Trayvon Mullen didn’t think he needed to stay at Clemson for his senior season. The cornerback always believed he had the ability to play in the NFL, but being selected Defensive Most Valuable Player in his school’s victory over Alabama in the national championship game in January prompted him to declare for the draft.
"I knew I had the ability to take the step to the next level by the middle of my junior year," Mullen told the Greenville News of South Carolina. "But that (game) helped me make my final decision."
And, after scouting him – and seeing his big interception return, forced fumble and six tackles (including a sack) in Clemson’s 44-16 win over the Crimson Tide – the Raiders agreed, taking Mullen in the second round of the recent draft.
When the Raiders open training camp in late July, Mullen will compete for a starting role.
Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said after drafting Mullen that the cornerback is a perfect fit with the team’s defensive style as "a long press corner that runs."
The 6-foot-2, 199-pounder has long arms and a physical style, and at Clemson was rarely challenged because of his skill. Over three seasons he never allowed a touchdown pass to a receiver he was covering, and he allowed less than 300 yards total to his receivers over three seasons. During his final season, he had just one interception and three passes defensed because opponents stayed away from him.
"I try to use my length and body as an advantage," Mullen told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Especially at this level, you’ve got a lot of great receivers, so just have to be able to be physical, use your hands and feet."
Gareon Conley is likely to start at one cornerback, with Mullen competing against Daryl Worley, Nick Nelson, Curtis Riley and fellow rookie draftee Isaiah Johnson for the other.