It looks like the 2021 draft process will be similar to last year because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and that doesn’t sit well with Mike Mayock.
The Las Vegas Raiders’ general manager candidly said on Wednesday that he learned from last year’s draft experience and may have to use those lessons when picking players next month.
Last year, the Raiders drafted three of seven players who they projected to play a different position in the NFL than in college.
The Raiders took Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden Jr. to play running back after he played receiver and quarterback in college; Tanner Muse to play linebacker after he played safety at Clemson; and Louisiana Tech cornerback Amik Robertson to be a nickel cornerback after he played on the outside in college.
All three rookies struggled in training camp without an offseason. Bowden ended up being traded to the Miami Dolphins, Muse missed the season while on the injured reserve, and Robertson struggled in the limited time he did play.
“A year ago, if you had told me that we were going to be back in COVID restrictions this offseason, I don’t even know if I would have made it to today,” Mayock said.
“The frustrations of last year, did we learn any lessons? I think it’s important, especially for me, to kind of look back to last year in the draft and say, did we make any mistakes?” Mayock said. “I think we thought we were in a good place because all seven of our picks were in the first four rounds of a COVID year. I think that if you look back at it and you think, should you be picking guys that perhaps were a projection from one position to another.
“You know, we took the kid from Kentucky [Bowden] in the third round and ended up trading him to Miami before the seasons started. That was a projection. He was a college slot receiver and a quarterback and we tried to move him to running back in a pandemic year. And to be honest with you, I don’t think it was fair to the kid. You know, we don’t even see him face-to-face live until training camp in July.
You take Amik Robertson in the fourth round. He was an outside corner. And even though it doesn’t sound like a big change to go to nickel, in a COVID year with no reps, trying to learn run fits in the nickel position that he never had to do before, that’s asking a lot. Basically, what I’m saying is that I think in a COVID year, you have to be nimble and you have to learn lessons and you have to try to leverage the draft for whatever you can.”
While most of the draft preparation will be the same, NFL teams are hoping there will be in-person OTAs of some sort this year. Either way, surely Mayock’s draft board will be different this year after the 2020 experience.