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Raiders GM Mike Mayock Falling in Love With Clemson, Alabama Prospects

By Dave Holcomb
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During his 16 months as Raiders GM, Mike Mayock has made it clear the Raiders will not be afraid to target Clemson and Alabama prospects.

It’s been a little more than a year since the famous NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock became the general manager of the Oakland Raiders. Pardon me -- the new Las Vegas Raiders.

During his 16 months as Raiders GM, a couple things have been made clear. First, his draft board is going to deviate a little from the norm. Secondly, his Raiders will not be afraid to target Clemson and Alabama prospects.

Through two draft classes, Mayock has selected 16 players, and almost half of them have been from Clemson or Alabama. Even just a little more than one year into his tenure, that pattern cannot be denied.

Since Mayock left the broadcasting booth, NFL teams have selected 19 Alabama players and 13 Clemson prospects. In the last two drafts, Alabama’s 19 picks lead all schools, and Clemson is sixth in draft selections behind only Alabama, Ohio State, LSU, Michigan and Georgia.

Dating back to 2014, 41 Clemson Tigers have heard their names called at the draft, including at least five every year except 2018. But remember, in that offseason, several of the program’s star juniors elected to stay for an extra year.

During the same span, Alabama has seen 63 of its former players drafted, including a whopping 41 over the last four years. With that in mind, the Crimson Tide having nine draft picks in 2020 was actually on the low side.

Clearly, the Raiders are hardly the only franchise investing in Alabama and Clemson players. Still, Mayock’s fascination with the programs who have won four of the last five national championships is obvious.

Prior to the hiring of Mayock as general manager during the 2018-19 offseason, the Raiders had drafted just one Clemson player over the last 25 years. Heck, that dates back to not only when the Raiders were playing in Oakland but also Los Angeles.

As for Alabama players in the last quarter of a century, the Raiders had picked three before 2019.

In two years with Mayock at the helm, the Raiders have chosen seven players from Clemson and Alabama, including five in the first three rounds.

“I felt it on the field before the (national championship) game, these were the two best college programs in the country and have been for several years now,” Mayock said of Alabama and Clemson to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated in May 2019. “And when you walk around on the field before the game and watch these guys warm up, and you do your body types, you’re taking notes -- they look like two NFL teams.

“I said it to somebody, I don’t remember who, and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Man, if you just draft from these two teams, you’re gonna do well, forget the rest of the country.’”

Mayock admitted in the same conversation that he didn’t consciously target only Clemson and Alabama players, but it certainly feels like it with seven of his 16 picks in his first two years as Las Vegas’ general manager coming from those two schools.

It would obviously be silly to eliminate players from every other program in the country, and if Mayock’s Raiders don’t start winning, he may be the butt of a lot of jokes should he continue this strategy of favoring Crimson Tide and Tigers prospects.

Mayock isn’t just finding his depth players from the top two schools in the country. The Raiders have selected three Clemson and Alabama players with five first-round picks over the last two years -- defensive end Clelin Ferrell, running back Josh Jacobs and wide receiver Henry Ruggs.

The former broadcaster turned general manager can claim he didn’t purposefully target those schools, but just about every mock draft expert called Ferrell a reach at No. 4 where Mayock drafted him. Furthermore, selecting a running back at any point in the first round during this passing era in the NFL is going to draw “overdrafting” criticism.

But Mayock is right that these two programs have been the best in the nation the last half decade. The talent from both schools is undeniable, so one can’t blame him for wanting to maximize the NFL skillsets from both rosters.

If a general manager is going to pin his career on anything, it might as well be talent. There’s no better place to find that in college football than Clemson and Alabama.