One of Josh McDaniels’ favorite players to coach was tight end Rob Gronkowski. He was a major part of multiple Super Bowl teams with the New England Patriots. Gronkowski is retired and McDaniels is with the Las Vegas Raiders now. Since the coach can’t have the star tight end, he went out and find a younger version of him.
The Raiders traded up in the second round to land Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer. During his time in college, Mayer earned the nickname “Baby Gronk” due to the fact that his playing style is very similar to that of Gronkowski’s. He’s now going to get to play with the coach that called plays for Gronkowski for most of his career. For his part, the future Hall of Famer is excited to see Mayer go to the Raiders and play for McDaniels. He offered his thoughts on Mayer heading to Las Vegas.
“I think that’s a great fit for him knowing that I was under Josh McDaniels for about 90% of my career … so I think he’s going to be very successful,” Gronkowski said of Mayer on a May 2 episode of “Up & Adams.” “I think he’s kind of a two-way tight end. If he can block in the scheme for Josh McDaniels and their offense, I think he can do a good job.”
Mayer Could Have Instant Impact With Raiders
The Raiders already had one of the best tight ends in the NFL in Darren Waller but decided to trade him to the New York Giants. The team signed Austin Hooper and O.J. Howard to replace him but they both only got one-year deals. Mayer is clearly the long-term plan at tight end.
Luckily for the Raiders, they don’t need to rush the rookie along. Hooper is a former Pro Bowler and still a solid player. Howard is a former first-round pick who can still make plays here and there. That said, Mayer’s upside is much higher than both of theirs. If he’s looking good in training camp and forms a quick connection with Jimmy Garoppolo, he could be a Week 1 starter. Regardless, he’ll play plenty of snaps as a rookie.
Was Mayer Best Day 2 Selection?
The Raiders were surprised to see Mayer fall so far in the draft. In fact, they even tried to trade back into the first round to draft him, per Vic Tafur of The Athletic. He was widely expected to be a first-round pick so it’s looking like the Raiders may have gotten a steal. ESPN’s Matt Miller believes Las Vegas has the best Day 2 selection of any team with the Mayer pick.
“Mayer was my top tight end in this class, and the Raiders were able to trade up to select the Notre Dame pass-catcher early in Round 2,” Miller wrote. “A legitimate top-20 prospect, Mayer will be a Day 1 starter in Las Vegas.”
Mayer hasn’t played a down of NFL football yet so it’s possible that there are better Day 2 selections in hindsight, but for now, it appears the Raiders made a strong pick. He’s got some big shoes to fill with the Gronkowski comparisons but he has the right coaching staff to make it happen.