HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — A noticeable void at tight end made the Las Vegas Raiders an attractive destination for Michael Mayer.
The feeling was mutual because the Raiders traded up three spots Friday to select the Notre Dame tight end 35th overall in the NFL draft.
Las Vegas sent the Indianapolis Colts the 38th and 141st picks of this year's draft.
“I like to put people in the dirt, and I like to run over people,” Mayer said.
The Raiders selected Alabama defensive tackle Byron Young with their first pick of the third round, and the 70th overall selection. Their other third-round selection, the 100th overall, was Cincinnati wide receiver Tre Tucker.
In getting Mayer, the Raiders addressed a major need at that position created when they traded Darren Waller last month to the New York Giants. Waller had more than 1,000 yards receiving in the 2019 and 2020 seasons before injuries limited his production the past two years.
“It's about coming in and keeping the tight end tradition that they have and winning as many football games as we can,” Mayer said. “That's what this is about. It's why they drafted me, and I'm really excited to be a part of this organization.”
The 6-foot-4, 249-pound Mayer should give new Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo a major target, particularly in the red zone.
Mayer was an AP first-team All-American and Mackey Award finalist last season after catching 67 passes for 809 yards and nine touchdowns. The TD total set a record for Fighting Irish tight ends. He also holds the school records for receptions (71) and receiving yards (840) set in 2021.
“The receiving part has always kind of been there for me, but I really had to dig deep for that blocking,” Mayer said. “It's been really, really (good) this past season. Me and my tight ends coach worked on it a lot, and it's going to get better.”
General manager Dave Ziegler said the Raiders considered trading back into the first round on Thursday, at least partly to get Mayer, but decided to be patient.
“The fact that we were still there was a very exciting moment for us," Ziegler said. "He was one of the top 15 players on our board.”
The Raiders again addressed their defensive line by choosing Young, who is 6-3, 294, this time focusing on the interior. Two of their first three picks were on linemen, with the Raiders taking Texas Tech defensive end Tyree Wilson with the seventh overall selection.
Las Vegas was 30th in sacks last season with 27, but how much Young will help improve that area remains to be seen. He was known more as a run stuffer at Alabama and recorded just four sacks last season.
But Young showed potential against Mississippi when he had 11 tackles, two sacks, two quarterback pressures, a pass breakup and a forced fumble.
“That was me showcasing what I could do in the pass rush,” Young said. “A lot of people considered it a down spot in my game. I want to show what I can do.”
Young did show the ability to remain on the field, appearing in 54 career games for the Crimson Tide. He said that was a point of pride for him whether he was “100% or 60.”
Tucker, a 5-9, 182-pound receiver, caught 59 passes for 672 yards and three TDs last season at Cincinnati. He runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, providing the Raiders' already deep receiving corps with a potential home run threat.
Whether he breaks into a lineup that includes Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Renfrow remains to be seen. Tucker also could find a spot on special teams, and with the Bearcats he averaged 21.3 yards per kickoff return and 15.3 on punt returns. He also was a gunner at Cincinnati.
“Davante Adams and the people they have out there are great receivers,” Tucker said. “I'm a well-rounded receiver. I don't know my role yet. Whatever I'm doing, if it's running down the field covering kicks, I'm happy to be a Raider.”
Ziegler said the goal would be to take advantage of Tucker's speed by being creative.
“There are a lot of ways that we’ve seen that done in the league, whether it’s sweeps, whether it’s the screen game,” Ziegler said. “We really have studied him a lot just as a receiver. He’s a tough matchup because of his short-area quickness and his straight-line speed.”
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL