In terms of thinking outside the box, the Raiders have been at the forefront lately. It started with the rehiring of former head coach turned TV analyst Jon Gruden to be head coach. Gruden then selected Mike Mayock, the most respected TV draft analyst for the past couple decades, to be GM.
Now they have done it again, bringing onboard longtime Pro Football Weekly draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki.
The media-to-#NFL-scouting trend continues as the #Raiders have hired former @PFWeekly draft guru Nolan Nawrocki in an undetermined scouting role. Nawrocki is a principled, experienced voice who replaced the legendary Joel Buchsbaum at PFW. #NFLScouts— Neil Stratton (@InsideTheLeague) July 3, 2019
There used to be a pretty defined separation between the media and the coaching and front offices. it was usually a one way street with coaches and executives heading to television. But not often the other way around.
Nawrocki is often known for not sugar coating his opinions of draft prospects, drawing a good amount of controversy. His most controversial opinions were of several high profile draft quarterbacks. In particular his trashing of the characters of JaMarcus Russell, Cam Newton, Geno Smith, and Johnny Manziel, suggesting they will not have NFL success. Three out of four aint bad. And some might suggest he wasn’t entirely wrong about Cam Newton’s character either despite Newton’s success in the league.
Regardless of the troll level status Nawrocki seems to have developed in his career, he’s still consistently one of the most respected draft scouts out there. His emphasis on the character of players aligns with Gruden and Mayock’s emphasis as well.
And, as it happens, Nawrocki credits Al Davis for helping to land him his spot as the successor to legendary PFW draft analyst Joel Buschsbaum. Davis was once a part owner of the magazine and at Nawrocki’s first scouting combine, Davis walked him around to meet NFL front office personnel.
A few years later, in 2007, Davis wouldn’t listen to Nawrocki when he warned any prospective team of drafting JaMarcus Russell.
He wrote that Russell showed a “lackadaisical approach to the game” and predicted that he would “require very tough coaching from a strong authoritative figure.”
He particularly warned Al Davis, whose Raiders had the number one overall pick that year, that Russell had bust written all over him.
“I had three conversations with Al Davis that year,” Nawrocki said in a 2014 interview with Deadspin... “I told him that he should take Calvin Johnson or Adrian Peterson. That was the guy I was trying to help out. I know where Al was at that point in his career: He had lost some of the ears on the ground that he may have had when he was a little sharper. But Al was going to do what what Al was going to do.”
Davis, of course, made Russell the number one overall pick and Russell went on to become the biggest bust in NFL history. While Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson are probably both headed for the Hall of Fame one day. Hinsight is 20/20. Nawrocki claims to have had foresight on that one. Gruden and Mayock want that foresight on their side.