SANTA CLARA – Mike Mayock's a popular guy in the college football world. The former NFL Network draft analyst and current Raiders general manager couldn't walk anywhere here at the college football national championship without someone coming to shake hands or celebrate Mayock's new gig.
UCLA football coach Chip Kelly stopped by to say hello. Former players attending the title game at Levi's Stadium wanted a minute with Mayock. Prominent media members from every network made their way over. So did high and low level staffers from Alabama and Clemson.
Mayock, however, wasn't there to work the field. He was in full scout mode.
That was once Alabama took the field for warmups. Dressed in Raiders gear from head to toe, with an NFLN backpack and a notebook in hand, Mayock moved from one position group to another, studying several closely.
That included the defensive line and nose guard Quinnen Williams, who should be a top 5 selection in the 2019 NFL draft. The Raiders, by the way, select No. 4 overall and desperately need help along the defensive front.
Mayock didn't have much time during warmups before all non-essential personnel were ushered off the field, but he used the time to take as much information as possible for his conversations and observations.
He'll get several looks at Alabama and Clemson players during the pre-draft process, but didn't want to pass up an opportunity to do so in the Bay Area.
"There's a huge advantage in person," Mayock said during a brief on-field interview. "I've been watching film of these two teams for months. I go back to July when I first started watching the rising seniors, OK? What I want to see pregame are all the body types. If you're watching them, what do they look like? Are they bigger? Are they more slight? Do they have room to grow? What do they look like? That's what you get before the game and then during the game, it's just I'm going to watch this tape 20 times, for sure, but you at least get to see them live now."
That's how Mayock works, forming educated and complete opinions from several moments. Monday's national title game is important considering top talents are matched up against the best of the best.
While head coach Jon Gruden will ultimately have final say in who gets drafted and signed in free agency, Mayock will have a loud voice in those decisions and, despite being on the job only a week now, the new GM is already grinding away on his Raiders-specific evaluation process.
That will continue over the next few weeks and ramp up at the Senior Bowl, where the Raiders staff will lead one of the college all-star teams. There will be more hand shaking and information gathering from staffers across college football then and at several points leading up to a pivotal Raiders NFL draft.