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Raiders draft 2021: ‘Lively conversations’ about draft opt outs

More news and notes from Mike Mayock’s presser

Wisconsin v Northwestern
Rashawn Slater
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

One of the hottest pre-draft debates this spring has been whether teams will draft players who opted out of the 2020 college season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Some people around the league view those players among the dreaded group that don’t live for football. On Thursday in his pre-draft presser, Las Vegas Raiders general manager Mike Mayock acknowledged that it has been a major topic during the team’s draft meetings.

That is completely believable since both Mayock and head Las Vegas decision maker, coach Jon Gruden, often talk about wanting to add players who “love football.”

“We’ve had some pretty lively conversations about that,” Mayock said. “I think the right perspective is, look, every kid is a different case, OK? So, the way I look at it is, for instance if you played in the Pac-12 or the Big Ten, your conference basically opted out on you.

“A bunch of kids had to make decisions at that point as to whether or not they were going to hire agents and go work out for the draft. A bunch of them did. Had they come back once the Pac-12 and Big Ten, said they were going to have a season, they weren’t even sure how many games they were going to get to play. And if they came back, then you’re looking at having to pay back an agent who might have gotten you a car or set you up at your workout clinic. So, it’s a lot deeper question.

We sat down with kids on Zoom and asked that question to every single one of them. Some of them talked about their parents and having relatives that died from COVID-19 and having to go home and take care of family. So, do I think some of them may have used it as an excuse to get out of football and go train? Sure. But at the end of the day it’s really hard to figure out which ones, and that’s why you have to really just continue to drill down the kid, what his playing demeanor is, what his coaches think about him, all of your different sources. Because it’s really a can of worms and I think every team will look at those opt-outs a little differently.”

Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons and Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater are among the players the Raiders would likely draft in the first round who opted out last year. Of course, they both are from Big Ten, so it appears the Raiders would be understanding of their decisions.

Other notes from Mayock’s press briefing:

  • Mayock said the team will have to be “nimble” during the draft when it comes to either trading up or down from No. 17.
  • Mayock, once again, bemoaned the fact that he had to talk to draft prospects on Zoom and not in-person for the second straight year because of the pandemic. He said those talks are just not the same.
  • Mayock said the Raiders “can’t friggin’ wait” to get fans into Allegiant Stadium this season. “That place needs to be rocking and it needs to be filled.”
  • He said he believes, after the changes at defensive tackle this year, Las Vegas has more talent at the position than last season.