi State’s Johnathan Abram, the Raiders went into day two with a couple players in mind — Trayvon Mullen and one other player.
When they got to pick 35, both players were still there, so they traded down to 38. Both players were there again, so they traded down to 40 and nabbed Mullen.
Just like his Clemson teammate, this was higher than Mullen was supposed to go according to most draft analyst’s judgment. But, you see, Mullen put on a stellar performance including an interception, sack, forced fumble, and six tackles to win Defensive MVP of the National Championship game. Mullen used that performance to make his decision to leave school early and enter the draft.
“I went out there and showed the world the elite player that I am, how confident I am, how strong and physical I am and just showing my capability and the type of good athlete I am,” said Mullen. “I believe that game played a big role. I was really excited after that game. It motivated me a lot to even make my decision to coming out early.”
That considerably raised his stock in Mayock’s eyes. He was at least smart enough to realize he could trade down a couple times and pick up some low round picks before making the pick.
It leaves you to wonder who else from that National Championship could be squarely on his radar for their picks in the 4th thru 7th rounds. They currently have two picks at the top of the 4th round (106, 109), a pick in the 5th round (158) and a pick in the 7th round (218).
Here are the top Clemson and Alabama prospects still on the board:
Christian Miller, ED, Alabama
Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama
Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
Tre Lamar, LB, Clemson
Isaiah Buggs, DI, Alabama
Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson
Albert Huggins, DI, Clemson
Ross Pierschbacher, C, Alabama
Saivion Smith, CB, Alabama
Mark Fields, CB, Clemson
Hunter Renfrow, WR, Clemson
Mitch Hyatt, G, Clemson
Kendall Joseph, LB, Clemson