HENDERSON, Nev. — Two down, one to go.
The Las Vegas Raiders continued filling their needs on the second day of the NFL Draft, as they selected Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer in the second round with the 35th pick, Alabama defensive tackle Byron Young with the 70th pick, and Cincinnati wide receiver Tre Tucker with the 100th pick.
With eight picks remaining for the Raiders on Saturday, general manager Dave Ziegler knows plenty of work still needs to be done.
“There are definitely some areas that we still want to address,” Ziegler said Friday night. “I mean, I don’t want to get into the specifics of it, because then other teams that maybe have those ideas, and all of a sudden they’re trading in front of us from a strategic standpoint. But yeah, there are still a few key areas on the team that we want to try to continue to address as we head into the last day.”
After trading up three spots to select 35th overall, the Raiders drafted Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer.
Although the Raiders re-signed Jesper Howard, in addition to signing unrestricted free agents Austin Hooper and O.J. Howard in March, they remain in need of star power at tight end after trading Darren Waller to the New York Giants, and Foster Moreau announced he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma.
“Obviously, Michael is going to be here for a long time from a contractual standpoint,” Ziegler said. “But high ceiling for him if he continues to grow and learn the nuances of the game. You’re going to see some different coverages and some different matchups than you see in the college game, but has a very good skill set to make an impact for us.”
Mayer has already played in his new home – Raiders home stadium Allegiant Stadium – on Oct. 8, when he caught 11 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns and the Irish beat BYU, 28-20.
“Being able to play home games there is going to be a very, very fun thing to do,” Mayer said. “The city, the fans, the vibes surrounding the city, it was fantastic.”
Mayer, who is pro-ready with a big body built for the NFL, will provide essential blocking on the line or short-yardage catches that will move the chains.
Mayer credited his days as a basketball player for having elite footwork, while the same might be said for his quick hands and strengths in blocking and pass-catching.
After the game in Las Vegas, Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman said, “The thing you love about Michael Mayer is he’s the hardest worker. He wants to get better. He doesn’t want to be told what he does well, he wants to be told how he can improve and that’s a special player.”
Mayer said he can’t wait to get into the Raiders’ facility to begin his offseason program.
“I think it’s just working hard at every aspect of what I do. A little bit of my blocking, a little bit of my receiving, a little bit in my leadership,” he said. “I’m just going to try to come in and play my best ball. That’s what they drafted me to do. That’s why I play football. That’s what I’m here to do. So, I’m ready to fly in and start working, start understanding the offense, the installs, things like that. And it’s about coming in and playing my best ball, helping this team win ballgames.”
WHAT THE TUCK
While it might have made sense to stay on course with positional needs by grabbing a cornerback, the Raiders opted for Tucker with their compensatory draft pick in the third round.
Tucker brings added speed in the slot, but Ziegler said an intriguing factor was being able to use the 5-foot-9 gunner on special teams.
Tucker said wrestling in high school helped establish a love for contact in football. He played on the defensive side of the ball for Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in Ohio, so when it comes to hitting…
“I kind of invite it,” he said. “Being a smaller receiver, not too many people expect that. But for me, that’s just kind of how I go about it. And my coach would always say at Cincinnati, ‘You’re going to get hit anyway, you might as well catch and get your money’s worth.’ So, that’s kind of my mentality. And at the end of the day just to make the quarterback look good because whoever it is, you want them to be able to trust you and that’s kind of my motto.”
Tucker’s quickness could give the Raiders an added option against press coverage, while his speed can stretch the field after catches.
The Tucker pick creates a question mark about Hunter Renfrow, one of the few skill-position leftovers from the previous regime. Renfrow played an abbreviated season last year, missing seven games due to injury. The Raiders were 2-8 in the games he appeared in.
“He’s going to add a lot of competition to that group,” Ziegler said. “We added some guys in free agency that have some of those skill sets. Again, obviously when you draft a player, contractually you have them longer than a year, so he’s going to have some time to develop, but we think he’s going to come in and compete right away.”
Young provides depth to the defensive line, which was bolstered when the Raiders drafted Tyree Wilson on Thursday with the seventh overall pick, and already includes All-NFL edge rusher Maxx Crosby and veteran Chandler Jones.
The 6-foot-3 295-pound tackle spent four seasons with the Crimson Tide and registered 139 tackles, including 22.5 for loss, 7.5 sacks, and a forced fumble across 54 games.
While there are concerns about his range and pass-rushing abilities, Young brings physicality to the interior of the defensive line and will help the team’s rushing defense. His size and durability will allow him to absorb double-team blocking schemes.
Per Young, during his introductory Zoom session, he’s ready to perform anywhere the coaches ask him to play.
“I feel like I’m really able to play anywhere,” Young said. “I’m comfortable playing it all the way out from the nine to really sometimes I was on at the nose. So, really anywhere, man, anywhere they feel like I can be effective, and they feel like I can help the team.”