The star of the Las Vegas Raiders’ preseason was rookie cornerback Nate Hobbs.
Hobbs — a fifth-round pick from Illinois — flashed in the preseason, making big plays consistently in coverage and in blitz packages. Hobbs is fully expected to open the season as the Raiders’ starting nickel cornerback and they expect him to be an impact player.
While talking to the media on Wednesday, Las Vegas Raiders’ general manager Mike Mayock was asked about the process of drafting Hobbs. In response, he went into a detailed story about how the focus on Hobbs was a group effort between scouts and coaching staff after rookie had a great pro day.
Here’s Mayock’s long, passionate explainer on Hobbs:
“I’ll tell you a cool story and this is kind of what I think scouting is all about. And in our building where the coaches are so involved it’s even a better story.
So, I got a call from one of our cross-check scouts after the Illinois Pro Day, and he said, ‘Mike, do me a favor and put your eyes on Nate Hobbs. He just ran a 4.45, he jumped 41 inches. He tested better than we thought he was going to test and I’m not sure if we got the right grade on him.’ Don’t get me wrong, we had a pretty solid grade on him, but I want to make sure he’s not getting lost in the cornerback shuffle.
So, I got off the phone and literally put his tape on right there and I was like, man, he competes. He tackles. He’s tough. He’s a three-year starter in the Big Ten. He was an outside corner almost predominantly and he played special teams. This was a hard-noised, tough guy. And he just ran 4.45 and jumped 41 inches. I spent about two hours watching him, get out of my chair, sprinted downstairs to the second floor, grabbed Ron Milus, the defensive back coach.
Again, every building is different. Trust me, I spent 18 years at the NFL Network being in all the buildings and everybody does their jobs differently. We’re a coach-driven building with our scouts, so I run downstairs and say, ‘Milo, get your eye on this guy, please. And tell me what you think, today.’ He comes running back up in about an hour and half, ‘We got something.’ He said, ‘I think this kid will compete at nickel.’ And he was an outside guy and the reason we thought he could compete at nickel was how tough he was. His quickness and his toughness. He rarely missed tackles. Very aggressive kid. So, when you talk about moving outside to inside, that’s what you’re look for, A.), you got to be a quick processer, which we can’t tell whether he was or not as an outside corner, but B.), you’d better be quick and be tough. And he was those things.
So, all of a sudden now we kind of push him up the board a little bit more. The coaches like him, the scouts like him. We got him on a Zoom call, and he knocked it out the park. What are coaches do is they challenge him pretty hard mentally. They give him some of our Raider verbiage and they push it out and challenge it back. He got all the concepts immediately. I was on the Zoom call, I saw. It wasn’t like I heard about it; I was on the call. He got all the concepts. The coaches drilled him. He got an A+ on that drill and we’re sitting back there going; okay, what’s wrong with this picture? A three-year starter in the Big Ten. Tough, competitive. Every one of our scouting grades on him with competes and toughness was at a high end. So, I think the cool part for me is seeing it come together. It started with a trigger from the cross-checker to tell me to get my eye on them.
It went from there down to Milo (Ron Milus), then it went to the Zoom call, and then it was the whole group getting together to say, ‘We got to get this guy. Where is he probably going to go league value? And at what point do we have to pull the trigger.”
There are few things in life that Mayock likes more than scouting players. So, when he hits on a player like Hobbs, it’s a big deal and you can tell the way he talks about this kid that the team thinks he’s a special player.