ALAMEDA, Calif. — Mike Mayock is used to being under the spotlight on NFL draft weekend.
As the lead analyst at NFL Network, Mayock spent so many hours on the air each draft for more than a decade analyzing prospects and critiquing picks made by the 32 teams that he sometimes even lost his voice before the weekend was over.
Mayock’s vocal cords won’t get quite the same workout this year, but he will be under far more scrutiny when he takes centre stage starting Thursday night in his new role as general manager of the Oakland Raiders.
With three first-round picks (Nos. 4, 24 and 27), as well as the 35th overall selection, few general managers have ever come into the draft with this many premium selections and this little experience making them.
"I don’t really worry about it in all honesty," he said. "The way I look at this thing, from a ‘how do people perceive me’ perspective, is a lot of people doubted that anybody should come out of the media and go be a GM for any team. I know that, and I get that, but at the end of the day here’s the deal, if we win everything will be fine and if we lose I’ll get fired, and I’m perfectly fine with that."
Mayock grew up around football as his father Mike Sr. was a coach at the Haverford School and the University of Pennsylvania.
That taught him from a young age to watch football in a more analytical way instead of primarily as a fan and gave him some insight to the mindset of coaches, which has come in handy leading up to this draft.
Mayock says he has spent countless hours with the Raiders position coaches and co-ordinators to learn what traits they look for in players and he understands that he must balance the desire of coaches to fill all the needs on a roster with the approach of a scout looking for the best available players.
"That’s my guy. Mike and I, we go back to 20 years, 25 years, to when I was offensive co-ordinator of the Eagles," coach Jon Gruden said.
"You like to be around people that have similar interests. And unfortunately I don’t have any other interests other than football. Neither does Mayock. So we have a lot of fun talking about just every aspect of football, all the time. And his relentless effort, his enthusiasm, has energized the building and it’s a blast."
Mayock also has the perspective of a player, having been a safety at Boston College and playing briefly for the New York Giants where he learned under current Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
After his brief career, Mayock went into commercial real estate while dabbling as a broadcaster covering local high school and college games in the New Jersey area. He advanced to do some CFL and college games for ESPN and CBS before finally getting his big breakthrough in 2004 when he was hired by the NFL Network as its draft analyst.
Mayock quickly developed into a television star in that role, spending 14 years as a well-regarded draft analyst where coaches and executives around the league sought out his opinion as much as Mayock tried to gather information from them.
Those pre-draft conversations are still happening but happening in a much different way.
"I think when you are a coach’s son and you kind of grew up going from field to field to field, breaking down tape by the time you were 8 years old. I think the coaches and the scout’s kind of open up to me because of that around the league," Mayock said.
"Those relationships I value, but at the same point now it is a little bit different, and I think it’s already changed. We kind of lie to each other a little bit instead of just sitting there and opening up our draft boards."
Mayock knows this job is new to him and is spending the last few days preparing for whatever might come his way during the three days of the draft.
Besides finalizing the team’s draft board, he worked out the smaller details, including reportedly sending home the team’s scouts in order to prevent any leaks coming out of the draft room.
He also wanted to learn exactly where everyone will be sitting during the draft, made some changes to what information will be available in the room and then tried to simulate what it will be like when the team is on the clock for real starting Thursday night.
"I’m going to have people calling in on the phones and trying to get Jon and I rattled and propose trades," he said.
"Let’s be honest, I haven’t done it before. So, if I’m going to evaluate myself, I have to make sure I’m prepared. There’s two minutes left on the clock and three phones are ringing and there’s a trade, what is the process? How are we going to react as a team? Where is everybody even sitting in the room? What’s the feedback? How quickly am I going to get the information on the trades and the point values?
"So, there’s a whole bunch of stuff and I’ve kind of got it, I said to Jon, it’s game week. We want to get in there and practice our game plan no different than the team would for a Sunday game."