Raiders Find Waller’s replacement—pick Michael Mayer early in 2nd round

Raiders Find Waller’s replacement—pick Michael Mayer early in 2nd round

Trading former Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller left the Raiders with a glaring hole at tight end.

Now, they’re filling that hole with the second-highest rated prospect at the position in this year’s draft.

“I pride myself on being physical,” said Mayer just moments after being selected with the 35th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. “I like to put people in the dirt, and I like to run over people.”

Physicality and production, the Raiders hope, is exactly what Mayer brings to the team. Following back-to-back 800 yard receiving seasons, Mayer projects to not only threaten teams in the passing game, but also with his blocking capabilities in the run game.

“That’s something I take pride in,” said Mayer of his blocking ability. “That’s something I’ve really worked on…the blocking game–the technique. The receiving part has always been there for me.”

Darren Waller is one of the most athletic tight ends in the league, however his athletic frame came at a cost; with his blocking never approaching the level of his explosiveness as a receiver. Mayer’s blocking should improve protection schemes, and with Waller coming off a season where he posted less than 400 receiving yards, Mayer may provide a more consistent (and available—Waller missed nearly half the season in 2022) option for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo as well.

Fellow tight end Dalton Kincaid went 10 picks earlier, in the first round to the Bills. However, both players ran a 4.70 in their 40 times and Mayer finished his collegiate career with better numbers than Kincaid did. For their final two seasons, Kincaid posted 106 receptions for 1,400 yards, while Mayer posted 138 receptions for 1,648 yards. Both finished with 16 TDs in those final 2 seasons. Mayer is also actually two years younger at 21 years old.

The Raiders take Mayer with good precedence behind it, as Mayer comes out of the University of Norte Dame—the same college where franchise great Dave Casper played. Casper also was a second round selection, in 1974.

Mayer joins a tight end room filled with two solid veterans—O.J. Howard and Austin Hooper—who both can help facilitate Mayer’s growth in his rookie season.

With Michael Mayer as a new weapon to accompany first-team All-Pros, Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams, there’s no reason why the Raiders cannot field a top-10 offense next season—the team finished 12th overall in 2022.