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Raiders draft 2021: Mike Mayock coy about needs at right tackle, free safety

GM mentions Jaryd Jones-Smith and Jeff Heath

NFL: Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders
Jaryd Jones-Smith
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

If you listen to Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock — and that might not be the best idea at this time of year — the team may not have such massive needs at right tackle and at free safety as it appears.

Asked about the positions in his pre-draft press conference on Thursday, Mayock downplayed the needs at the positions (which look like Las Vegas’ most glaring needs from here). Instead, he pumped up a couple of players currently on the roster.

Mayock said he likes Jaryd Jones-Smith at right tackle and said he thought veteran Jeff Heath did a nice job at free safety when he played there in 2020.

OK, cool.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders
Jeff Heath
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Jones-Smith has played just three games. It is interesting that Mayock used him as his draft smokescreen rather than Brandon Parker, who has been in the program since being the No. 65 overall pick in the 2018 draft.

The truth about players like Jones-Smith and Heath is that teams try to draft better players to replace them. Are the Raiders really going to bypass their biggest needs and use marginal players there instead?

It would be wild if they do.

Mayock was extremely staunch on the Raiders’ new-look offensive line. He defended the trades of veterans center Rodney Hudson, right guard Gabe Jackson and right tackle Trent Brown. He said the team has “all the respect in the world” for those players, but the brass (including offensive line coach Tom Cable), feels like the team is getting younger, more athletic and faster there.

Sounds good. Time will tell. Those old, unathletic, slow vets were all some pretty good players.

At free safety, Mayock noted that the talent pool shrinks after the first three rounds. I fully expect the Raiders to use one of their four picks in the first three rounds (No. 17, No. 48, No. 79 and No. 80) at the position.

Mayock is a nice guy. But all coaches and GMs are full of crap this time of year. It’s part of the draft game.