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NFL Draft

Evaluating Mike Mayock’s First 2 Years As Raiders GM

  • The Draft Network
  • February 1, 2021
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When the then-Oakland Raiders hired Mike Mayock as their general manager two years ago, it was met with a lot of excitement—not just from Raiders fans, but also from anyone who followed the NFL. For years, Mayock was one of the Mt. Rushmore faces of draft coverage. He was the frontman for anything and everything NFL Network once the Senior Bowl rolled around. He was one of the more enjoyable personalities to watch, and for that, many wished him well in his adventure from the broadcast side of the draft to then sitting at the head of the table in a war room.

Mayock has been through two draft classes and two free agency cycles now, and with them, there has not been much improvement for the Raiders. They finished 7-9 in his first season and 8-8 in his second. While early record returns aren’t always the best indication of a job well done for a new general manager, there have been some concerns voiced about Mayock’s overall success on the job.

Those concerns were voiced by Mayock himself.

“I was disappointed in the productivity of our rookies,” Mayock said in an interview with Eddie Paskal of “I’ll be the first one to admit that. You can make excuses. You can have a conversation why.”

That quote came from a discussion in which Mayock was asked about his 2020 rookie class. That class contained names like Henry Ruggs III, Damon Arnette, Lynn Bowden, Bryan Edwards, and others. Mayock went on to talk about Ruggs and Arnette specifically as their first-round picks who did not live up to year one expectations.

“Henry Ruggs, I think, is who he is. I’m not disappointed in Henry. I think Henry’s got to get better,” Mayock said. “We knew how fast he is, but he’s got to get stronger and he’s got to get in and out of his breaks better. You’ve got to feel him coming out of his breaks more for him to get to the next level. And I think he will. But we’ve got a long-term view on Henry Ruggs.

“In training camp, prior to injury, [Arnette] was playing really well. We were excited about Damon Arnette. He’s instinctive, tough, and fast… “He’s got to take care of business in the offseason. Nutrition, strength coach, consistency of a day-to-day program.”

Mayock talked about having a long-term outlook, not just on Ruggs, but on a lot of those guys. But then in other parts of the interview, he recognized that these top draft picks, especially in the first three rounds, have to give them something right away—and the higher they are drafted, the more they have to give.

Mayock went on to give the example of their third-round pick Bowden, who is no longer on the team.

“I’ve got to do a better job. We drafted some guys last year who were position changes, and maybe that wasn’t fair in a COVID year,” Mayock said. “We drafted a guy in the third round that was a quarterback/slot that we wanted to become a running back [and traded him].

“I kind of look back and say, that’s probably on me. I kind of look back and say, that’s probably on me. Are we asking too much of these kids from a productivity perspective in year 1 in a COVID year when they’re changing positions? So I think the entire building has got to be accountable. That’s me, the personnel side, the coaching side and the players.”

Typically, the head coaches want the best players that help them win now; they’re looking at what they can do this year. Meanwhile, general managers are looking two, three, four years down the road as they handle the team building. The best organization can find the balance and respect the two roles to create a healthy team.

Mayock spoke about that balance at the NFL Scouting Combine last year as the No. 1 thing he learned from his first year as a general manager in 2019.

“I think coaches and GMs have two different snapshots,” Mayock said at the Combine in 2019. “Coaches look at what gets us better on Sunday. GMs look at it, how are we going to be better long-term. And I just think, I have to do a better job managing our roster during the season at certain positions.”

I don’t think anyone would go as far as to say Mayock’s tenure as general manager of the Raiders has been horrible, but there’s more than just this past draft class that hasn’t worked out. One of Mayock’s first moves when he got the job was the big trade for Antonio Brown. That obviously didn’t work out, but it’s hard to fault Mayock much, as we know Brown wasn't in a good place mentally. But there was the overdrafting of Clelin Ferrell and perhaps Jonathan Abram, the money spent on free-agent linebackers—mainly three years and $36 million for Cory Littleton as well as a trade for Raekwon McMillan—which had minimal improvement in return, and then a disappointing 2020 class.

I am not sure how hot Mayock’s seat is as general manager, but Mayock would tell us and has told us that two years in, the team isn’t where they need to be—and he, as the man in charge, takes that blame.

It’s not an easy thing to do; going from being a broadcaster for all those years talking about the draft then all of a sudden being in charge of one for a team. Mayock mentioned that, too, at the Combine last year, as one of the most challenging parts of his early tenure as a general manager.

“The biggest difference for me personally, and it’s not a sexy answer, is basically for 18 years, I was the Lone Ranger at the NFL Network. I had to be responsible for my own content, show up here at the Combine, do my podium, and make sure I knew something about 337 players. But then I’d go home, and do my individual thing again, and get ready for the next hurdle. As a GM, you’re managing people. I don’t think people really understand sometimes, what a job that is. And I enjoy it. It kind of invigorates me. One of the first things I had to do after the draft last year, was get a different group of scouts in there. So we made some changes in the personnel department, which I couldn’t be happier about. So I’m managing people. Coach Gruden and I collaborate on just about everything. So what it really comes down to, is going from the Lone Ranger, who just had to watch tape and talk about players, to being in charge of trying to bring and develop something that’s just an individual collection of talent, into a football team.”

Mayock came from the life of a Lone Ranger, and he’s not careful, he’ll be back to that life sooner than he may have wanted to be.

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