The standout among the Raiders rookies this year has been fifth round cornerback Nate Hobbs. His quick emergence has made more than a few people wonder how he fell to the fifth round, how they missed him, and how the Raiders got him.
Raiders GM Mike Mayock was asked about Nate Hobbs and he responded by telling a long story of how they discovered and ultimately drafted Hobbs. It offers an inside look into how the longtime draft guru has gone about his draft work since taking over as Raiders GM and how the Raiders organization functions in terms of drafting players.
“I got a call from one of our cross check scouts after the Illinois pro day,” Mayock began his story. “And he said ‘Mike, do me a favor, put your eyes on Nate Hobbs. He just ran 4.45, he jumps 41 inches, he tested better than we thought he would test and I’m not sure if we’ve got the right grade on him. Don’t get me wrong, we had a pretty solid grade on him, but I want to make sure he’s not getting lost in the cornerback shuffle.’
“So, I get off the phone and I literally put his tape on right there. And I’m like, man…he competes, he tackles, he’s tough, he’s a three-year starter in the Big-Ten, he was an outside corner almost predominantly. And he played special teams. And this was a hard-nosed, tough guy. And he just ran 4.45 and jumped 41 inches.
“So, I literally got out of my chair — I spent about two hours watching him — I got out of my chair, sprinted downstairs to the second floor, grabbed Ron Milus the defensive back coach…and, again, every building is different. Trust me, I spent 18 years at NFL Network being in all the buildings and everyone does their jobs differently. We’re a coach-driven building. With our scouts. So, I run downstairs and say ‘Milo, get your eyes on this guy, please. Tell me what you think, today.’ He comes running back up in an hour and a half and says ‘we got something,’ He said ‘I think this kid will compete at nickel.’
“He was an outside guy and the reason we thought he could compete at nickel was how tough he was. His quickness and his toughness. He rarely missed tackles. Very aggressive kid. So, when you talk about moving outside to inside, that’s what you’re looking for. And you got to be a quick processor, which we can’t tell whether he was or not as an outside corner, but you better be quick and you better be tough. And he was those things.
“So, all of the sudden we push him up the board a little bit more. The coaches like him, the scouts like him, we got him on a zoom call. And he knocked it out of the park. And what the coaches do is they challenge him pretty hard. They give him some of our Raider verbiage and they push it out and challenge it back. And he got all the concepts immediately.
“I was on the zoom call, it wasn’t like I heard about it, I was on the call. He got all the concepts, the coaches drilled him, he got an A+ on that drill and we’re sitting back and going ‘what’s wrong with this picture?’ Three-year starter in the Big-Ten, tough, competitive, every one of our scouting grades on him was that he competes and toughness at a high end.
“So, I think the cool part for me is seeing it come together. It started with the trigger from the cross-checker telling me to get my eye on him. It went from there down to Milo and then it went to the zoom call, and then it was the whole group getting together saying we got to get this guy. Where’s he probably going to go league value and at what point do we have to pull the trigger.”
This seems to be the blueprint for uncovering day three gems. Players like Maxx Crosby (4th round), Foster Moreau (4th round), Hunter Renfrow (5th round), and Hobbs (5th round). It’s the primary reason Mayock is here. Teams are built through the draft and primarily finding talent up and down the draft, not just in the first couple rounds.
Hobbs in particular looks like a real find. He had practically won the starting nickel corner job by the end of camp and locked it down in the second preseason game when he earned a game ball. They sat him for the final preseason game while several other rookies drafted ahead of him still played in the game.
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